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Can I Go to the Internet?

by Katie Ayres

Come on a journey into the Internet, specifically, Ashburn, Virginia, where the backbone of the Internet carries 70% of the world’s Internet traffic. I ride my bike down the Washington and Old Dominion trail where it is surrounded by Data Centers handling our daily Internet activities. (3 minutes)

Related Information

On my bike ride, I am riding in an area where there are a number of Ragingwire data centers, which I find the most architecturally interesting. Below are links to two videos they published marketing their data centers.

Riding on the trail - aerial view
Aerial view of where I was riding. The white arrow is following the W&OD bike trail


Today we are going to journey into the Internet. It is a real place that you can see, touch and feel.

My name is Katie Ayres, and I’m a web developer and owner of 1 Happy Place, and I answer the question, Can I go to the Internet?

The internet can feel invisible or just a wispy cloud in the sky. Instead it is hundreds of thousands of computers in which you can connect and retrieve information.

As a web developer who also handles the hosting and upkeep of my client’s websites, I am in the Internet everyday. So how about if you join me while I jump into the Internet and update a website. We can ride our bikes there, so let’s go!

I am riding on the Washington and Old Dominion trail which is a popular bike trail in the Washington DC metro area. It follows an old train route that used to take Washingtonians out to the countryside for a nice picnic. If I kept riding East for 30 miles, I would find myself at the Washington Monument.

Surprisingly, this trail is where the backbone of the Internet lives, 70 percent of the world’s, yes, that’s the world’s Internet traffic comes through Ashburn, Virginia, where I am.

The bike trail cuts right through the heart of an area containing massive buildings that house banks of computers that are on the Internet network. The bits swirl under the residents in gigantic bundles of fiber optic cabling that hooks these buildings together and out to the world.

Here is a data center. This is one of the thousands of buildings where the Internet lives. Inside are racks of computers humming with Internet activity. We could go into one of these buildings and walk through the racks of computers. However, I can’t because the servers I manage are not here.

So let’s return to my home office and go to the Internet by using the Internet. I want to change 1happyplace.com. Let’s say on the home page, I am going to put an exclamation mark on my tagline. Those characters, that create that tagline are in one place, on one computer that is accessible to the anyone on the Internet.

We can edit the characters in that file and see it change on the live website in realtime. I am going to show you my screen as I update the website. I am working on the command line with an ancient editor called vi, which allows me to work extremely fast.

Let’s find the tagline and add the exclamation point. Now, in the other screen you will see the website update immediately. There it is, the exclamation point that we just typed. Now I am going to delete it. Done.

So I hope you enjoyed this journey into the Internet! It was fun to take you there.