Now, you can also see inside some of the hubs of it all. Google launched a new website today, "Where the Internet Lives," that hosts shots of data centers in Iowa, North and South Carolina, Oregon, Georgia, and Oklahoma as well as Finland and Belgium. The site explains what happens when you search "binders full of women" on Google:
When you're on a Google website...you're accessing one of the most powerful server networks in the known Universe. But what does that actually look like? Here's your chance to see inside what we're calling the physical Internet.
Yes, we were equally curious about that person in the white suit. Kate Hurowitz, Google's senior manager in communications, told us in an email there are some "easter eggs" in the images. (That's a Stormtrooper from Star Wars. Find others? Let us know in the comments.)
Google also posted a video tour. Scroll to 1:13 in the video to see the company's "disk-crusher."
MORE: I should mention that the launch of this Google website comes about three weeks after a major New York Times investigative report on the outsized energy demands of data centers:
Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid, The Times found.
Over at Wired, Robert McMillan counters that the Times' report is about seven years out of date, and that these sorts of energy hog data centers are coming to an end soon anyway:
Yes, data centers are wasteful. But Facebook, for one, has evolved over those six years — significantly. And that’s no secret. Largely lost amid the Times’ multiple-page analysis is the fact that the data centers built by a handful of internet giants are looking less and less like the 40- by 60-foot rental space that was home to Facebook back in 2006 — and that these advances are just beginning to trickle down to the rest of the industry...Companies like Google and Apple and Amazon are also building a new generation of data centers that look nothing like that 40- by 60-foot overheated Facebook cage from 2006. But they’re doing most of this work in secret.