A zettabyte is a unit of information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

 or computer storage
Computer storage
Computer data storage, often called storage or memory, refers to computer components and recording media that retain digital data. Data storage is one of the core functions and fundamental components of computers....

 equal to one sextillion (one long scale
Long and short scales
The long and short scales are two of several different large-number naming systems used throughout the world for integer powers of ten. Many countries, including most in continental Europe, use the long scale whereas most English-speaking countries use the short scale...

 trilliard) byte
The byte is a unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, a byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer and for this reason it is the basic addressable element in many computer...


As of 2011, no storage system has achieved one zettabyte of information. The combined space of all computer hard drives in the world
World is a common name for the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth....

 was estimated at approximately 160 exabytes in 2006. This has increased rapidly however, as during the 2011 Fiscal Year, Seagate reported selling a combined total of 330 exabytes of hard drives. This does not include shipments from any other manufacturer, and only includes those sold during 2011. As of 2009, the entire Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 was estimated to contain close to 500 exabytes. This is a half zettabyte.
  • 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes = 10007 bytes = 1021 bytes

The term "zebibyte
The zebibyte is a standards-based binary multiple of the byte, a unit of digital information storage. The zebibyte unit symbol is ZiB.1 zebibyte = 270 bytes = = 1,024 exbibytes...

" (ZiB), using a binary prefix
Binary prefix
In computing, a binary prefix is a specifier or mnemonic that is prepended to the units of digital information, the bit and the byte, to indicate multiplication by a power of 2...

, is used for the corresponding power of 1024.

Comparisons for scale

A zettabyte is equal to 1 billion terabytes.
  • The world’s technological capacity to receive information through one-way broadcast
    Broadcast or Broadcasting may refer to:* Broadcasting, the transmission of audio and video signals* Broadcast, an individual television program or radio program* Broadcast , an English electronic music band...

     networks was 0.432 zettabytes of (optimally compressed) information in 1986, 0.715 in 1993, 1.2 in 2000, and 1.9 (optimally compressed) zettabytes in 2007 (this is the informational equivalent to every person on earth receiving 174 newspapers per day).

  • According to the annual survey of the global digital output by International Data Corporation
    International Data Corporation
    International Data Corporation is a market research and analysis firm specializing in information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology. IDC is a subsidiary of International Data Group...

    , the total amount of global data was expected to pass 1.2 zettabytes sometime during 2010. This is equivalent to the amount of data that would be generated by everyone in the world posting messages on the microblogging
    Microblogging is a broadcast medium in the form of blogging. A microblog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregate file size...

     site Twitter
    Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets".Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July...

     continuously for a century.

  • Mark Liberman
    Mark Liberman
    Mark Liberman is an American linguist. He has a dual appointment at the University of Pennsylvania, as Trustee Professor of Phonetics in the Department of Linguistics, and as a professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. He is the founder and director of the Linguistic Data...

     calculated the storage requirements for all human speech ever spoken at 42 zettabytes if digitized as 16 kHz 16-bit audio. This was done in response to a popular expression that states "all words ever spoken by human beings" could be stored in approximately 5 exabytes of data (see exabyte
    The exabyte is a unit of information or computer storage equal to one quintillion bytes . The unit symbol for the exabyte is EB...

     for details). Liberman did "freely confess that maybe the authors [of the exabyte estimate] were thinking about text." A revised theory is that if you made an audio recording of the conscience and words of all humanity since the dawn of time and multiplied the data 4 times you would reach this 1 ZiB

  • Research from the University of Southern California
    University of Southern California
    The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

     reports that in 2007, humankind successfully sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS.

  • Research from the University of California, San Diego
    University of California, San Diego
    The University of California, San Diego, commonly known as UCSD or UC San Diego, is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, United States...

    reports that in 2008, Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information.
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