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10 fascinating facts about the Internet and the Web

Prepare to get your learn on with these 10 interesting and little-known facts about one of mankind's greatest achievements: the Internet (and the Web, too).
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1 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

The Internet actually weighs something

How much does the Internet weigh? Various calculations have been performed to answer this very question, but two of the most prevalent answers are the equivalent of a strawberry, and the equivalent of a grain of salt.

Robert Krulwich really breaks it down in an excellent article he wrote on NPR in December of 2011. Basically, there are a number of conclusions one could come to as to the actual weight of the Internet, but it's an ever-changing figure.

Despite what the actual answer may be at any given time, and that it is ultimately of little significance (for now, at least; try back in a trillion years or so), the fact that the Internet actually weighs anything at all is still a fascinating thing to consider!

Image sources: Salt and strawberries, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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2 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

The World Wide Web was invented by one man

It's hard to believe that everything we enjoy about the World Wide Web (not to be confused with the Internet, which the World Wide Web, itself, utilizes) today, was all started by one man: Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

With the help of Robert Cailliau, Berners-Lee was able to take his creation and make it work, successfully, on the Internet.

For more information, read up about the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and Robert Cailliau.

(Oh, and if you're wondering who invented the Internet, computerhope.com has an excellent timeline of events that comprise the make of the Internet.)

Image source: Wikipedia

 

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3 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Total number of Internet users: ~2.5 billion

If you've ever wondered how many people use the Internet out of the 7+ billion human beings inhabiting the earth, the estimate in December 2011 was 2,267,233,742. Suffice it to say, those numbers have certainly gone up over the course of the past 8 months, which would now put the number even closer to 2.5 billion (if not exceeding it, possibly).

As you can see from the graph above, Asia has the most users on the Internet, with twice as many users as the second-most Internet-populous continent, Europe; and four times as many users as the third-most Internet-populous continent, North America!

Hungry for more Internet user stats? Go check out more from the foremost authority on the topic, Internet World Stats.

Image source: Internet World Stats

 

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4 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

The first Webcam stream? A coffee pot, of course!

See the tiny, pitiful image above? It's not a secret missile silo, confidential alien autopsy, or any other clandestine governmental thing you might expect to see in images from the first Webcam. No, instead, it's a coffee pot. Yes, the first Webcam, created at the University of Cambridge, was used to monitor a coffee pot.

Hey, man... I'm not judging! I mean, as I'm sitting here writing this, I'm throwing back a coffee-infused beverage, so I KNOW how important this stuff is to keeping the inspiration flowing! I just think it's hilariously awesome that the first images streamed via Webcam were of a coffee pot. So perfect.

Image source: Wikipedia

 

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5 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

This is the first YouTube video ever uploaded to... YouTube

"Me at the zoo" is the first video to be uploaded to YouTube, by one of its three founders, Jawed Karim. While it's certainly not much to watch, it's fascinating to look back at it, knowing that the three founders had no idea at the time that their creation would eventually be purchased for 1.65 BILLION DOLLARS (insert Dr. Evil image here) by none other than Google.

With the ability for users to either upload videos or record them live, straight from their computer, the Internet sure has come a long way from being a vehicle for monitoring coffee pots, huh?

Image source: YouTube

 

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6 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

And the most popular adult site on the Web is...

According to Alexa's rankings, xHamster is the most popular adult Web site on the Internet, ranking 44th overall in the list of top-500 Web sites, globally. This is in contrast to how Alexa ranks adult sites, categorically, where rankings are typically based on the strength of individual pages, rather than overall site strength.

From coffee pots, to YouTube, to xHamster; we really have come full circle, haven't we?

To note, I really, really, really wanted to use this image at the top, instead of the xHamster logo, but I couldn't locate the original photographer, despite some intense searching. Boooo!

Image source: xHamster's Steam community profile

 

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7 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

In 2003, the US DoD wanted to 'fight the net'

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you know that the landscape of the Internet has been incredibly tumultuous -- what with proposed legislation, like SOPA/PIPA; the seizure of file-sharing sites, like MegaUpload; dictators being overthrown, as in Egypt; "hacktivist" groups, like LulzSec and Anonymous, running amok; government-funded trojans/viruses that take out nuclear power plants, then inadvertently end up on the Web; and so on and so forth.

Well, in 2006, an October 2003 US DoD (Department of Defense) document, titled the "Information Operations Roadmap," came to light via George Washington University. In it, the DoD expressed -- amongst other interesting sentiments -- that they needed to "fight the net" (see page 10 of the PDF). There is a proper context to that statement, but, clearly, they knew the Internet would serve far more powerful and nefarious purposes, and they knew they needed to prepare.

Whether they were ready for it or not, what the US DoD feared the most back then has certainly come to pass, and seeing this report is just a stark reminder that the Internet is so much more than a catalyst for our entertainment and petty information consumption.

 

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8 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

Contrary to popular belief, Mosaic was not the first Web browser

Although Mosaic is arguably the Web browser that popularized the World Wide Web, it isn't the first Web browser, as is widely-believed.

Remember Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web? Well, not only did he also primarily author HTML, but he also invented the first Web browser, pictured above, called Nexus (after originally being called "WorldWideWeb").

At one point, Nexus was the only means with which one could access the Web; however, it didn't take long for other Web browsers (like Mosaic) to find their way onto computers of the Internet-savvy. Now, we have a veritable cornucopia of Web browsers to choose from: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, etc.

Image source: Wikipedia

 

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9 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

The first Web banner ad

Though there is speculation as to which of three Web banner ads was truly the first, Wired is happy to take the credit (or the blame, whichever you choose to cast) for being the site to run, what they say, is the first Web banner ad. Yes, the image above is claimed by many to be the first Web banner ad, paid for by AT&T to run on HotWired (now known as Wired) in 1994.

This very ad would mark the beginning of the age of monetizing content on the World Wide Web -- a model still used by a majority of monetized sites today, 18 years later.

Image source: Wired

 

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10 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

One time, there was no such thing as the Web

Before you laugh at me and shake your head at this seemingly-ridiculous "fact," take a moment to recall (if you can!) a time when we had no World Wide Web. I'm often puzzled by how the world went 'round, when I reflect on the current moving parts of business, information exchange, communication, entertainment, etc.
I remember a time when meeting a celebrity, musician, or someone you admired was a near-impossibility! Now, they're just a tweet, FB message, or email away. Also, I remember when an in-country long distance phone call was a big deal, cost-wise. Now, I can simply fire up Skype and have a chat with a buddy all the way across the world in Japan. For free.
I mean, to think that this Web-less world existed just a short 20 years ago is astounding to me. I'm perpetually fascinated by this fact, as well as the fact that there are 24-year-olds who have never known a Web-less world. Am I officially starting to sound like an old man now? Geez...
Lastly, yes, I sometimes have to get away from the constant connectivity of the Internet, and it's great to do as such -- but then, it doesn't take long before I'm sucked back into browsing lolcats, laughing at memes (like the one above), writing ZDNet pieces, and reading news about Snooki's baby. And I don't even care about Snooki! (I blame that last one on my girlfriend. And TMZ.)

Oh, Internet... the things you do to me. *sigh*.

Image source: QuickMeme

 

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11 of 11 Stephen Chapman/ZDNet

ZDNet is as old as the World Wide Web!

You may not realize it, but this very site is as old as the World Wide Web, making it one of the oldest properties to reside therein! If you're so inclined, take a look at this brief, 5-minute-long video that gives a quick history of ZDNet, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary in April of this year:

 

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