The Web is… um… big.

The Internet

As I seem to be saying a lot this month, I’ve been using the Internet for a long time. I remember when Gopher was more useful than HTTP. I remember when with a little dedication you could surf a significant portion of the entire web. I mean, I’m not Berners-Lee or anything, but I started on the web about three years after he did1, and there was definitely a time when I had seen more than half of the pages in the Big Cloud.

That, it should go without saying, was a long time ago.

This week Google announced that their index contains a trillion pages. A trillion.

Let me put that in context for you: if you spent one second on each page, looking at a trillion web pages would take you over 30,000 years. That’s no sleep, and no bathroom breaks. No human is going to ever see even a small portion of the current web. Forget about the tremendous masses of information that are added every day. Sure, there’s probably a million pages of photos of bacon taped to a cat, etc, but still, a trillion pages.

Oh, and in case you’re somehow blasé about that trillion pages number… don’t forget that what Google indexes is the surface web, and everyone says the Deep Web is several orders of magnitude bigger than the surface. Several orders of magnitude bigger than a trillion pages. Chew on that for a minute.

(More information on the image above.)

  1. And, let’s be clear about this I was using the Internet long before I started on the web–between Gopher and FTP and Usenet and… well, you get the point. And don’t even get me started on GEnie, Fidonet, local BBSes, etc. I feel 100 years old.(back)

  2 comments for “The Web is… um… big.

  1. August 3, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    To paraphrase Douglas Adams: “The Web is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to the Web.”

  2. August 3, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Now try to figure out how many pages have been served since that first page in 1990.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada
This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.