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Infographic of the Day

Infographic Of The Day: Yahoo Mail's Mindblowing Computing Power

The numbers involved in delivering a tiny slice of the world's mail are far too large to even grasp.

Infographic Of The Day: Yahoo Mail's Mindblowing Computing Power

Checking your email has become something as reliable as turning on your water faucet. But there is, in both cases, a quiet history of ingenuity and infrastructure that works so flawlessly that it can be taken for granted. And, in the case of your email, that infrastructure is un-freaking-believeable. The sheer processing power involved in delivering just a fraction of the world’s email involves numbers that boggle the mind.

Yahoo, working with the data-viz firm Periscopic, has created an interactive infographic that actually offers a real-time look into some of this data. Up top is an actual screenshot of the web app showing where emails are being processed around the world in real time. Click a bit further, and you get to this wonderful little stream graph of search terms that are trending in people’s email. Note the presence of "vaga"—presumably, that’s a wave of spam about viagra that’s striking out across the network:

[Click to see interactive version]

These are both some hypnotic pieces of eye candy, but if you keep on clicking around on the charts, you eventually arrived at some unbelievable stats about Yahoo’s overall email-crunching process. One of the key components, of course, is squashing all those damn Viagra emails. In so doing, Yahoo has apparently identified a theoretical number of possible alternate spellings:

That’s one thousand trillion trillion—which apparently is called a sextillion. I would offer you a pun about sexy-tillions and Viagra, but I haven’t got the strength. (And in case you’re wondering whether that sextillion is even mathematically possible, remember that the number of characters that can be used in a misspelling of "Viagra" is limitless.)

Meanwhile, Yahoo Mail processes 280 terabytes of data every single day. Check out how that compares to the size of the Internet just 16 years ago:

And finally, there’s this:

How is that even possible, and what what are all those email accounts being used for?! Actually, we don’t even want to know.

[Via Flowing Data]