95% of the Internet Could Disappear Tomorrow & Would Be Fine
I have said this many times to people in the office or behind my keyboard like a true warrior. The Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse-Tyson covers the 5 extinctions in Season 1, Episode 2 (S01E02) which is dark and a reminder that it could be gone in a moment. I firmly believe that if the 6th one was the internet and wiped away 95% of the websites, we wouldn’t notice very much. This only matters if the top 100 websites survive. This is more of a tongue-in-cheek than anything else and I wanted to take a second and write a bit more interesting piece. The bigger take away is how little the traffic that websites get in comparison to the giant ones, and how much garbage there is online that lies in between.
I read a study a long time ago that showed most Americans use on average the same 5 websites every day and rarely go to others.This isn’t true for all of us. I have a suspiscion that if we looked at our browser history over the course of a year that there is 5-10 websites that you check every single day. It’s true that we are predictable in many ways and this is just another one of them.
My 11-year old doesn’t even understand what Reddit is and he is on the computer more than I am! I showed it to him the other night and his response shocked me considering how literate he is online. He uses like 3 websites from what I have noticed. His computing skills easily surpass the majority of adults that I have met when it comes to using the information highway. I just need him off of YouTube and more on Khan Academy and other useful websites. If you are a parent then you probably get my drift.
Who Is the 95%
The 95% group is everything from “turn-key” affiliate sites, sites that no one visits, and the ones that are there to trick you into giving your passwords or other information. We have to count the deep web too, including the .onion (depends on your view, but I think we need the dark web), and all of the useless sites that you click on after a search result and immediately leave because it’s not a good site. There are loads of blogs, demo sites, ad networks, and so much more. I should probably include a good portion of porn websites too…but not all of it.
These websites can be decades old and just have been forgotten, or built yesterday but the content is so shitty that no one will see it for a long time, if ever. The list of sites I stumble upon and immediately leave because it’s click-bait, pandering, contains useless content, or something else that tells me to nope right out. Google is okay at filtering the internet, but people still share these terrible sites that have quizzes that will tell you “which part of the moon would be best for you to live on” just so they can put cookies in your browser or capture your information. There are some really terrible people out there that can take over your identity and do malicious things by hacking your email, then your banking account and so on.
Social media sites have loads of the content that would never be in Google’s search, but our friends share anyways. When I see a site ending in .xyz or some funky name I just scroll right on by, but many click. The 95% in my eyes are sites that do not contribute to a good internet experience. As this is written, there is an estimated 644 million websites and those have lots of pages and posts. If you take that figure and say that 5% of it is good then you would wind up with 32,200,000 that are good. I think my simple guess is probably way off. Hopefully, the point is being received that there is a lot of noise out there.
My Security Setup Against Bad Sites & People
I surf the web very cautiously. I love using Linux Mint as my operating system and I run Chrome as my browser even though I would rather use something secure and open source (yes, I know about Chromium). Every browser has some downside to it and that’s just the way it is. I use Firefox too but I prefer using Chrome. Anyways, I also run uBlock Origins (ublock.org is not ublock Origins) and disconnect browser extensions. I want to block anything that could be malicious in nature. On top of that I make sure all of my devices are on different vLANs, and connect with a VPN at the router and on all mobile devices. Encryption is beyond important as well. I encrypt all of the laptop and mobile devices drives and I built a home server where all valuable assets are located in case of a serious failure on any computers. Make sure you have back ups as well. I carry a small case with about 20 32-128GB thumb drives loaded with multiple copies of important files.
Keep in mind that all of those steps I just posted are almost meaningless and overall just a couple of barriers if I was a target. Serious hackers will absolutely find a way through social hacking, documents that weren’t shredded or setting up a honey pot network on a subway to log all my keystrokes, websites visited, and usernames and passwords. It’s a dark world and I am adding this so you know that these sites make up a fair amount of the 95%. Protect yourself if you have not taken any steps to do so yet.
Fire & Forget
I think a bulk of the garbage on the internet are there for SEO value. One example of this is referred to a wheel of links or link wheel depending on your country. This is a group of websites that have content and point to another group, and finally those all link to your website. Sounds like a terrible thing to have, but these grow everyday in hopes that the main website will rise to the #1 position in Google’s search. Along with these are sites people build then get bored because no one visits it and they move on without deleting their site. It just sits there on WordPress.com as another link in the search results. People build then give up because no one is coming by to read or purchase what they are selling.
If you simply looked at sites like Fiverr or SEO Clerks at SEO jobs you could easily see how so much waste has built up over the years. Business sites want to be on the front page of a search so they buy all of these links on pages that will never be updated after a link was put on it. These are throwaways and they are everywhere. We create, and then we move on.
The Endless Road
It’s easy for me to list all of the possible junk sitting around the net that holds little to no value, but I hope the previous breakdown gets the point across. What drove me to feel this way was the shear amount of terrible pages that litter the internet. Each for a reason, but wastes our time when we accidentally find ourselves on their page. Some crafty coders create malware to add your PC to their botnet group. I am not referring to pirated works. I mean stuff in general and I find myself always thinking about why a website exists when I come across them. I also think about the garbage that is piling up still.
There are some people that feel like they are owed money for building a site and making content so they push thoughts out to the masses like I am doing right now. It’s important to note that no one is owed a penny for the things they put on the web. I am throwing this in because I get aggravated with websites that beg for money, run ads, and complain when people block them.
There really is an endless road that continues to get longer each day. I have heard some people like Gary Vaynerchuk say that marketers ruined the internet. Just for the record, he is right. Others are just there to share random thoughts on their Facebook page as time moves on. What ruined the internet is a slight mystery because it’s a blend of many actions. From people who wanted to share information, use BitTorrent to move files, ad networks to create income, blogs about anything you want, eBooks to slip onto your Kindle, making money online, hoax’s in your inbox on a daily basis, and so on has all taken over and there is no way to stop it. In fact, even ICANN has added even more domain extensions so the net could get infinitely larger and more people can try to make more money.
I know a lot of this seems pessimistic, but the truth is that I love a lot of what I am including in this post. I love sharing files, reading an opinion from someone who is a no one, or just learning and using crypto currencies. Just because I think 95% could be deleted and we all go marching on doesn’t mean I want it to be deleted. This is just something I have been thinking about for at least 5-6 years if not longer.
Who Is the Other 5%
There is a lot of destinations in the 5% figure, and you’ll just have to do the numbers. 5% of billions is an awful lot. For every 1 billion of sites or web pages, 5% equals 50,000,000. Maybe I need to rethink that figure. I don’t want to turn this into another 1% cause of anything. The percent is fairly arbitrary anyways. If I only took the top 1,000 webpages by the 2012 figure it would come out to 0.0001552% is not garbage. I am not changing the title to this though. It’s more tongue-in-cheek and more about how much garbage lives on the internet.
The truth is that most sites really don’t matter only. Wikipedia keeps up with the top 100 sites on the internet. Beyond the list goes sends us into the rest of the web where a good chunk of internet users never really travel unless it’s something specific that the top 100 can’t answer. We (website owners) can all enjoy at least a little traffic right?
The top tier of sites are either news, porn, social media, content providers, or email. Time is a precious thing and for many people the top 100 sites fills the need. Others with more time on their hands may travel outside of this and visit a site in the top 1000, and you can continue going with that concept if you choose to. The point is that being at the top and fitting your site in there would take massive amounts of links, money, man-hours, and that’s is just a guess.
All the big box stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart invest heavily on being relevant or they become useless in the face of online retailers like Amazon. It’s an aggressive space and when you go looking for an SEO specialist and they say to go after long-tail keywords instead of the hot terms like “make money online”, it’s because they know that it’s near impossible to rank for a set of keywords. We have to accept to some degree that this is an area where the phrase “pay to play” is real. There might be a website or two that could break through, but it’s near impossible in today’s world of quick information and mobile devices.
I will leave this section saying that there are a lot of sites that are not in the top 100, if not the top 1000 that could also disappear tomorrow and we will be just fine without it. It’s a crazy thought, but I can’t be the only one who thinks about this…right? The world has changed forever because of this innovation called the internet. No one could have seen it coming 100 or even 50 years ago and most even laughed it off because it sounded just too crazy. Fast-forwarding to today, we would be lost without it, or at least some of it.
Why Does the Internet Have So Many Sites
Sites are easy to whip up in an hour or two, especially if it’s on a free blogging platform like Blogger or WordPress.com. There is no barrier to entry and I think my 87-year old grandma has a blog or so from the past, somewhere. Right now, a quick search for “how many sites are created every minute” will get you some very cool stats. I linked one to the Daily Mail’s 2013 article that took a stab at it. The numbers are getting larger and considering that there is almost 6 billion people that are not connected right now but will be in the future is mind-blowing. That is a huge amount of data. So much data that the NSA had to build a huge site in Utah to capture as much of the internet as possible and from Wikipedia, they estimate it will hold 3 to 12 exabytes!<–serious, that number is beyond comprehension for most.
If you geek out like I do, you know how gigantic that amount is. My home server is 12TB or 0.000011444 exabytes to give you some kind of comparison. Not sure how much 12TB is? It’s enough to store almost everything you could want. I built it 2 years ago and it’s still 1/3 of the way full and I download a lot!
Depending on the quality of the movie, you could fit somewhere between 500 to 1000 movies on a 1TB drive (assuming an average of about 700MB for a 1.5 hour movie at 720p) ~ Tom’s Hardware
The point of doing the numbers is to show how massive the internet is and how fast new sites, pictures, music, and so on shows up on the internet every minute. Some do it for money, some do it for fame, and some do it for illegal things just as much as others doing legal things. In a way, it’s cool to see the advancement we have made. In another way, it pisses me off because I want my site to get seen and I have to compete against sites that no one cares about! As I type this post out I know that only about 10 people will read this in the next 24 hours, and it’s perfectly fine. There is always a site that is better than yours.
If the internet had some kind of barrier besides Google to filter all the stuff that is just there for little to no reason, we would be better off. North Korea accidentally exposed their internet to the world a couple days ago for about a minute and smart people were able to count 28 websites in the country and all controlled by the state. It’s important that I say that this is NOT the world I want to see. I love the variety, but I hate the maliciousness, spam, and uselessness of many websites. At the end of the day 1 billion people are going to continue to build more and more so I am not blind. I wanted to write this from a fun perspective and not an angry or frustrated one.
One Example to End the Idea
I had 860+ active domains from 2007-2012. I was paying upwards to $10K per year on domain buying and renewals. I know, you are like, “Adam WTF?!”, and I don’t blame you. I needed an intervention and I got one in ’12. So why did I have this much? Easy, It was to game the search engine results for one website…my business, also widely known as the “money site”. See, I would build a blog and add 5-10 decent articles on the topic that I wanted to rank for, and I rinsed and repeated 858 more times. I would check 50 sites or so per day to update, add links, or make sure ads were showing on them.
I had another site using the Joomla CMS and used a plugin to sell ads on to all of my websites. I broke down the entire group into 9 ad zones that I could sell across the websites much like Adsense works. It worked so well that my main site made lots of money and ranked higher than my competitors within just a couple of months. The ad network I built in addition to ranking my money site gave my competitors a way to “pay to play”. See if I didn’t get the sale then I would at least take some of the profit from a competitor by selling ad space to them. It was a win-win, but it didn’t last long because of many factors. I wish I could still do this right now. It was truly one of my proudest achievements, but it was putting mediocre websites out there to push my competition out of the first couple pages. The first 3 pages of results were many of my websites because of how aggressive I was in ranking them and getting content out there.
I just wanted to share one of my stories of how I littered the internet in one niche to show you how much just one person or idea could change part of the internet. Thank you for reading and I hope you will comment below on your own example or other thoughts you might have.