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Internet enters its third stage of growth

March 3, 2008

by Mark Ollig

By 2015, the Internet will be fifty times “larger” than it was in 2006.

In the US, the yearly IP traffic by 2015 could reach 1,000 exabytes, or an astonishing one zettabyte.

The Internet, according to a January 2008 report by the Discovery Institute, has now officially entered its “third stage” of development.

Stage one of the Internet began as a research project idea in the early 1960’s by the US Department of Defenses “Advanced Research Projects Agency” or ARPA. This led to the network predecessor of the Internet called the ARPANET.

The idea was to connect scientists and researchers to computers over a common network using a shared transmission protocol. The scientist could be anywhere in the country. In 1969, this became a reality and using remotely located computers, they were able to exchange informational data and messages.

During the mid 1990’s, we began what is called the “second stage” of the Internet.

All through this time, we saw newer and faster computer modems along with some remarkable advances in fiber-optic communications.

These two advances in the network supplied the “physical” and “logical” connectivity needed to bring the Internet out to public.

During the mid-1990’s, this second stage of the Internet started its popularity with the public. We became fascinated with e-mail, graphical user interface browsers and http (hyper-text-transport protocol). The public got online and rushed to the Internet and the World Wide Web to discover what was out there.

Here in 2008, we are seeing the Internet’s third phase also being driven by a combination of advances in network physical connectivity, computing hardware and software advances.

Many of today’s modems now average around five megabits per second. This is 100 times faster than the 56-kilobit modem I used in the mid 1990’s.

Today television programs are even being broadcast worldwide over the Internet; it is commonly known as IPTV.

The popularity of uploading video to be viewed by others over the Internet is just the start.

Real-time video-streaming has exploded onto the Internet. It is a sign of what is to come in the future.

Get ready for some big numbers.Just in case you forgot, one petabyte (1PB) equals 1,024 terabytes (1024TB).

By mid-2007, YouTube was streaming around 50 petabytes per month, or 600 petabytes per year. This amounted to approximately 7 percent of all US Internet traffic.

I found it amazing what YouTube generates when you consider that all original broadcast and cable TV and radio content totals around 75 PB per year.

YouTube streams that much data in a little over one month.

When the video is “High Definition” or HD, the amount of bandwidth, speed and storage requirements increase dramatically.

Say YouTube goes Hi-Definition. This would create 12 exabytes per year, which would almost equal what the entire US Internet created in 2007.

One exabyte is equal to 1,024 petabytes or 1,152,921,504,606,846,976 quintillion bytes of information.

Then there is video conferencing.Today we transmit close to 30 exabytes of telephone traffic data worldwide each year.

Slowly but surely, a large portion of telephone network will shift to “video conversations” because of the increasing amount of video conferencing in offices, from our homes, and even on our cell phones.

By mid-2007, Microsoft’s “MSN Video Messenger” was already generating 4PB’s of data per month, or as much as the entire Internet did in 1997. A move to videophones would mean 300 exabytes—at least—or 30 times the size of the existing US Internet.

Cisco’s new HD “telepresence” system requires a symmetrical (very fast broadband) 15 Mbps connection. A one-hour telepresence video conference call would generate approximately 13.5 GB of data.

Imagine – just 75 of these “telepresence calls” would generate as much traffic as the entire Internet did in 1990.

HD movie downloads and movie video-streams could generate 100 exabytes per year, or around 10 times today’s U.S. Internet.

The average HD movie contains about 10 GB (billion) bytes worth of data.

In the coming years, we will see high-definition always-on and in real-time “virtual windows” that will be two-way visual ‘gateways’ or portals to anyone or anywhere on the planet.

The amount of new digital video content creation being stored and streamed over the Internet in real-time is exploding.

Lately, I have noticed that people are setting up their own personal video broadcasting portals on the Internet.

These people are creating their own live and in real-time 24/7 “television broadcasts” using a combination of webcams, audio and chat texting.

Some of the amateur video-streaming website homes include Justin.tv, ustream.tv, stickam.com and others.

These amateur broadcasters have dedicated fans stopping by to visit and chat from all across the world.

The Internet will (some say has) become the ultimate “networks of networks,” as we are witnessing our workplace, personal and main-stream communications media being migrated to this medium.

To learn more about the discovery report, visit http://www.discovery.org/a/4428.