Flood of Content – The 2008 Olympics sent a flood of video content to the US and around the globe threatening to drown everything in its path. But the Internet infrastructure was able to support the huge online viewing audience easily.

Content Insider #109 – We’re All Still Talking, Viewing

THE Insider

October 2008

Content Insider #109 – We’re All Still Talking, Viewing

Author: THE Insider

3479a3b.jpgFlood of Content – The 2008 Olympics sent a flood of video content to the US and around the globe threatening to drown everything in its path. But the Internet infrastructure was able to support the huge online viewing audience easily. Source – Warner Bros

“Hey, come take a look at this storm system. It's enormous.”Hideki, Japanese astronaut, The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

If you hear the communications and Internet service providers the Internet will soon freeze over because of all of the content YOU are sending around to just everyone!  Gee the Beijing Olympics and NBC and every country's leading TV operation sent out video streams 24x7 to the four corners of the globe and surprise...

It not only didn't freeze over but billions of people got their version of the Olympics.  In fact if you went online and used your search engine for oh say Olympics 2008 + Japan, you can still get the events from the Japanese perspective.  It was/is so cool.  A great way to blow a weekend.  Surfing to the various countries web sites and watching the Olympics again and again and...well you get the picture.

But the volume of content people pull down doesn't clog the Internet or if you prefer Web 2.0.  The stuff is slowed down, choked even, because of the lousy configuration and set-up on the front-end.  That's why folks like Akamai (and yes other really good firms) make so much money...they know how to get the content to you. 

Well anyway that's the way we see it and we're sticking to our version of the facts. 
Lots of people missed the big news of the Beijing Olympics.
It wasn’t that Mark Phelps won 8 gold medals. 
It wasn’t that the U.S. edged out China on the total number of medals. 
It wasn’t the hundreds of personal tragedies and triumphs.
Some of the competitors undoubtedly felt like Laura Chapman…“I know you always thought I took the competition too seriously ... you were right. It was all for nothing.”
The big news was that nothing happened.
Sure The Chinese government and China’s CCTV was afraid.


Oh Dear, Oh Dear – NBC and the Chinese Olympic planners were more than a little concerned that the global interest in the Beijing event would overwhelm their video servers.   While more than 100 million people around the globe accessed the various online sites to view contests, the infrastructure performed flawlessly

NBC was afraid. 
AT&T was afraid. 
BBC was afraid. 
Microsoft was afraid (they had a lot riding on Silverlight’s success). 
Limelight and Akamai were afraid.
Afraid the video pipes of the world would collapse. 
Didn’t happen!!!
The estimated 1.3 billion worldwide Internet users were more than four times the number of potential users that tried to access Mark Cuban’s broadcast.com “airing” of Victoria’s Secret show a decade ago. 


Figure 1 - Steady Growth – Men, women; young, old have found that with a few clicks of the mouse, the Internet opens up a world of information, news and entertainment.   Individual and team competition was available – and viewed – round the clock on computers in the four corners of the globe.  Source – eMarketer

The Games Begin

This online video challenge streamed more than 2200 hours of live competition in 25 sports. 
More than 112 video streams were often available at one time. 
All told 336 streams could have been sent out simultaneously. 
The content was available to 77 countries.
The great thing was online viewers around the globe didn’t have to watch NBC’s version of the Olympics. 
Use your search engine, type in Beijing (or 2008) Olympics + country name and BAM!!! you could see the events from your favorite country’s perspective. 
Of course the Olympics gave the CWA (Communications Workers of America) the ideal platform to promote the fact that when it comes to real-time download capacity to the home (the last mile), the U.S. sucked !
Guess they just found out that the U.S. is actually 15th in broadband to the home.


Figure 2 - Little Behind – The CWA (Communications Workers of America) “suddenly” uncovered the fact that the US doesn’t lead the broadband service race.  In fact in the marathon it is running a distant 15th in capacity.  Most of the industrial nations in the world have sprinted past the US to deliver high speed, low cost service to the home.  Source – Fiber-to-the-Home Council

South Korea has been the gold standard for service for years.  Four European Union (EU) countries have been deploying fiber faster than the US.  Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands added more than 30 percent last year. 
They like that capacity so much they’re increasingly watching their TV shows (and other entertainment) online rather than from their other sources.


Figure 3 - Europeans Online – In Western Europe and the Pacific Basin people are more inclined to watch their television and other entertainment over the Internet.  Around 50 percent of the broadband users prefer the online convenience and experience.  Users in the US are slowly finding that having choices in time and content is very satisfying.  Source -- StrategyOne

Even the UK, Belgium, Luxembourg and France added more lines than the US.
As “bad” as the US Internet infrastructure is, it hasn’t stopped folks from going online and watching video.


Figure 4 - Everyone Online – Despite infrastructure “shortcomings,” men and women, young and old are turning to the Internet to access news, information and entertainment at the time that is most convenient to them.   Fresh, updated content and selection are the prime reasons most people get more satisfaction from their hours in front of the screen.  Source -- Ipsos


And…there’s plenty to watch. 
Eight hours of video is loaded onto YouTube every minute…and people watch it!
TV shows around the globe are going to HighDef and HD uses at least 7x more bandwidth than SD. 
Content Over Words

Research firm Current Analysis estimates that by 2010 more than 80 percent of the Internet traffic (up from today’s 30 percent) will be video.
No wonder our kids can’t write their test essays.
Hey, the new found freedom of being able to watch our entertainment/news at a time that is convenient to us rather than the network, station or cable guy if great.
Avoiding the cable box is dynamite.
Watch what Chris Anderson dubbed long tail stuff…content that is interesting, informative to us and maybe two, 2,000 or 200,000 folks on the globe is superb.
Naturally once you’ve watched the stuff in HD you can’t be expected to watch SD can you?


Figure 5 - Expectations Grow – Once people discover they can enjoy their content when they want and where they want; the demand for entertainment options and quality steadily increase.  Today online users expect to watch high definition videos and entertainment which only increases the Internet bandwidth load.  Source -- IDC

Of course not.
And since it’s on the Internet it’s supposed to be free!
The original Internet designers didn’t have us in mind but that’s the way we all treat it…a right, not a privilege.
Suddenly a new phrase has emerged “network neutrality” which is right up there with “digital rights”…an idea with a lot of interpretations.
Depending upon your interpretation, it is either the ability of your service provider to “manage” what levels of service/sites you use or maintaining the openness supervised by the government. 
It’s hard to imagine how governments could supervise something like the Internet that has grown virally, widely and rapidly in about 30 years. 
The Internet isn’t about the last mile or the last 100 or 10 feet. 
It’s the network of networks not just in the US or EU or China or …
It’s a physical infrastructure that is …everywhere.


Figure 6 - Global Fibers – Service providers constantly stress the speed of their downstream capabilities of their content pipelines even though 99 percent never really meet their published speeds.  In a great many instances the performance is cut in half which doesn’t mean much if servers are poorly configured and managed.  Overtaxing the front end is the leading issue of online entertainment enjoyment.  It’s not just one pipe…it’s millions of intereconnected fibers.

Say you’re working with dial-up (28.8Kbps if you can recall the ancient days) and are the only one on the Web server, the download would be fast. 
Add 1,000, 100,000, 1,000,000 people and things choke. 
Sorry baby it isn’t all about you, your high powered engine, your T1 connection (s). 
It’s the speed at the other end.
Front End

And the folks who built out the front end of the 2008 Olympics service built it out!
Look down the list of supporting players and they were literally the who’s who of the industry plus some you never heard of. 
Sure China’s government dropped a big chunk of Yuan on the project.
China’s government was like the Statue of Liberty guard…“I'll just leave you alone to work on it, then.”
Another thing they did you probably didn’t notice.
They dropped even more Yuan (and yes other countries added currency) to string more high speed fiber optic cable under the Pacific between Asia and North America…still the biggest dog on the technology pack.
There are bunches of these cables under the oceans of the world connecting our continents and countries. 
Most were laid around 2001 when everyone was starting a new company to take advantage of the overwhelming demand for Internet traffic and every VC was throwing money at the new ventures. 
They all had visions of winning the gold.

It’s finally here. 
Doesn’t do much for investors in firms like Global Crossing and MCI but then business is a serious game.
Cisco and most industry analysts say that traffic will continue to grow at least 50 percent per year for at least the next five years.
Heck YouTube sucks up more bandwidth than all of us who were online in 2000 searching for documents, data, information and content!
Sure, there’s a lot of dark fiber lying on the ocean floor waiting to be lit.  
But all of the major players are partners in consortia that are investing billions to add more cable and meshed systems. 
It’s called redundancy.
In addition, new technology for handling the onslaught of traffic is rapidly expanding and folks are learning how to handle the data packets with intelligence rather than brute force.
As Parker said, “Have you ever seen the air so clear?”
The Internet, Web 2.0 isn’t about entertainment.  Lou Gerstner, former head of IBM, said it best years ago…“The Internet is about competition, growth and reaching out to customers.” 
Global Benefits

Businesses and individuals around the globe have reaped the benefits. 
But the Internet infrastructure isn’t free!
If you expect governments to fund and manage the Internet it will be as with most things – “No need to do that.  It’s a one in a billion chance that would happen…you know a cold day in Hell!”


A Cold Day – While experts around the globe said that the Internet couldn’t stand up under the insatiable demands of users around the globe to watch the events and contests of this year’s Beijing Olympics.  The meticulously planned and executed server front-end kept pace with the video thirst of more than 100 million people around the globe.  Source – Warner Bros

As Sam Hall said… “So much for one in a billion.”
Government intervention in the Internet is just wrong. 
It goes against the competitive supply/demand equation that helped the Internet grow in every dimension so quickly and robustly.
It has also reached the point where we’re going to have to realize Internet access isn’t a right.
As Terry Rapson said, “I’m afraid that time has come and gone, my friend.”
Tiered service sucks? 
Higher monthly service charges suck?
The Internet gives firms the most direct, most personalized, most individualized means of talking directly to you about their products, services.
Let ‘em pay for the privilege of trying to grab your attention, interest, checkbook. 
Let them pay to play...you can focus on your movie.

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