Could Kim Kardashian's bottom actually break the internet?

By Felicity Morse
Newsbeat social media producer

image copyrightAstrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

US magazine Paper released a series of pictures of Kim Kardashian this week, apparently with one aim - to break the internet.

Yet dozens of glazed doughnut memes and Photoshopped bottoms later, the internet is still working.

Of course, the Paper people and Kim weren't being serious.

But it got us thinking: would it be possible to destroy the internet?

It would certainly be hard. The internet is made up of lots and lots of networks which allows data to be sent from computer to computer.

In order for data to get from one computer to another, it is broken up into small chunks (packet data) and then is passed, so quickly it appears to be almost instant, between machines around the world.

Routers, like the one you might have in your living room, help direct this data from your computer to a web server, which stores information and helps direct it back to you.

image copyrightPA
image captionYour home router vs Kim Kardashian?

'Like a spider's web'

"The internet is like a spider's web: there are many ways of getting across it," says Gary Thornton, the data centre spokesperson for the UK IT Association.

He told Newsbeat: "You can shut down one of the routes but there are many alternate ways of getting across.

"If one route got damaged it could be expensive to repair. There may be some localised interruption and things might take a bit longer but that is it, the internet will carry on.

image copyrightBethany Clarke/Getty Images
image captionKim Kardashian has been trending on Twitter for almost three days

"The internet was designed right from the start to be secure and robust.

"It was first developed during the days of the Cold War, in the days of US paranoia, so everything has multiple redundancies.

"Everything at the core of the internet was designed with an alternate way of working."

image copyrightAnthony Harvey/Getty Images
image captionDid Kim #BreakTheInternet? Of course she didn't

Professor Ian Brown is associate director of Oxford University's cyber-security centre.

He said if Kim wanted to break the internet she should at least have chosen a 10-minute video to do it, because it would take up more bandwidth.

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can flow down a given wire or internet connection at a time.

However, he said that even then, she would be unlikely to "break the internet".

image copyrightDavid Becker/Getty Images
image captionKim's famous behind

"The internet is distributed so it has components all over the world," he said.

"It's not like there is one central node [a connection point] that is going to be overloaded.

Sharks v Kim

"There are millions of servers and cables, so even if some of the high bandwidth cables are broken - which can happen, for example, if a ship's anchor hits them - all that happens is that the data gets routed around the problem.

"The internet might go a little bit slower but most people wouldn't notice."

Lots of fibre optic internet cables travel under the sea. That's why in August, one of Google's product managers said the firm was reinforcing cables to protect them from shark bites.

So while sharks may prove a problem, Kim won't.

image copyrightThinkstock
image captionMore of a threat to the internet than Kim (but even then, minimal)

But if shutting down the internet is so hard, how do authoritarian governments stop people from using it?

Professor Brown says one way these governments control the internet is by "telling the big telephone companies, which usually run the very high bandwidth internet connections, to shut off the national connections from the rest of the internet".

There are problems with this too.

Often there will be ways information can still flow, either through cables or satellite links or radio links.

That's one of the reasons the internet is now the main way we communicate, according to Brown, because it's "very flexible and robust".

image copyrightPHILIPPE LOPEZ/Getty Images
image captionIs this what the internet would look like if Kim had her way? Of course it isn't

One time the internet did slow down was in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks. Professor Brown explained why.

"Occasionally in a specific geographical area on a specific set of links, if there's a huge news event, there is some congestion or slowing down," he said.

"It happened particularly during 9/11 because that's where a specific set of cables between America and Europe came in to the United States.

"On that day there was some congestion because everyone around the world was looking for news from the US to see what was happening.

"They were looking for video which takes up a lot more bandwidth than photographs and web pages.

"That combination of huge demand and temporarily reduced capacity did cause some congestion but certainly it didn't shut down the internet."

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