Internet Traffic has Changed

February 28, 2020

What is the Internet primarily used for these days? I bet you can guess that video streaming is the biggest chunk of internet traffic. In fact, it’s approaching 80% of traffic on the internet these days.

In 2005, video streaming traffic was just 10% of internet traffic. Because of this increased heavy traffic, the Internet has been slowly re-wired without most consumers even knowing it. If you were streaming video on Netflix or youtube back in 2005 or 2006, or maybe in Hulu in 2007, you may remember that when you tried to start a video, there was a long pause while the video stream was buffered. Once it was buffered, it would start playing. But often in the middle of the video, there would be a pause while it buffered again.

Video streaming companies like Netflix used to have one big data center that had all their video and streamed it to customers all over the world. But they had to change that because it couldn’t keep up with the demand. They slowly converted over to what are called Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). Basically, streaming services like Netflix have videos stored in the cloud at different locations (CDNs) around the world.

A lot of people don’t really understand what the cloud is. It’s basically some server somewhere on the internet that’s not at your local location. It’s called the cloud because you don’t really know exactly where it’s stored. You just know it’s stored somewhere on some server on the internet. As far as you know, it might as well be stored in some cloud in the sky.

Because of this change, when you start a video streaming these days it starts almost instantly and you rarely, if ever, see any kind of buffering either at the beginning or at any time during playback.

When you stream something, it streams it from the CDN closest to you. This cuts down on internet traffic since the video stream doesn’t have to travel as far. And because it’s not travelling as far, it can start faster and there’s no need for pausing to buffer.

The interesting thing is that these streaming services don’t even own the data centers in the CDN. For example, Netflix uses Amazon Web Services for their CDN network data centers. Netflix does have a data center but all it does is send the video to the CDNs. It doesn’t stream video to customers.

Some worry that the video streaming companies have too much power since they basically control 80% of the traffic on the internet and that other traffic on the internet is suffering because of it. Time will tell.

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