Arab Today, arab today the internet a series of \tubes\
Last Updated : GMT 22:44:53
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The internet: a series of \'Tubes\'

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Arab Today, arab today The internet: a series of \'Tubes\'

London - Arabstoday

Increasingly, Internet users are working \"in the cloud\" — creating and sending data that isn\'t stored on local hard drives. It\'s easy to imagine our emails and photos swirling around in cyberspace without a physical home — but that\'s not really how it works. Those files are still stored somewhere, but you can only find them if you know where to look. In Tubes, journalist Andrew Blum goes on a journey inside the Internet\'s physical infrastructure to uncover the buildings and compounds where our data is stored and transmitted. Along the way, he documents the spaces where the Internet first started, and the people who\'ve been working to make the Web what it is today. Blum tells Fresh Air\'s Terry Gross that the Internet can be thought of as three separate entities: data centers that store information, Internet exchange points where networks meet to exchange data with each other, and fiber-optic cables that connect all of the information traveling between cities and continents. Blum calls these fiber-optic cables, many of which traverse the ocean bottom, the \"most poetic places of the Internet.\" \"They\'re about the thickness of a garden hose, and they\'re filled with a handful of strands of fiber-optic cable,\" he says. \"And light goes in one end of the ocean and out the other end of the ocean. And that light is accelerated along its journey by repeaters that look like bluefin tuna underwater.\" The repeaters and the fiber-optic cables extend for thousands of miles below the ocean\'s surface, along the same routes where other telecommunication cables have been placed for decades. Blum, who watched one of the fiber-optic cables emerge from the sea in Lisbon, says the process hasn\'t changed much over the decades. \"I saw pictures from [a telegraph] museum in England where the pictures from 100 years earlier looked exactly the same,\" he says. \"The Englishmen in their hats were watching the laborers digging in the wet trench, pulling the cables up. So the technology has changed but the culture hasn\'t changed, and the points being connected haven\'t changed much.\" In the States, many of the trans-Atlantic cables coming from Europe terminate in an art deco-style office building at 60 Hudson St. in New York City. More than 100 telecommunications companies have offices in the building, which contains more than 70 million feet of cable wire. \"It\'s essentially a building-sized jumble of wires,\" says Blum. \"It\'s been [a very important building] for the telephone as well. So there\'s this mix of very high-tech, high-capacity, brand-new machines, and then these old banks of copper wires and switches. ... And the contrast is incredible. It\'s amazing that we think of the Internet as a high-tech, sterile place, and this place is the complete opposite.\" In fact, Manhattan is full of buildings containing key parts of the Internet, says Blum. In 2010, Google acquired 111 8th Ave., a block-long building in Chelsea that sits almost directly on top of large bundles of fiber-optic cables. The building is designed to allow tenants to connect to these fiber-optic lines directly. \"It\'s that autonomy to connect — to do whatever they want and to make their own decisions about how they\'re connecting to other networks that allows the Internet to be both robust and cheap,\" says Blum. Even though there\'s some potential risk involved, Blum believes the locations of these data centers will never become secret. \"The Internet is all about one network connecting to another network. It\'s the space in between that makes it come alive,\" he says. \"And if you\'re secret — if you try to hide where you are — then you essentially can\'t function as a network on the Internet because nobody knows where you are. And if you\'re in the business of selling your connection, then you have no business at all if you won\'t tell anyone where it is.\"

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