Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wow, Go Youtube

Probably should get back to blogging about the real world. First post ain't about politics, though; it's about these here Intertubes, where it's just been uncovered that HTTP traffic now eclipses P2P traffic.

In the Internet traffic race, P2P used to be way out in front. For years, P2P traffic eclipsed HTTP traffic as broadband users slurped down music and movies, some of which were actually legal. But P2P fell behind this year; for the first time in four years, HTTP traffic is out in front.

Ellacoya Networks, makers of deep packet inspection gear for carriers, has pulled together some statistics on one million broadband users in North America, and its findings show that HTTP traffic accounts for 46 percent of all broadband traffic. P2P applications now account for only 37 percent.

Chalk it up to YouTube and other Internet video sharing sites. The surge in HTTP traffic is largely a surge in the use of streaming media, mostly video.

Breaking down the HTTP traffic, Ellacoya says that only 45 percent is used to pull down traditional web pages with text and images. The rest is mostly made up of streaming video (36 percent) and streaming audio (five percent). YouTube alone has grown so big that it now accounts for 20 percent of all HTTP traffic, or more than half of all HTTP streaming video.
Bolding mine. Holy crap. I knew Youtube was a monster, but WOW.

This whole HTTP over P2P thing kills me. P2P has been demonized by everybody in the packet passing business for years now, because of the massive increase in traffic that it supposedly generates. On a certain level, that's true; but the arguments always relied on the argument that it was the very nature of peer-to-peer that was responsible for it, not the content. As it turns out, it had nothing to do with that; it's just that http-based delivery of video hadn't caught up yet.

Now that it has, these guys are in serious trouble. Since P2P has always carried a stigma, it's been easy enough to justify cost-saving techniques like packet-shaping as ways of fighting piracy. Sure, people are annoyed about it, but they can't complain too loudly lest they attract attention to exactly what they're doing with it. It's easy enough to do, too, so why not throttle? Now, though, they're in real trouble; even if they continue to throttle P2P, they'll just find that http-based traffic will take up the slack, as more and more people gravitate to streaming video sites. P2P will simply decline as a percentage, but overall traffic will go up.

They can't easily throttle it, either, even if Ars seems to think so. Even if they can distinguish and throttle the Youtube content on the fly, consumers will notice. Since much of the usage of Youtube and other streaming video sites is entirely legitimate, they will SCREAM over having their "unlimited high-speed Internet" throttled. The sheer volume of angry parents alone will rival anything drugs provoked during the Reagan years. It'll be a PR nightmare that they can't use the piracy argument to steer around.

Either they'll become even less popular (and ISPs ain't exactly the belles of the ball as it is) or one of them will say "we don't throttle" and the consumers will switch en masse, forcing the other guys to follow suit. Plus, if they throttle, they're inching that much closer to violating net neutrality, threatening their attempts to gain something akin to common-carrier status. That would be disastrous; if ISPs ever becomes truly responsible for content, they'll be bankrupt in a week from all the lawsuits.

Personally, since I've always been an advocate of P2P as a way of efficiently distributing legitimate content and dislike throttling "unlimited internet", I'm hoping it'll shake things up a mite. The industry damned well needs it.

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