THE NUMBERS REPORT

world wide webWe’ve never started a column with a “Numbers Report” before. This is a frequent subject in our column but always placed well down. But some numbers have become so extraordinary in recent times, that they are worth talking about right up front. Such is the case with web sites.

How many web sites are there? No one can tell for sure because the number keeps changing so rapidly. When we checked just a few minutes ago, right before starting this column, we saw that Google had searched 644 million sites. When we asked the same question five minutes later, Google reported it had searched 672 million web sites. It was adding sites to their own search engine while at the same time new sites were being created all over the world.

But that’s just their universe as the statisticians say. The total number of sites available was just under 982 million – nearly a billion – and moving fast. We watched as new web sites came online at a rate of about ten a second. Sometimes they jumped, coming in clumps of dozens. Google’s lower number wasn’t wrong, of course, it was just reporting how many they could search at that particular moment. We got the larger number from a web site called InternetLiveStats.com, which has a running total flashing on the screen, sort of like those billboards you see sometimes flashing the national debt as it increases.

This is half way through 1914. The first ever web site was “info.cern.ch.” CH is the country code for Switzerland; CERN is the giant nuclear research center there.

The first web site was put up on August 6th, 1991, by Tim Berners-Lee, a British physicist working at CERN. He also invented the worldwide web. (Sorry, Al Gore; it wasn’t you.) He basically put together all the features of the Web we know today, and then instead of trying to patent them, he opened it all up for free to the world. So what have the rest of us been doing these days?

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