The Scale of the Internet

12 Jan 2024

The internet is big. Like, really big. As of the end of 2019, there are nearly 4.6 billion people that use the internet on a regular basis, that was nearly 2/3rds of the global population at the time.

People are using the internet for ever increasing elements of their lives. Two particular areas where usage is growing are social media and ecommerce platforms which have both seen 33% increase in users in the last two years.

Pwc has estimated that there is 4.4 Zettabytes of information stored across servers and personal computers as of 2019. 4.4ZB is A LOT of information. For scale, a standard single sided, single layer DVD can store 4.7GB of data. This means that to be able to store all this information you would need 212,765,957,446 (121 billion) DVDs! The average depth of a DVD disc is 1.2 mm, so if you were to stack all of these discs on top of each other, they would span 255 kilometers. That’s roughly the same distance between North London, UK and Leeds, UK!

Distance of data

Big Data and the Dynamic Web

We’ve addressed the sheer amount of information on the web, in other words the volume of the internet. However, there are two other properties that make the internet a very dynamic and complex beast – these properties are velocity and variety. Collectively these form the three Vs.

Velocity, Variety, Volume VVV


Velocity refers to the constant amount of new data that is being added to the internet. In 2016, the social network Facebook announced that users were uploading nearly 900 million new photos every single day, with this number only set to grow over the coming years.

Similar to this, the website ‘internetlivestats’ reports that over 9,166 tweets are posted every single second, this equates to around 791 million tweets a day as of October 2020.


Not all data is alike. Additional to the previous two properties, data comes in many different forms. For example, say you wanted to collect information on the internet, it wouldn’t be as simple as just entering it all in a spreadsheet. Data may come in the form of rich media such as videos or pictures, some data on the internet may be of huge size, whereas others may be very small.

This property makes the internet’s content very difficult to process.

How Do Search Engines Fit Into This?

After establishing the effect of the three Vs on the internet, we need to find an effective way of utilising this data, giving it meaning and allowing people to make use of it. This job lies with search engines.

Search engines make use of scripts, sometimes referred to as bots, indexers or spiders, to crawl the internet and gather context about what pages contain. Using this information, search engines can then display links to pages related to a search query that another user has entered.

Given the volume, velocity and variety that search engines work with, these search engines are generally very complex. There are many factors that might influence how and where a search result is displayed on the search engine.

What Is Search Engine Optimisation?

Search Engine Optimisation, often abbreviated to SEO, is the process of adapting a website or individual pages with the intention of improving visibility to search engines. Many people want to improve their website visibility for a certain context, SEO is one way of doing this.

So What? Why Is Search Engine Optimisation Important?

Effectively optimising your website for search engines may have a huge effect on your business or project. Google and Bing have millions of users each year, many of these will be looking to spend money on a service or product.

A paper from the 2014 Advanced Web Rankings estimated that 95% of users do not venture further than the first page of search results. If you are a business that relies on organic traffic to your site – this effect could be devastating if people aren’t able to find you.

This is why SEO is so important.