That’s the prediction of Nemertes Research, which will be publishing a report later this year warning that the Web has reached a critical point that could lead first to computers being disrupted and going offline for several minutes in a time, and eventually regular brownouts that will slow and even freeze their computers. (Times Online via KurzweilAI.net.)
The primary culprit is burgeoning demand for high-bandwidth video: the report notes that the amount of traffic generated each month by YouTube is now equivalent to the amount of traffic generated across the entire Internet in all of 2000, and new video applications such as BBC iPlayer, which allows viewers to watch high-def TV on their computers. (And I guess by providing links to those sites I’m contributing to the problem!)
Monthly traffic across the Internet is currently running at about eight exabytes (an exabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes), and a recent study at the University of Minnesota estimates its growing by at least 60 percent a year–and that study didn’t take into account growing demand in China and India.
Engineers are struggling to stay ahead of demand, and find other ways to deal with impending deadlock (such as the LHC Computing Grid, a parallel network designed to handle the massive amounts of data the Large Hadron Collider will produce), but it may be impossible.
In other words, we may be living in the Golden Age of the Internet. But if it all crumbles around us, at least we’ll have something to tell the grandchildren.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)