Our exploding dataverese

From today’s Guardian

Last year enough digital information – from emails and blogs to mobile phone calls, photos and TV signals – was generated to fill a dozen stacks of hardback books stretching from the earth to the sun, according to research published today.

The proliferation of digital cameras and mobile phones that can take pictures, coupled with the popularity of online video services such as YouTube and BitTorrent, has caused an explosion of images. This pushed the world’s total digital content last year to 161bn gigabytes. That is the equivalent of 161bn iPod Shuffles or 161 of so-called exabytes.

The sheer amount of data that has been created by the digital age becomes clear when comparing it with the spoken word. Experts estimate that all human language since the dawn of time would take up about 5 exabytes if stored in digital form. In comparison, last year’s email traffic accounted for 6 exabytes.

The survey, conducted by the technology consultancy IDC and sponsored by the IT firm EMC, shows that growth in the digital universe is being driven by the switch to digital imagery; the move from traditional phone calls to digital telephony such as mobile and voice over the internet calls, and the rise of digital TV.

Roughly a quarter of the digital universe is original – such as pictures or emails or even phone calls – while the other three-quarters is replicated material including forwarded emails, movies on DVD and pirated music.

Much of this digital information is being produced by individuals. YouTube, for instance, hosts about 100m daily video streams, while more than a billion songs are shared over the internet every day.

IDC estimates that by 2010, more than 70% of all the digital information in the world will have been created by consumers…

More… From GMSV:

From the Department of Unreproducible Results comes word that we are in a new space race and we are losing. Tech research firm IDC took a whack at calculating how much digital information the world is generating and came up with a figure of 161 billion gigabytes — 161 exabytes — for last year, factoring in the multiple copies of files like songs and videos. To put that in perspective — well, I don’t know … does saying that would fill 2 billion top-line iPods help at all? Luckily, says IDC, total available storage last year was 185 exabytes, leaving room for a big swap file. But the trend looks threatening. IDC figures we’ll have about 601 exabytes of storage available in 2010, but we’ll be producing 988 exabytes (closing in on 1 zettabyte) of new information, creating an overflow situation that will result in headlines like “Toddler swept away in raging data stream.”

This, as Tom Foremski at Silicon Valley Watcher notes, raises some interesting questions — like how does all that extra 2010 data get “produced” if there’s no place to store it. But don’t spend too much time worrying about it. This sort of extrapolation is usually rendered moot by real-world developments. Now that it’s been noted, go ahead and delete.