The internet is a ridiculous thing. In twenty years, it has become as widely used as the toothbrush and has totally revolutionized the way individuals and societies react. It is also growing at an astounding rate, which begs the question: how big is it? Unfortunately, that information is extremely difficult to estimate with any degree of certainty; however, we do know approximately how much data is exchanged every second over the interwebs. The funny thing is, despite how ridiculously fast things on the internet are getting, FedEx can still transfer data faster. Prepare for some astronomical math.
Primer: 1 terabyte (TB) = about 1,000 gigabytes (GB) = about 1,000,000 megabytes (MB)
On his blog What If?, Randall Munroe explores the issue from a practical standpoint. Estimates are that all internet activity amounts to about 167 terabytes of data exchanged per second – equivalent to a little over 175 million minutes of music in a standard-quality MP3. Per second. Given, this is spread out across the globe, but a lot of this information is probably exchanged among a small number of websites such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google. Often times, terabytes of data need to be transferred to data centers around the country, requiring a massive amount of bandwidth, or capacity to transfer data at reasonable speeds. Unfortunately, when we are talking about data sizes of this level, electronic transfers just don’t do it; instead, tech companies will simple put the data on hard drives and ship it. This is a common practice known as utilizing the SneakerNet.
For example, say the average hard drive weighs 78 grams and can hold 1 terabyte. FedEx’s current weight capacity by air is 26.5 million pounds daily, meaning that FedEx can transfer 157 million terabytes daily. By my calculation, that is about ten times faster than the internet exchanges data. At the rate of grown of the internet vs. FedEx, the internet won’t even catch up until 2040.
To read the full comparison, check out What If?…his numbers are a little different from the ones I got, but he is probably right.
This story originally reported on by Gizmodo