The report, assembled by the technology research firm IDC, sought to account for all the ones and zeros that make up photos, videos, e-mails, Web pages, instant messages, phone calls and other digital content zipping around. The researchers also assumed that on average, each digital file gets replicated three times.
Add it all up and IDC determined that the world generated 161 billion gigabytes — 161 exabytes — of digital information last year.
Oh, the equivalents! That's like 12 stacks of books that each reach from the Earth to the sun. Or you might think of it as 3 million times the information in all the books ever written, according to IDC. You'd need more than 2 billion of the most capacious iPods on the market to get 161 exabytes.
The previous best estimate came from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who totaled the globe's information production at 5 exabytes in 2003.