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Eight things you didn’t know about the internet



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It was born 40 years ago, in a lab at the University of California, Los Angeles. Today it wraps the entire planet and features in the daily routine of more than 1.5 billion people.

Of course, it’s easy to take the internet for granted and forget that it’s very much a work in progress.

So what forces are shaping it, how big has it grown, and will it ever evolve a mind of its own? To find out, New Scientist posed eight simple questions

1.

Who controls the internet?



The official answer is no one, but it is a half-truth that few swallow

2.


Could the net become self-aware?



In engineering terms, it is easy to see similarities between the human brain and the internet’s complex network of nodes, so could conciousness be the next step?

3.


How big is the net?



In 2008, Google announced that its systems had registered a trillion unique pages – but even this might represent a fraction of what is out there

4.


Is there only one internet?


The internet is a disparate mix of interconnected computers, many of them on large networks run by universities, businesses and so on – so what unites them, if anything?

5.


Is the net caught in the credit crunch?



Real-estate prices crashing, a big drop in growth, the threat of infrastructure collapse, and authorities printing more money to stave off disaster – that’s just the virtual world

6.

Where are the net’s dark corners?



There are plenty of places online that you would do well to steer clear of: some could leave your computer infected with worms or viruses – then there are the “black holes”

7.


Is the net hurting the environment?



Sending an email across the Atlantic Ocean does not burn any jet fuel, but the internet is not without its own, huge carbon footprint

8.


Could we shut the net down?



When even the biggest cyber-attacks have failed to bring down the web, governments might not fare much better

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