Information meltdown

There’s been lots of talk about the credit crunch – now, techies are talking about the ‘broadband crunch’, apparently. Yesterday’s Observer newspaper had a feature, Video boom threatens to gridlock the internet, which said that “the amount of data travelling across the internet is growing so fast that the network could become overloaded and grind to a virtual standstill”. The main culprit is online video, plus demand for YouTube, the BBC’s iPlayer and other data-hungry internet TV services. It claims that last year “YouTube consumed as much bandwidth in a year as the entire internet took up in 2000”. Wow!

It also has some interesting facts and statistics (some drawn from the US-based Internet Innovation Alliance and its Broadband Fact book):

  • Electricity reached one quarter of Americans 46 years after its introduction. Telephones took 35 years and televisions 26 years. In just six years, broadband reached 25 per cent penetration.
  • It took two centuries to fill the shelves of the Library of Congress with more than 57 million manuscripts, 29 million books and periodicals, 12 million photographs, and more. Now, the world generates an equivalent amount of digital information nearly 100 times each day.

In relation to SaaS and cloud computing, I’ve seen the electricity adoption curve analogy cited a few times in recent months, notably by Nick Carr (in print and in his excellent Rough Type blog), but also on John Paczkowski’s Digital Daily and Zoli’s blog (one accepting, the other criticising some assertions made by Butler group’s Guy Creese), among others.

In the meantime, if the ‘broadband crunch’ is coming, then at least – according to The Times – salvation is at hand: Coming soon: superfast internet.


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