Surprising Facts About the Internet

Strange things you probably didn't know about the WWW

Laptop connecting to the world wide web

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Since its inception in the 1960s, the internet has grown from a military experiment into a gigantic living organism filled with oddities and subcultures. Since the World Wide Web launched, the net has seen truly explosive growth in tech, business, and culture. Some of that growth has been ... well, bizarre.

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The Internet Requires Approximately 50 Million Horsepower in Electricity

Horses Running with Spirit in Open Field, Playing

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With an estimated 8.7 billion electronic devices connected to the internet, the electricity required to run the system for even one day is substantial. According to Russell Seitz and the calculation of Michael Stevens, 50 million brake horsepower worth of electrical power is required to keep the internet running in its current state.

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Email icon

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According to Michael Stevens and Vsauce calculations, a 50-kilobyte email message uses the footprint of 8 billion electrons. The number sounds ginormous but with electrons weighing next to nothing, 8 billion of them weigh less than a quadrillionth of an ounce.

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Of the 7 Billion People on Planet Earth, More Than 2.4 Billion Use the Internet

A picture of a crowd of people crossing the street in Hong Kong, China.

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While most of these calculations cannot be precisely confirmed, there is high confidence among most internet statistics that more than 2 billion people use the internet and the web as a matter of weekly habit.

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The Internet Weighs as Much as One Strawberry


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Russel Seitz, a physicist, has crunched some precise numbers. With some atomic physics assumptions, the billions upon billions of 'data-in-motion' moving electrons on the internet add up to approximately 50 grams. That is 2 ounces, the weight of one strawberry.

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More Than 8.7 Billion Machines Are Currently Connected to the Internet

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Smartphones, tablets, desktops, servers, wireless routers and hotspots, car GPS units, wristwatches, refrigerators and even soda pop machines—the internet is comprised of billions of gadgets. Expect this to grow to 40 billion gadgets by 2020. 

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Every 60 Seconds, 72 Hours of YouTube Video Is Uploaded

Every 60 Seconds on the Internet...

 ...and of those 72 hours, most of the videos are about cats, Harlem Shake dance moves, and inane things that no one is interested in. Like it or not, people love to share their amateur videos in the hopes that it will go viral and achieve a small bit of celebrity-dom.

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Electrons Only Move a Few Dozen Meters Before Stopping on the Net

Electrons Only Move a Few Dozen Meters Before Stopping on the Net.

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An electron doesn't travel very far through the wires and transistors of our computers; they move perhaps a dozen meters or so between machines, and then their energy and signal are consumed by the next device on the network. Each device, in turn, transfers the signal to the adjacent set of electrons and the cycle repeats again down the chain. All of this happens within fractions of seconds.

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The Internet's 5 Million Terabytes Weighs Less Than a Grain of Sand

Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Weighing even less than all the moving electricity, the weight of the internet's static data storage ('data-at-rest') is freakishly small. Once you take away the mass of the hard drives and transistors, it boggles the mind that 5 million TB of data comprises less mass than a grain of sand. (Here's an understandable guide to everything from bytes to yottabytes for your reading pleasure.)

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More Than 78 Percent of North Americans Use the Internet

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The USA and the English language were the original influences that spawned the Internet and the World Wide Web. It makes sense that the great majority of Americans rely on the web as a daily part of life.

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1.7 Billion of the Internet's Users Are in Asia

A very crowded street in Japan

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More than half of the regular population of the web resides in some part of Asia: Japan, South Korea, India, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore are just some of the countries with this high adoption rate. There are a growing number of web pages published in these Asian languages, but the predominant web language continues to be English.

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The Best Connected Cities Are in South Korea and Japan

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According to Akamai, the worldwide network infrastructure of internet cables and the wireless signal is the fastest in South Korea and Japan.  The average bandwidth speed there is 22 Mbps, far above the United States (at a measly 8.4 Mbps).

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Over Half of Web Traffic Is Media Streaming and File Sharing

Programas P2P

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Media and file sharing is the distribution of music, movies, software, books, photos, and other consumable content to users. Streaming YouTube videos are one flavor of file sharing. Torrent P2P is another very popular form of file sharing. There is online radio, which streams temporary copies of music to your device, along with Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify. Make no mistake: people want their media, and they want it so much that half of the World Wide Web's traffic is file sharing!

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Online Dating Generates More Than $1 Billion Each Year

Keyboard with online dating pictures on each key.

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According to Reuters and PC World, the statistics for online dating in the USA are very high. While this only partially translates to other countries, it is safe to say that people have accepted the value of using the World Wide Web to find love and friendship, even if it means shelling out $30 a month on the credit card.

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