Did you know that the volume of data traffic on Youtube in 2006 was equal to the volume of traffic on the entire internet six years earlier? Moreover, according to a US think tank (the Discovery institute) the volume of data on the internet is growing at a rate of 60% per year. As a result of this data deluge people are starting to talk about exafloods and zetafloods whereby the internet jams up or becomes almost unusable due to ever increasing volumes of traffic.
Of course the idea of an impending internet meltdown is nothing new. Back in 1995 Bob Metcalfe, a founder of 3Com, predicted that the internet would grind to a halt towards the end of 1996. A more recent prediction, this time from Nemertes (a research firm), is that internet demand will outpace internet supply by next year (2010).
So is a major failure really imminent? I think not. First the rate of traffic growth is actually much slower than some people imagine. Second the problem can be solved — like most problems — with enough time and money. Third it is clearly in the interest of certain companies to talk up this threat (i.e. people selling pipes and cables want to sell bigger and better pipes and cables to as many people as possible).
Furthermore, it is not entirely inconceivable that demand will actually slacken. People may simply get fed up with what’s on offer on Youtube or walk away from faster connectivity and digital friends. We could all suddenly decade to unplug, unsubscribe and slow things down. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible.