Sunday, 12:04 am
Do you like gruesome, everybody-dies horror stories set in the near future?
Cuz we all may be living through a real one in about… oh, less than two years.
This happy news comes out of a wire service story launched by PC World publications yesterday afternoon.
Consider: A fresh study just released by an organization called the Nemertes Research Group — a self-described “independent analysis firm” — says the sky could very well be falling on our heads very soon now.
The virtual sky, that is. Specifically: The World Wide Web is about to blow its circuits as the new wave of video content overloads capacity.
They’re calling it an “exaflood”, because video really is the main culprit. (An exabyte is 1.1 billion gigabytes, higher than I can count. And apparently we’re flirting with disaster because of the dramatic increase in the size of data being shared, viewed, created, and stolen.)
I can see the final straw now, announced in banner headlines on the last of the real paper newspapers (because Web brown-outs have left everybody with blank screens across the land): “Ten-Millionth Viewing of Dancing Blonde Yeti Being Run Over By Speeding School Bus Video Shuts Down Web!” (Okay, I made that up.) (But you just know that — if a cyber-armeggedon does happen — it will be from some silly, non-essential piece of streaming video that goes apeshit viral.) (Though, I’d watch a dancing Yeti get run over any day…)
The key to avoiding such an ignoble fate: About $137-billion in infrastructure upgrades.
Or approximately what Bill Gates normally carries in his wallet.
And, man, I sincerely hope Bill and his buds (including Jobs, The Other People Who Own Silicon Valley, and the evil Google trolls) do pop for the upgrades, so I can continue my dreamy cyber existence without burps or other inconvenience.
But here’s why I’m just a tad suspicious of this news: First, I’ve been hearing about the imminent collapse of the Web for years now.
And for excellent reasons, too. (Excellent reasons.) The billions-deep parade of new-to-the-Web Chinese logging on every hour (with their cheap communist computers)… the crumbling 30-year-old analog gateways of the original Internet, still supporting the entire slap-dash network like an exhausted Atlas, sagging dangerously under the weight… pissed-off anarchist hackers from Eastern Europe eager to bring the entire world to its knees… and on and on.
Yet, we keep passing up the deadlines for disaster without, um, any disaster.
Second: There’s a very interesting tidbit of info in this new study… which admits that the current fiber and routing resources actually support “virtually any conceivable user demand…”
However, the authors warn, all this new-fangled video, music file-sharing, and other “content” crap we’re flooding the joint with is gonna blow the circuits. Very soon now!
Not the Chinese hordes logging on. Not the absinthe-swilling nihilist hackers. Not the inherent weaknesses of the system.
It’s all this damned content.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m all for the end of civilization and all that, as long as it’s like a good George Romero movie.
But I kinda resent being jacked around by Servants of The Man whose real agenda for scaring people like this… is their desire to control what we watch, what we read, and what we share.
The one guy quoted in this article is a dude named Bruce Mehlman from something called the Internet Innovation Alliance… who claims to have been warning of this imminent melt-down for ages.
Name sounded familiar… so I did a little digging.
Bruce is not a geek, as we understand technology lovers.
Rather, he’s a wonk-type-geekoid… a political animal who gave in to the Dark Side long, long ago.
In 2001, after trying to tell Cisco how to run its biz, Bruce oozed over to the Bush Administration… where he became assistant secretary for technology policy.
Now, I don’t care what your politics are. I believe that, in order for this nation to survive, we need both set of wingnuts doing their thang, so neither side takes over completely. (It’s a balanced view, in the way that allowing your nutso mother-in-law to move in with you balances out the unbridled fun you used to have as a couple. You can still have fun, but now you gotta be clever about it, like civilized adults.)
Anyway, I have far right friends, far left friends, and every other stripe of political beast represented in my address book of colleagues, buddies and resources. They are all sane in some ways, insane in other ways, and I learned long ago that nothing I say or do will sway them in the least, politically. So we peacefully co-exist.
But here is something I believe with all my heart: You simply cannot let agenda-driven political hacks be in charge of technology.
I’m sorry. You want a non-political group of dudes, ideally. Or at least someone who wasn’t in an administration that actively distrusts the Web. (I’m serious. Tom Delay, the former majority whip for the GOP House, has never let up on his insistence that people who do research on the “Internets” — as W. has famously called the Web many times — have committed some obvious weird blunder.) (Hey — google it, if you don’t believe me.)
Look. Vote how you like. I’m not writing a political blog here.
But seriously. Melman’s ultimate comment — after jumping on this uncertain study as proof of impending disaster — is that we first need to stop taxing Big Telecom. You know, so they can invest in infrastructure instead. (Major GOP talking point.)
I’ll let that point slide. Maybe there’s something to it, maybe not.
It’s the unspoken next point that is the kicker: We also need to immediately stop all this uncivilized file-sharing… or we’ll all die!
Especially video. And music sharing. And other should-be-illegal stuff those darn kids are doing.
I don’t yet know if this news release has gained traction in the “if it bleeds, it leads” mainstream press. I found it on the Washington Post’s website… so at the very least, it’s leaking into Beltway brains this very evening.
The doomsday scenario presented by the study seems to be fragrant with fairly easy, painless solutions… like pumping some money back into the infrastructure. And I kinda doubt that Big Web (I just made that up, to represent all the large corporations finally dragging their asses online in a big way) will sit by while this wonderful new way to reach customers shrivels and flickers because of Youtube enthusiasm. (I mean, Big Web just bought Youtube for a gazillion bucks.)
I’m just warning you.
If the story does gain traction, don’t swallow it whole.
There are people out there who are deeply frightened by the uncensored freedom of the Internets. Many of them are in powerful positions… and the entrepreneurial Wild West environment of the Web gives them ulcers.
They need to be watched carefully… cuz they would dearly love to clip the Web’s wings, so the big corporations could settle into their rightful place online, controlling and dominating everything. Without having to worry about all these “little guys” making waves.
Their dire tales of wolves gathering nearby need to be filtered through your Bullshit Detector. That’s all I’m saying.
Now, I’m gonna go enjoy some viral video…
P.S. Did you see this story anywhere else? Was it buried, or is it spreading? Heard references to it on any of the prez debates?
Lemme know what you’ve heard… and what you think.
And if you have inside info on this “collapse of the Web” thing — because you work in a secret dungeon in Silicon Valley or something — let me know THAT, too.