By late 2019, there’s an estimated amount of ten billion curl installations in the world. Of course this is a rough estimate and depends on how you count etc.
There are several billion mobile phones and tablets and a large share of those have multiple installations of curl. Then there all the Windows 10 machines, web sites, all macs, hundreds of millions of cars, possibly a billion or so games, maybe half a billion TVs, games consoles and more.
How much data are they transferring?
In the high end of volume users, we have at least two that I know of are doing around one million requests/sec on average (and I’m not even sure they are the top users, they just happen to be users I know do high volumes) but in the low end there will certainly be a huge amount of installations that barely ever do any requests at all.
If there are two users that I know are doing one million requests/sec, chances are there are more and there might be a few doing more than a million and certainly many that do less but still many.
Among many of the named and sometimes high profiled apps and users I know use curl, I very rarely know exactly for what purpose they use curl. Also, some use curl to do very many small requests and some will use it to do a few but very large transfers.
Additionally, and this really complicates the ability to do any good estimates, I suppose a number of curl users are doing transfers that aren’t typically considered to be part of “the Internet”. Like when curl is used for doing HTTP requests for every single subway passenger passing ticket gates in the London underground, I don’t think they can be counted as Internet transfers even though they use internet protocols.
How much data are browsers driving?
According to some data, there is today around 4.388 billion “Internet users” (page 39) and the world wide average time spent “on the Internet” is said to be 6 hours 42 minutes (page 50). I think these numbers seem credible and reasonable.
According to broadbandchoices, an average hour of “web browsing” spends about 25MB. According to databox.com, an average visit to a web site is 2-3 minutes. httparchive.org says the median page needs 74 HTTP requests to render.
So what do users do with their 6 hours and 42 minutes “online time” and how much of it is spent in a browser? I’ve tried to find statistics for this but failed.
@chuttenc (of Mozilla) stepped up and helped me out with getting stats from Firefox users. Based on stats from users that used Firefox on the day of October 1, 2019 and actually used their browser that day, they did 2847 requests per client as median with the median download amount 18808 kilobytes. Of that single day of use.
I don’t have any particular reason to think that other browsers, other days or users of other browsers are very different than Firefox users of that single day. Let’s count with 3,000 requests and 20MB per day. Interestingly, that makes the average data size per request a mere 6.7 kilobytes.
A median desktop web page total size is 1939KB right now according to httparchive.org (and the mobile ones are just slightly smaller so the difference isn’t too important here).
Based on the median weight per site from httparchive, this would imply that a median browser user visits the equivalent of 15 typical sites per day (30MB/1.939MB).
If each user spends 3 minutes per site, that’s still just 45 minutes of browsing per day. Out of the 6 hours 42 minutes. 11% of Internet time is browser time.
3000 requests x 4388000000 internet users, makes 13,164,000,000,000 requests per day. That’s 13.1 trillion HTTP requests per day.
The world’s web users make about 152.4 million HTTP requests per second.
(I think this is counting too high because I find it unlikely that all internet users on the globe use their browsers this much every day.)
The equivalent math to figure out today’s daily data amounts transferred by browsers makes it 4388000000 x 30MB = 131,640,000,000 megabytes/day. 1,523,611 megabytes per second. 1.5 TB/sec.
30MB/day equals a little under one GB/month per person. Feels about right.
Back to curl usage
The curl users with the highest request frequencies known to me (*) are racing away at one million requests/second on average, but how many requests do the others actually do? It’s really impossible to say. Let’s play the guessing game!
First, it feels reasonable to assume that these two users that I know of are not alone in doing high frequency transfers with curl. Purely based on probability, it seems reasonable to assume that the top-20 something users together will issue at least 10 million requests/second.
Looking at the users that aren’t in that very top. Is it reasonable to assume that each such installed curl instance makes a request every 10 minutes on average? Maybe it’s one per every 100 minutes? Or is it 10 per minute? There are some extremely high volume and high frequency users but there’s definitely a very long tail of installations basically never doing anything… The grim truth is that we simply cannot know and there’s no way to even get a ballpark figure. We need to guess.
Let’s toy with the idea that every single curl instance on average makes a transfer, a request, every tenth minute. That makes 10 x 10^9 / 600 = 16.7 million transfers per second in addition to the top users’ ten million. Let’s say 26 million requests per second. The browsers of the world do 152 million per second.
If each of those curl requests transfer 50Kb of data (arbitrarily picked out of thin air because again we can’t reasonably find or calculate this number), they make up (26,000,000 x 50 ) 1.3 TB/sec. That’s 85% of the data volume all the browsers in the world transfer.
The world wide browser market share distribution according to statcounter.com is currently: Chrome at 64%, Safari at 16.3% and Firefox at 4.5%.
This simple-minded estimate would imply that maybe, perhaps, possibly, curl transfers more data an average day than any single individual browser flavor does. Combined, the browsers transfer more.
Sure, or call them estimates. I’m doing them to the best of my ability. If you have data, reasoning or evidence to back up modifications my numbers or calculations that you can provide, nobody would be happier than me! I will of course update this post if that happens!
(*) = I don’t name these users since I’ve been given glimpses of their usage statistics informally and I’ve been asked to not make their numbers public. I hold my promise by not revealing who they are.
Thanks to chuttenc for the Firefox numbers, as mentioned above, and thanks also to Jan Wildeboer for helping me dig up stats links used in this post.