Will Videos Cripple Internet?

A sign board says, “Caution: Heavy traffic ahead.” You do not have to travel anywhere to see this. It is right here on the internet. We are talking about “internet” traffic.

Look at the amount of data being processed online day-in and day-out. Researchers say there is increasing fear about the threat that video clips, games, movies and social networks pose to the internet. It is all very well to talk about the benefits of online communication and the immense entertainment internet provides millions of people worldwide but what about the damage being done.

The real problem lies with the bandwidth-sucking content, such as video images on the net. These high definition movies require a huge amount of bandwidth. One minute of video requires around 2MB of web hosting space, and this is with medium resolution. If this video is offered in different formats, the space needed will be around 20MB. For a 20 minute video provided in all formats, it could easily consume 400MB of space. The video monster is a hungry creature that hogs bandwidth.

Analysts reveal that a video-sharing site consumed as much bandwidth as the complete internet did in the year 2000. This certainly is alarming, letting one site use up all of it.

Most people have this wrong notion that the virtual space is limitless. Last November, a research firm came up with data that if things continue to go this way, by the year 2011, user demand will far exceed network capacity. Will that be the end of internet?

An optimistic view of the whole thing represents more of a challenge than a disaster. All these internet researchers and analysts are certainly not foreseeing an internet crash. They say that users will experience low download speeds that will make internet far less enjoyable and accessible than it is today. There will be increasingly less things for people to do online. Some say that there is a noticeable change and the internet has already begun slowing down.

According to Professor Andrew M Odlyzko, at the University of Minnesota, the digital traffic on the global network is growing at about 50% a year, according to a recent analysis done by Cisco Systems, which is the biggest network equipment maker.

Having said all that, the good news is that some experts feel that along with the traffic increase and increase in the use of videos on the internet, the technology is improving at an extremely impressive speed, in the form of fiber optic transmissions getting better, router computers that relay data getting faster and the software for handling data packets getting innovative.

The internet problem is not just technical in nature; it could very well translate to the cost of broadband, which is certainly not something users are looking forward to. Bandwidth may not be a “buffet” for long. Metered pricing for broadband is already being talked about and many people feel that it can be the best alternative to traffic shaping, and is perfectly valid as that is how other markets like electricity, water or heating work.

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