Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Big's The Internet?

Right off the bat, let me start by saying a) I don't know and b) depends anyway on how you want to measure it. Regardless, if you believe what's written here then the answer is about "10 Empire State buildings".

The source of this was trying to answer the question of what it would take to print out the Internet, and as a by product to produce some very nifty graphics to represent the answer. Without knowing the basis for the analysis it's hard to argue one way or the other but let's assume it's correct. For me, this begs another question: how does that compare with the number of discrete books held in libraries around the world?

According to a recent Guardian article, the British Library alone has 650 km of shelf space holding some 150m items. (Which, according to the writer also poses a severe security challenge. Amongst over 9,000 items listed as "MIA" are such diverse tomes as a luxury edition of Mein Kampf, produced to mark Hitler's 50th birthday in 1939, and a medieval text on astronomy. Probably wasn't the same borrower who swiped both, mind ....)

Given , therefore, that just the books in the British Library already consume almost 200x what a printed version of the Internet supposedly would, it seems the printed word still has the upper hand despite the obvious rapid rise of the Internet as a new form of information distribution & storage.

How big's the Internet? "Small when compared to books", I suppose, but apparently growing much faster than any other form of human communication ever devised!

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