Google adores the idea of studying and storing the entire scope of human knowledge. It has some lofty goals in that regard, like digitizing every single one of the estimated 130 million books that exist in bound paper-and-glue form. That's a ton of books, but Google has something even crazier in mind: studying the entirety of the Internet, which consists of over one trillion pages.
Instead of researching the impact of the Web itself, though, Google's handing the job off to the World Wide Web Federation and donating $1 million towards an annual analysis of the Internet as it grows and changes. The organization, founded by Tim Berners-Lee (remember him? He basically created the World Wide Web), is kicking off an initiative called the Web Index to study the impact of the Web on a global scale and rank countries by their level of Web integration.
The Web Index isn't about cataloging the entirety of the Internet, page by page, into a giant list--it's about studying how the web affects our lives socially and economically. Additionally, the Web Index wants to look at the backbone of the Internet and see how it differs from one country to the next:
The Web Index will provide a unique, multi-dimensional measure of the Web and its impact on people and nations. It will be a composite Index, incorporating political, economic, social, and developmental indicators, as well as indicators of Web connectivity and infrastructure. This will make the Web Index a powerful tool for analysis, and should contribute to a greater understanding of the Web and its impact around the world.
Both the negative and the positive impact of the Web on society will be considered. There will be full transparency in the construction of the Index: the data and methodology used to produce it will be published openly and could be used by others to undertake their own research. It will be published on an annual basis, and we expect to launch the first edition in early 2012.
The Web Index's findings will take the form of an annual report that it theorizes could be useful for governments and corporations out to gauge their success against the rest of the world. Those results could prove to be enlightening--will faster network infrastructures like South Korea's and Japan's show positive economic benefits? Will Internet censorship have a demonstrably negative impact?
That's where the "index" part comes in--countries will be ranked based on a variety of survey data and expert opinions. Any bets on who comes out on top?