I am new to Worldbuilding, so just give me a heads up if this is off-topic or too open-ended.

Let say that today the entire human species were wiped out this month (not relevant why). Humans were wiped out in a non-violent way. Wars or nuclear power did not cause the human race to cease to exist. This means that most data buildings and data towers were fully intact when we went extinct. Of course, due to neglect, they would probably break down over 1000 years. The extent of how many working building and data towers endure over 1000 years is up to you.

Over the course of the next 1000 years, intelligent life forms will have no presence on Earth until an alien species discovers our planet in 3021.

When the alien species arrive, would the basic premise of the internet still work?

It wouldn't need to be in today's complex form, I just want to know if a basic form of the internet would remain.

So, without any maintenance, could the internet work/be salvageable for these aliens?

And when I define work, I mean that the essential feature and base of the web is up and ready to run. (like data and original code, although search engines would be useful.)

Some more facts:

  • The aliens are far more intelligent than us and if the internet was salvageable, they could easily get it to work if they tried.
  • When humans were wiped out, the internet was in its best form.

If there are things that I'm missing, just let me know in the comments! I'd be happy to provide more information.

I also saw this related but not duplicate question, and this question, which I have put here for reference.


Over confusion in comments, I decided to clear up my question. Yes, I am pretty much asking if Google's servers in Silicone Valley would still be powered-up/working.

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    $\begingroup$ Your presupposition seems to be that the mains power supply is independent of humanity's continued existence. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ No. Electronics degrade over time, whether they are used or not. Even if stored in a vacuum, things such as capacitors and batteries will chemically self-degrade over time. Almost "never" are electronics built & operated in a vacuum, so the metals they are made of will oxidize (rust). You'll need to invent new technologies for something to remain functional in a thousand years. The internet as it exists today would be dust in a 1000 years (I'm an electronics engineer FWIW....) $\endgroup$
    – Kyle B
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ Short answer: no. Power would go out within days to a couple of weeks (e.g. reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/76jaue/… ; similar considerations apply to fossil fuel power plants as well). Modern SSDs will have lost their data because of flash cell charge leakage within ~25 years. Many of the materials that make up modern mechanical and electronics systems will have failed due to material aging within 100 years. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to WB! Also +1. I asked a different question once, which had to do with Earth freezing over and the effects on electronics. Answers show that electronics would fail way before cold would become an issue. Check it out :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 1:11
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    $\begingroup$ No. Even if power could be maintained, eventually all the fans would clog up and the servers would die from the heat build-up. The hard-drives would certainly be dead also. Time is not kind to continuously-moving things. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 9:24

1 Answer 1



The First Destruction
Without intervention, the power grid would almost certainly collapse within a day or two. After that, only emergency power (battery backups, backup generators) will be left, and that won't last long. All the servers the Internet is stored on will become subject to the forces of Nature: temperature, humidity, animal & plant life activity.

Chances are good various disasters -- not just storms & earthquakes, but also ordinary gas leak fires, chemical disasters, water line floods, and the like -- will destroy much infrastructure pretty quickly, without firemen to contain the fires. Whatever survives the fires & storms will be subjected to a thousand cycles of freeze & thaw and the advance of vegetation. Take a look at Pripyat, to see what a city will look like after only about 50 years of abandonment.

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The Second Destruction
If that weren't bad enough, the devices the Internet are kept on are not designed to last long. Modern tech just isn't well designed or built. Things will fall apart, dust will clog everything, rodents will gnaw, wind and water will destroy. Moving parts will corrode and become useless.

The Third Destruction
And at last there's the Great Decay. After the people leave, no one will be around to continuously maintain the e-infrastructure itself -- the data. Most of it is stored on hard drives; some data is kept on CDs, memory sticks and, yes, floppy disks!, but not the Internet itself.

None of that data will last long: hard drives will fail, if not mechanically, then magnetically (this source says rather less than a century). Other magnetic media, like tapes and discs may last several decades. Other media like flash drives may last longer, but without working computers and the hard drives that make them go, your future xenoarchaeologists will be out of luck.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that even if they could find a working hard drive of any kind, they'd have no idea how to get the data off it, or even what the remaining data even is. Even if they learned human languages, which they could do from inscriptions on stone or metal, there'd be no resources for them to crack the code: no books on how people write code, no resources for operating systems, no manuals to help getting the machines turned on even. This, of course, is because all the cheap paper those manuals would be printed on would have deteriorated long before the aliens ever showed up!

Probably the only books that would really survive are older books printed on extremely high quality rag paper and lucky enough to be in an environmentally stable location. And none of those books will be coding manuals!

  • $\begingroup$ Many archive grade books which are designed to be long term stable (acid free paper, oxide inks, ect) would survive, but I agree the chances of one of them being on coding is slim. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ That might be true for the very small proportion of archival material books, but thats no protection if the buildings or storage they are in, begin to fail as environmental envelopes. $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I've heard that flash is typically rated for only about 2 years without power. I have, however, recovered data from (older) thumb drives that I'm pretty sure have not been plugged in for at least a couple years, possibly as many as five. In any case, however, flash will absolutely decay, and probably faster than (no-longer-)spinning rust. Pressed optical media, BTW, is supposedly good for about a century. About the only hope for data surviving is M-DISC. Also keep in mind that lack of climate control is not your friend. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew - as far as m-disc goes, unless there is a massive shift in basic e-infrastructure technology, along the lines of the shift from paper to hard drive, there will simply be no hope at all. Basically every major server complex would have to switch over to that technology. But even if The Internet could be found perfectly archived on some magic-disc, I still hold that the aliens, smart as they may be, 1. won't be able to get the data off the disc, due to not understanding the architecture, 2. if they could get the data, won't be able to decode it, since it's not plain text / image ... $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) ... like microfiche and 3. may not even understand that the devices they're looking at are actually data archives in the first place! You are correct about climate control: what they're going to find is a water logged & oxidised heap of useless rubbish. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 15:05

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