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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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May 16, 2007 9:27 AM

The Internet Not Ready for Streaming Video to the Masses

It’s a beautiful day here in NYC as I’m in attendance at Streaming Media East, a three day conference focused on the business and technology of delivering video over the Internet.

I’m a contributing editor for StreamingMedia.com, and often find myself writing about the challenges of creating a business through online video, in particular as it relates to delivering that content to large audiences.

I had a chance to listen to a session earlier today called, “Is P2P the Answer to Large Scale Video Delivery?”

I’ll get more into P2P (aka peer-to-peer technology like BitTorrent) in a later post.

But what I wanted to share with you now was a thought expressed by Monty Mullig, SVP, Internet Technologies for Turner Broadcasting Systems.

To quickly frame his comment, Turner primarily uses content delivery networks (CDNs) to deliver video on its websites, like CNN.com. CDNs manage huge networks of servers that help facilitate the delivery of content to large audiences, relieving the burden of having to manage servers from content owners while increasing their overall capacity and geographic reach. Two of the biggest CDNs are Akamai and Limelight Networks.

But despite huge investments by companies like these to increase their capacity, Mullig was adamant in his belief that even if you were using all of the big CDNs, you wouldn’t be able to support a million people trying to watch the same video at the same time. (His estimate of overall concurrent capacity was in the 600-700,000 user range.)

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this sentiment expressed, but it was one of the clearest statements I’ve heard made about the current state of the Internet and its ability to handle mass market audiences.

Generally speaking this isn’t much of a problem as rarely do that many people log on to watch video at the exact same time. And this limitation relates primarily to live streaming video rather than any on-demand content.

Yet even still, it’s remarkable to think that ten years into video on the Internet and following literally hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, and the Internet still can’t handle reaching an audience that isn’t even big enough to qualify as a marginal TV show.

The Internet is often touted as the ultimate mass market medium as it knows no geographic boundaries, offering a global stage for content. But we can’t forget that as a mass market medium, the Internet has some significant limitations that we’re likely to start bumping into on a more regular basis as the number of people online consuming video continues to rise.


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