Posts Tagged ‘Internet

Twenty years of a free, open web

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On 30 April 1993 CERN published a statement that made World Wide Web technology available on a royalty free basis, allowing the web to flourish

Screenshot of the original NeXT web browser in 1993

Screenshot of the original NeXT web browser in 1993

On 30 April 1993 CERN published a statement that made World Wide Web (“W3”, or simply “the web”) technology available on a royalty-free basis. By making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code, the web was allowed to flourish.

British physicist Tim Berners-Lee invented the web at CERN in 1989. The project, which Berners-Lee named “World Wide Web”, was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for information sharing between physicists in universities and institutes around the world.

Other information retrieval systems that used the internet – such as WAIS and Gopher – were available at the time, but the web’s simplicity along with the fact that the technology was royalty free led to its rapid adoption and development.

“There is no sector of society that has not been transformed by the invention, in a physics laboratory, of the web”, says Rolf Heuer, CERN Director-General. “From research to business and education, the web has been reshaping the way we communicate, work, innovate and live. The web is a powerful example of the way that basic research benefits humankind.”

The first website at CERN – and in the world – was dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself and was hosted on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer. The website described the basic features of the web; how to access other people’s documents and how to set up your own server. Although the NeXT machine – the original web server – is still at CERN, sadly the world’s first website is no longer online at its original address.

To mark the anniversary of the publication of the document that made web technology free for everyone to use, CERN is starting a project to restore the first website and to preserve the digital assets that are associated with the birth of the web. To learn more about the project and the first website, visit

Read more at:

Written by physicsgg

April 30, 2013 at 10:39 am


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The whole internet ‘weighs the same as a strawberry’

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The entire internet weighs as much as a strawberry, calculates YouTube science show Vsauce. But if you're only counting the data, not the electricity required to make it work, the whole lot weighs far far less

A mathematician recently calculated that eBook readers ‘gain weight’ when you add new books to your library – due to the energy ‘gained’ by electrons when they store information, and the weight of that energy.

Filling a Kindle with books causes it to gain an infinitesimally small amount of mass – so small that it gains 100,000,000 times more when you recharge the battery.
Now a YouTube science channel has used the same mathematics to calculate the mass of the entire internet.
Surprisingly, the whole thing weighs just 50g – around the weight of a single (large) strawberry.

But the actual information in it weighs less than a speck of dust.
Vsauce says that the 50g figure is the weight of all the electrons in the electricity required to make the internet work – assuming 75-100 million servers supporting the internet, and not including the home PCs running it.

The calculations use Einstein’s famous E=mc2  formula, which relates energy to mass.
Electrons which ‘store’ data in a device have higher energy than electrons which don’t – therefore the device weighs more.
The difference in weight in gadgets full of information and ’empty’ gadgets is far less than the difference produced by charging the battery, or wiping dust off the screen.
Prof Kubiatowicz’s findings about Kindles ‘gaining weight’ are based on the fact that, while downloading an e-book does not change the number of electrons in an e-reader, those electrons holding data have a higher level of energy.
The relationship between energy and mass – famously summarised by Einstein as E=mc2 – means that those with a higher energy also have a higher mass.

The whole lot equates to around 40billion watts – which weighs in around the same as a plump strawberry.

If you include all the home PCs using the net, the figure is roughly three strawberries.

The weight if you’re just counting the data stored in the internet is much less.

It’s difficult to quantify how much data there is in the internet – Vsauce used a (dated) estimate by Google’s Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt guessed that there were 5,000,000 terabytes of information in the internet – of which Google indexed 0.04 per cent.

The entire weight of that information would work out, Vsauce estimates, to 0.02 millionths of an ounce.

Written by physicsgg

November 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm


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Internet responsible for 2 per cent of global energy usage

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How much energy does the internet use? It’s hard to know where to start. There’s the electricity consumed by the world’s laptops, desktops and smart phones. Servers, routers and other networking equipment suck up more power. The energy required to manufacture these machines also needs to be included. Yet no one knows how many internet-enabled devices are out there, nor how long they are used before being replaced.

That hasn’t stopped Justin Ma and Barath Raghavan from trying to answer the question. The pair, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the nearby International Computer Science Institute respectively, estimate that the internet consumes between 170 and 307 GW. Which, of course, raises another question: is that is a big number, or a small one?

Raghavan and Ma came up with their total by conducting a rough internet census. By drawing on previously published research, they estimate that our planet is home to 750 million laptops, a billion smart phones and 100 million servers.

They also put figures on the energy that it costs to produce each of these devices (4.5 GJ and 1 GJ for a laptop and smartphone respectively) and the period for which each is used before being replaced (three years for a laptop, two for a smart phone). Estimates for the energy that cell towers and optical switches use when transmitting internet traffic, plus similar calculations for wi-fi transmitters and cloud storage devices, helped complete the picture.

Their final answer sounds big. A gigawatt is a billion watts, so running and maintaining the internet is a like illuminating several billion 100W bulbs simultaneously. But it’s a small number compared with global energy use across all sectors. That figure is 16 terawatts, so the internet is responsible for less than 2 per cent of the energy used by humanity.

Raghavan and Ma suggest that attempts to create more energy-efficient internet devices, while worth pursuing, will not do much to lower global energy consumption. Instead, they propose that we should think about how the internet can replace more energy-intensive activities. Their calculations show that a meeting that takes place by video-conference uses an average of one hundredth as much energy as one in which participants took a flight so that they could sit down together. Replacing just one in four of those meetings by a video call, they add, would save as much power as the entire internet consumes.

The research will be presented next month at the Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Written by physicsgg

October 26, 2011 at 12:43 pm


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