Ask an adult in the Guardian

Ask a grown-up: where is the internet?

Google engineering director Mike Warriner answers six-year-old Millie’s question

Mike Warriner

Google’s Mike Warriner. Illustration: GNM Imaging


Every time you do something on the internet, your request travels to a group of special computers inside huge air-conditioned buildings known as data centres. There are many thousands of these around the world, and each computer holds a part of the internet – some may have pictures, emails or videos on them; others contain indexes, for example a “map” of where data can be found.

The network that connects the computers is what we call the internet. A company such as Google has hundreds of data centres – usually situated near water for cooling, electricity to keep the computers running and near to you – so that the internet is as fast as possible. The web is made up of 60 trillion pages, and it’s growing all the time. When you search for something, it could take 100 computers inside one data centre to understand your question, find possible answers and bring them back to you in a useful form – and generally all in less than a second.


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