How Big is the Internet?

When trying to determine the size of something, people can usually use certain forms of measurement to figure out how big it is.  For example, if someone wants to figure out how big a piece of land is they can hire a surveyor to measure how many acres is in the plot of land.  Or, if someone wants to find out how heavy something is, they can use a set of scales.  There are no precise measurements people can use to determine how big the Internet is.  New websites are added daily and the amount of server space is only growing.  But to give an idea of how big the Internet it, according to 2009 estimates, it would take 57,000 years for someone to print out every single page on the Internet.

Besides printing out every page online, there are some other ways to get an idea of just how big the Internet is.  There are a few components of the Internet to consider for someone to grasp how big it really is: server space, number of websites and IP addresses.

There is more than half a billion websites.  If someone wants to try to wrap their mind around how big the Internet is, they should consider how many websites there are.  According to Mill for Business, there are around 640 million active websites as of March 2012 and the numbers keep increasing.  Business Insider estimates that the number of websites will continue growing by 5 percent each month, so there will be more than a billion websites before long.

There are millions of Internet servers.  If discussing the millions of websites available doesn’t give someone an idea of how big the Internet is, then they should consider how many Internet servers there are.  Internet servers are used to host websites and there are millions of these available.  Like websites, the numbers of servers are also increasing each day.  According to Data Center Knowledge, some companies have thousands of web servers to support their sites.  For example, Facebook has more than 60,000 servers.  There are multiple types of hosting platforms for servers, including Windows vps and Linux.

There are trillions of Internet protocol (IP) addresses.  Prior to 2012, there was some concern about the Internet running out of room in terms of IP addresses.  Since every computer, phone or tablet plus all websites require IP addresses, this was a legitimate concern.  Previously, there were only around 4 billion different IP addresses available.  With the introduction of Internet protocol version 6, there are now trillions of IP addresses available.

Those numbers should help someone realize how big the Internet is.  At 4 billion IP addresses, the Internet was almost maxed out, but now the potential for trillions of IP addresses exists.  Even if there are no specific measurements that can be used to describe how big the Internet is, the knowledge of how many IP addresses are being used combined with the sheer number of websites and servers available really puts the size of the Internet into perspective.

Drew Hendricks
Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media and environmental addict. He's written for many major publishers such as National Geographic and Technorati.

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