I was on a panel with Kahle a few years ago, discussing the relationship between material and digital archives. When I met him, I was struck by a story he told about how he once put the entire World Wide Web into a shipping container. He just wanted to see if it would fit. How big is the Web? It turns out, he said, that it’s twenty feet by eight feet by eight feet, or, at least, it was on the day he measured it. How much did it weigh? Twenty-six thousand pounds. He thought that meant something. He thought people needed to know that.
Kahle put the Web into a storage container, but most people measure digital data in bytes. This essay is about two hundred thousand bytes. A book is about a megabyte. A megabyte is a million bytes. A gigabyte is a billion bytes. A terabyte is a million million bytes. A petabyte is a million gigabytes. In the lobby of the Internet Archive, you can get a free bumper sticker that says “10,000,000,000,000,000 Bytes Archived.” Ten petabytes. It’s obsolete. That figure is from 2012. Since then, it’s doubled.