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The Zoo versus the Internet

If you thought the Internet was fast, think again. We pitted the world's top animals against the Web over a one-mile course, transferring 32GB of data. The results may surprise you

If you thought the Internet was fast, think again. We pitted the world's top animals against the Web over a one-mile course, transferring 32GB of data. The results are surprising. If you put 32GB of data on a bite-proof USB key and strapped it to a cheetah, for example, it would be available to read at the destination 11 times faster than the Internet. The cheetah takes 30.9 minutes, the Internet over 6 hours!

And it doesn't end there: the Internet is actually slower than every major animal. It's even slower than the apocryphal tortoise over a mile. Our results come from taking the transfer speed of a typical USB connection shifting 32GB on and off a key, and adding this to the time it takes for each beastly chauffeur to move it one mile. Your results may vary.

Cheetah versus the Internet

It's the world's fastest land animal, but who knew it was this fast? Twelve times quicker than the Internet when transferring 32GB of data 1 mile. Strap a 32GB USB key to the side of a cheetah, and it'll have your data transferred a mile away in less than a minute. Add the 15 minutes it'll take you to transfer the data to the key and the 15 minutes to take it off, and you've still got the fastest connection on the block. If you're transferring data shorter distances, a cheetah works even more efficiently. The animal can accelerate from zero to 68mph in three seconds -- it could have that 32 gig down in accounts and back again before you can say "carnage".

Pigeon versus the Internet

Used to carry messages during both world wars, the simple carrier pigeon is still one of the best ways to get your data across the country, second only to the mighty cheetah. In fact, pigeons are so effective that in South Africa, a carrier pigeon carrying a 4GB memory stick was demonstrated to be faster than the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom. The pigeon, named Winston, took 1 hour and 8 minutes to transport the data 60 miles, and 1 hour to upload the data. During the same time, the ADSL had sent just 4 per cent of the data.

Historically, carrier pigeons carried messages one way, but they can be trained to fly back and forth with carefully placed food bribes. The range on a pigeon is around 100 miles for a round trip. A 32GB USB key is no match for a trained homing pigeon -- one bird can carry a whopping 75g.

Horse versus the Internet

The quarter horse, also known as 'the king of speed', is a nippy little chap. It's 12 times faster than the Internet over one mile. Clocked at close to 50mph across finishing lines at some races, it's also the official horse of Texas -- not a place they do things by halves. Strap a USB to the harness of this monster and it will transfer your 32GB in a staggering 1.2 minutes, plus the time it takes to put the data on and take it off the key. It's the most popular breed in the US, and over 4 million are registered worldwide, making it the CAT5 Ethernet cable of the horse family: fast and reliable.

Dog versus the Internet

The Cape hunting dog is the fastest dog in the world. An African wild dog, it's not for home use. Often seen bounding across the savannah, hunting down ostriches, wildebeest and zebras, its awesome speed and power can be harnessed to transfer data. The Cape hunting dog can run 32GB over a mile in 1.3 minutes. Add to that the 30 minutes it would take to transfer that data to and from the USB key, and you're still looking at a seriously fast connection. The dog is known for its characteristic squeaking noise, alternated with chirping -- not unlike a modem.

Rabbit versus the Internet

Wouldn't it be great if you put two transatlantic data cables in a box with each other for 5 minutes, and 32 days later you found you had 12 more cables? Well, that's exactly what will happen if you put two rabbits in a box -- they have a habit of reproducing. One rabbit takes around 2 minutes to transfer 32GB over a mile, but add a little reproduction to the mix, and your connection speed will rival most Internet providers. Imagine a legion of rabbits replacing your city's network cabling -- it would make everything look much prettier.

Giraffe versus the Internet

It's the tallest of all land animals, but it's also fairly quick off the mark, ranking just below the rabbit for connection speed. Put your 32GB USB key in the giraffe's capable hooves and it'll have bounded a mile in around 2 minutes. Giraffes prefer savannah and open woodland, but there's no reason not to nail horse-shoes on to one so it can work in suburbia. The giraffe runs on water and acacia, unlike your average tech-support crew, which need fizzy pop, doughnuts and heroin to keep themselves going.

Human versus the Internet

The poor old human ranks relatively low in the one-mile data-transfer charts. Even so, a fast human can run a mile in an impressive 4 minutes, transferring data 11 times faster than the Internet. You probably couldn't get the same human to transfer the data back straight afterwards, but there are plenty of fresh humans to pick from. Unlike the other animals in our chart, the human is uniquely sneaky, and would probably catch a lift in a taxi or hop on a bike. Either way, your 32GB will get there a heck of a lot faster than if you'd sent it using the Internet -- 5 hours 40 minutes faster, in fact.

Rat versus the Internet

Often scolded for its lack of table manners, the rat is only slightly slower than a human at transferring 32GB over a mile. Contrary to popular hatred, the rat is no more of a health risk than a cat or a dog -- provided your rat is a household pet, rather than a sewer edition that has been scrabbling about in human effluent. Because of the bad press rats have got -- mainly on account of that plague thing -- most people are quick to get out of the way of a rat. This makes them an even more efficient means of data transfer. Unlike a horse or a dog, which will get stopped by gangs of mindless children desperate to stroke them, the rat can use its natural repulsiveness to its advantage.

Tortoise versus the Internet

History may have cruelly painted the tortoise as the poster-boy of slow, but it beats the Internet over a one-mile course by almost one whole hour. Oh how the tortoise must be laughing now: it's 1.2 times faster than the Internet. While the Web struggles to gets its packets in order, the tortoise trundles on, determined and firm. If you wedge your USB key into the sweet spot between the tortoise's neck and its shell, you also get data protection for free. A tortoise shell predates your carbon-fibre shockproof satchel by millions of years. Respect it.

The Internet

Finally we get to the lowly Internet. One of the worst ways to transfer your data one mile. The average Internet connection runs at a glue-like 2.85Mbps in the UK (according to Broadband Expert), and a frankly embarrassing 2.3Mbps in some parts of the US (Speedmatters). You'd be better off strapping a 32GB USB key to almost any animal in the world and making it walk a mile than transferring this quantity of data this distance over the Internet.

At the connection speeds cited, it would take 3 hours 7 minutes to upload your 32GB to a server on the Internet, and another 3 hours 7 minutes for your recipient to download it. Of course, at longer distances, the Internet begins to outshine the animal kingdom, but it should hang its head in shame over its ranking in the one-mile speed test.

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