How Big Is The Web? How Many Websites Are There?

how big is the web
Credit: Oliver Burston

How big, really, is the Web? The growth of the Web has been exponential over the last decade with no sign of stopping. Hundreds of thousands of websites have emerged on every subject imaginable, with literally millions of web pages online. 

Internet Live Stats, a site that measures Internet statistic estimates that every second, there are at least 7000 Tweets sent, 1140 Tumblr posts posted online, 733 photos posted on Instagram, 2207 Skype calls, 55,364 Google searches, 127, 354 YouTube videos viewed, and over 2 million emails sent.

Remember - that's the average in just one second on the Web. Extrapolate that out to an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year, and the number quickly reach towards an unbelievable state. 

How many websites are there online? 

It's estimated that there are well over one billion sites on the Web today, an amazing number. As of July 2016, the Indexed Web contains at least 4.75 billion pages, according to WorldWideWebSize.com, a site that developed a statistical method for  tracking the number of pages indexed by major search engines.

That's just the activity on the surface Web - the Web that is searchable via a simple search engine query. These numbers, amazing though they are, give us a small glimpse into how mammoth the Web really is. The Invisible Web is estimated to be many thousands of times larger than the Web content we can find with general search engine queries.  For example, the Invisible Web contains approximately 550 billion individual documents compared to the one billion of the surface Web.

So how big, really, is the Web? 

Between the staggering amount of data that is added on a minute by minute basis to the surface Web and the astonishing amount of content that exists in the Invisible Web, it's difficult to get a completely accurate picture of how big the Web really is - especially since it all keeps growing exponentially.

The best way to go about figuring this out is to look at several different measurements:

  • How much content is online? One way to estimate the capacity of the Internet is to measure the traffic moving through it. According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index initiative, the Internet is now in the "zettabyte era." A zettabyte equals 1 sextillion bytes, or 1,000 exabytes. By the end of 2016, global Internet traffic will reach 1.1 zettabytes per year, according to Cisco, and by 2019, global traffic is expected to hit 2 zettabytes per year. One zettabyte is the equivalent of 36,000 years of high-definition video, which, in turn, is the equivalent of streaming Netflix's entire catalog 3,177 times; in just three minutes, the amount of data travelling over the Internet in just three minutes is the digital equivalent of every motion picture ever made in the last 120 years.
  • How many Web pages are there? Assuming that each website has approximately 6-8 pages (on average), the Washington Post estimated that there are 305,500,000,000 pages online. If you wanted to print those out, you'd need enough paper for roughly 305 billion pages. How long would it take to download the entire Web? If you tried to download the Web from your computer, it would take approximately 11 trillion years.
  • Could you put the entire Web in one placeMaybe. If you packed 450 2-terabyte storage drives into a single 8’ x 10’ room, you’d need 1,000 drive-packed rooms to equal the estimated “Exabyte” of data on the Web. 
  • How many pages does Google have in its index? Search engines catalog billions of pages, but because of the sheer volume of information out there - not to mention the Invisible Web that includes pages that aren't able to be indexed - they are not able to search and/or index the entire Web. According to VentureBeat, Google says that the web now has 30 trillion unique individual pages...and that it stores information about those 30 trillion pages in the Google Index, which is now at 100 million gigabytes. That’s about a thousand terabytes, and you’d need over three million 32GB USB thumb drives to store all that data.
  • How fast is the Web growing? Since 2012, the Web nearly doubles in size every single year. 
  • How many people use the Web? It's estimated that there are over 3 billion people getting online worldwide. 

How big is the Web? In a word, it's huge

The numbers quoted in this article are so mind-boggling that it's hard to wrap our heads around them. The Web is big and is only going to get bigger; becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, both personal and professional. As the Web evolves, it's smart for all of us to learn how to navigate it effectively. Here are a few resources that can help you get started:

  • How Did The Web Get Started? Learn more about how the Web first got started and early history of the World Wide Web.
  • What is a Web Browser? You need a Web browser in order to use the Web. Find out what these are and how you can use them in your travels online. 
  • How Does A Search Engine Work? Find out how these amazingly useful tools work, and how you can put them to work for you. 
  • What is Google?  Google is the world's most popular search engine. Find out more about it, and how you can use it effectively.