The internet is, relatively speaking, still a young technology. Which means we’ve had the opportunity to experience first-hand the impact it’s had on everyday life. And – with cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, wireless internet, cloud computing as well as many other unpredictable advancements heading our way – there’s still plenty more to come.
But let’s step back a moment. Since the internet is such an integral part of day-to-day life, sometimes we can forget just how amazing it is. So here are 10 facts that show just how incredible the net really is.
An electron is a subatomic particle which acts as the primary carrier of electricity in solids. An average email – around 50KB – requires 8 billion electrons in order to be sent. That’s a lot of electrons. So, when you start to think about all the emails and other bits of data flying around the web every second, the sheer magnitude of the number of electrons this requires truly boggles the mind.
How can the internet weigh anything? Well, if we’re talking about the data itself (not the hardware or infrastructure associated with the internet), then it all comes back to those electrons. And that huge, unfathomable number that we thought about above – those billions and billions of electrons flitting around – weighs just 50 grams. That’s roughly the weight of a strawberry. Electrons, it turns out, are really very light.
Shunting around the 50 grams of electrons that make up the web takes a lot of energy. In fact, the internet requires around 50 million horsepower in electricity to run. That’s a lot of power. To put that figure into perspective, it’s the equivalent of 314,456 Honda Civics (158 hp) – or 714,286 Ford Fiestas (70 hp). All of which seems completely absurd given how little the internet weighs.
When you type a query into Google, you get an answer almost instantaneously. But it’s not magic that allows this to happen. In fact, every time you type a query into Google, you set 1,000 computers to work to find out the answer for you. These computers then relay the information back to you via the net. Since Google processes over 40,000 queries a second, that’s 40,000,000 computers working away every second.
The top 100 Google searches in the US for June 2018 are pretty humdrum – with “youtube”, “facebook”, “amazon”, “gmail” and, hilariously, “google” making up the top five. So it’s surprising, then, that, every day, 16-20 percent of Google queries every day have never, ever been asked before. Meaning Google is constantly kept on its toes.
The very first web page went live on August 6, 1991. It was made by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and provides some modest information about the World Wide Web project – an idea to combine hypertext technology with the physical infrastructure of the internet. Well, we all know how that idea turned out. (You may be interested to know that the original Space Jam website is also still live).
Social media has truly infiltrated our personal lives, with many people replacing traditionally offline activities – such as dating – with online alternatives. In fact, online dating is huge. So huge that over
one million babies have been born to couples who met on match.com. In other words, one million people owe their very existence to the internet.
Buffering is one of the most annoying things facing today’s digitally-savvy world citizens. A wait of even a few seconds can cause people to hurl their devices across the room and begin looking for a new broadband supplier. But this is something those working for NASA don’t have to worry about. By using a private shadow network called ESnet, NASA employees enjoy truly astonishing speeds of up to 91 gibabits per second!
Jean Armour Polly is a librarian who authored a series of books on safe internet usage. An active user of the internet since 1991, Jean wanted a good metaphor to describe how she felt using the web so she could use it as a title for an article she was writing. Surfing, she thought, conveyed the joy, skill and endurance needed to browse the early web. Her article, “Surfing The INTERNET”, is freely available on Project Guthenberg.
According to several researchers, in 1971 or 1972, Stanford students using Arpanet accounts engaged in a commercial transaction with their counterparts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One group sold the other cannabis, which makes the very first e-commerce transaction a drug deal.
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