The internet has grown enormously over the years and has eventually become an indispensable part of our lives. Most of us are very much active on the Internet lot of time either browsing, googling or looking for tweets or updates on social media. But how vast is the internet? Have you ever thought about this?
Every second, there are approximately 7000 tweets posted, more than 730 photos uploaded on Instagram, about 2200 Skype calls, 55.3k Google searches, 1.2 lac videos viewed on Youtube and over 2 million emails sent. Isn’t that astonishing?
Also, different websites are continually expanding, and new ones are being launched simultaneously. Consider all these websites and their contents (like text, pictures, videos, ads, etc).
It simply means size of the internet is difficult to comprehend and not possible to measure it correctly.
But, some benchmark indicators help in estimating the size of the Internet and the world wide web. We will be discussing them in this article.
For convenience, we will consider both the internet and web synonymous for this article but technically they are different..
So, let us discuss more.
How to estimate the approximate size of the internet?
The expansion of the internet is a never-ending process. It is always growing. There are many organizations which do attempt to figure out the internet’s growth.
According to the statistics of one such company named Internet Live Stats, the approximate number of active internet users was 3.1 billion in 2015.
But when the internet began in 1989, there were only 50 people who shared the web pages.
It is an astonishing jump. Isn’t it?
There are more than 1 billion websites today. According to WorldWideWebSize.com, in 2016, the web contained about 4.75 billion pages.
For estimating the size of the internet, you can consider the following points.
How much content is present online?
You can attempt to estimate the size of the internet by measuring the traffic through it. As per Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Initiative, the Internet now lies in the ‘zettabyte’ period.
One zettabyte is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Bytes. An astonishing 21 zeros.
Sometime back in 2012, total size of the internet was measured to be 2800 Zettabytes or 2.8 exabytes.
It is estimated that by 2016, the internet traffic would reach 1.1 zettabytes per year. And it may hit 2 zettabytes (ZB) per year, by 2019.
By 2020, nearly 1 billion new internet users are expected to get connected online and are likely to make the global internet community reach 4.1 billion people.
Cisco expects the global IP traffic to reach 2.3 ZB by 2020.
How many web pages are there?
According to the report by the Washington Post, the average length of a web page was found close to 6.5 printed pages. This yielded an estimate of 305.5 billion pages to print the whole Internet.
In 2015, researchers determined that it will take 2% of the Amazon rainforest to make the papers for printing the entire web. They reported this in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics.
These researchers assumed that a web page would require 30 sheets of A4 on an average and thus, the total text on the internet will require 1.36 X 10^11 pages to print a hard copy.
But printing out the internet’s contents will not include the massive amount of non-text data like videos, audios, etc.
In 2015, Cisco researched that about 8k petabytes per month of IP traffic were dedicated to video, compared with 3k petabytes per month for web, email and data transfer.
Counting the number of IPs
Each device online has an IP address. IPs are the internet’s wayposts through which data travels.
In 2012, an anonymous hacker tried to measure the size of the internet by counting the number of IPs that were in use. According to him, 1.3 billion IP addresses were being used at that time.
What about the invisible web? How big is that?
There is a vast reservoir of information (like databases) to which search engines and directories do not have direct access. It is referred to as the ‘invisible web’.
The data of these databases are usually not accessible to the software spiders and crawlers who generate search engine indexes.
The invisible web is estimated to be thousands of time more extensive than the Web we can access with general search engine queries.
As per the search engine organization named Bright Planet, the invisible web contains nearly 550 billion individual documents in comparison with the one billion of the surface web.
Users require specific search expertise to access these pieces of information. Major search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing cannot bring this hidden content because they are unable to see the contents without specialized search parameters.
The search engines search a small part of the web only. You may think the search results from them is sufficient. But, it is not easy when you attempt to find something which is complicated or obscure.
Once you acquire the required search expertise, you will be able to access these data and will realize how vast the invisible web is.
What are the problems of uncontrolled internet expansion? How are they being tackled?
The size of the internet is growing every moment. The web nearly doubles in size every year since 2012. At least 2 billion people use the internet daily, every week.
Due to augmenting faster internet connections, developers focus less on creating effective websites and online experiences. Instead, they pay attention to delivering things like 4K video, high-resolution photos, etc.
Data usage is not the only problem caused by web bloat. Many large and inefficient websites take a lot of time in loading, do not function properly on certain devices and can negatively impact the battery life of the devices.
They create a poor online experience for the users.
The problem of web bloat is not being ignored. Many top technology companies are playing their significant roles in creating a better, lighter and more efficient web.
Google has incorporated various tactics to improve the web’s speed. For instance, it penalizes slow, bloated websites in the search rankings.
Google has introduced an open source initiative called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to ensure that the web pages load almost instantly on mobile devices to create a speedy, more streamlined mobile web experience.
However, Google is not alone who is monitoring and taking actions concerning web expansion and web speed improvement.
For example, WordPress has deployed responsive images to improve load time across devices.
Also, NetFlix has unleashed new encoding technology, for its streaming service, which uses 20% less bandwidth.
Companies that monitor internet usage?
List of several companies who attempt to monitor the internet usage is given below
- The Internet Society
- Internet Live Stats
- Nielsen Ratings
- Office of the CIA
- The computer industry Almanac
These organizations use custom techniques of polling, electronic tallying of server traffic, web server logging, focus group sampling and other measurement methodologies.
The internet is a daily tool for billions of people all over the world. The internet traffic took nearly 40 years to reach the global zettabyte annual run-rate, but it will not take long to hit two zettabytes. The prediction is that the world will hit 2.3 ZB of yearly internet traffic by 2020.
The internet is a bustling place. Every second, numerous posts are being posted on different platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or thousands of videos are being viewed on Youtube, many searches are being entered through Google or Bing and many such online activities are occurring.
The superfast expansion of the internet is mainly due to user-created content and personalization of the internet (which is based on your search history and previous purchases). About 2 billion people connect to the internet daily, every week.
So, how big is the internet? The answer is – “nobody knows it exactly”. But certain companies try to estimate the size of the internet by monitoring the traffic through the internet, deploy methods like polling, web server logging, etc.