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Democracy & Technology Blog An exabyte here, an exabyte there…

…and pretty soon we’re talking real Internet traffic.
On Monday I gave the keynote at the Fiber-to-the-Home Conference in Orlando. I opened my talk by citing an amusing article by John Markoff of The New York Times from 1993. In that year, Gopher, an early Google of sorts, grew 400%. It retrieved an unimaginable “200 billion bytes a month — about 7 million newspaper pages.” Or about the size of today’s average PC hard-drive. “At the National Center for Supercomputer Applications in Champaign, Ill.,” the article continued,

a new service that answers requests to an electronic library called the World Wide Web, has seen the number of daily queries explode from almost 100,000 requests in June to almost 400,000 in October. Officials at the center say the only solution may be to take a $15 million supercomputer away from its normal scientific number-crunching duties and employ it full time as an electronic librarian.

Imagine, $15 million to run the WWW. Today Google alone spends between $2 and $3 billion per year on “digital librarians” (read chips and disks), and YouTube streams 100 million videos a day.
In 1993 total Internet traffic was around 100 terabytes for the year. Today you can order a Dell PC with a TB of disk storage. By 2010, Seagate will put 3 TB on a single 3.5-inch disk.
I closed my talk Monday by estimating that by 2015, U.S. IP traffic could reach 1 zettabyte — 10 to the 21st power. That’s 10 million times larger than the 1993 Internet. World Internet traffic will cross the zettabyte level several years before the U.S.
-Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson is a Senior Fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute, where he researches technology and economics and contributes to the Disco-Tech blog. He is currently writing a book on the abundance of the world economy, focusing on the Chinese boom and developing a new concept linking economics and information theory. Swanson writes frequently for the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on topics ranging from broadband communications to monetary policy.