The Economist's cloudy crystal ball, and other prognostications for the new year
Ah, January, and predictions for the new year are as thick on the ground as the snow that fell here in the North Carolina Piedmont back when I was a kid and it used to snow here in the North Carolina Piedmont.
One of the most predictable of predictions in the technosphere is the Death of the Internet, including slightly less-ominous variations such as the Slowing to a Crawl of the Internet. Early to this year's gloomstakes is The Economist, which leads its short article, "Surfing will slow," with a flat-out falsehood: "The biggest road-hog remains spam (unsolicited e-mail), which accounts for 90% of traffic on the internet."
Nope. Spam might account for the majority of email traffic, but email makes up only a tiny percentage of overall traffic on the Net. "It just doesn't matter that much," says Eric Schoonover, senior analyst at TeleGeography Research.
The rest of the piece is better, noting that growing video traffic and user uploads, including traffic on peer-to-peer networks, will increase the strain on Net infrastructure. But as we noted last year in response to a wildly hyped report from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and predictions of doom from Robert X. Cringley, among others:
[A]s in the case of the most notorious prognostication of impending disaster, made in 1995 by Ethernet co-inventor Robert Metcalfe, the doom seers seem likely to eat their words. (Metcalfe famously did so quite literally, putting the column in which he made the prediction into a blender and consuming it in front of a conference audience.)
That's not to say traffic problems can't happen, especially in the "last mile" of connectivity between service providers and users. But the backbone of the Net seems healthy enough, and companies are investing heavily in new equipment. Telegeography predicts another year of "strong, steady growth -- but not backbreaking," says Schoonover.