HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
September 17, 2007, Herald Journal

Are we becoming web couch potatoes?

By MARK OLLIG

It seems to me it was just a couple weeks ago we were in “full summer mode” with the high temperatures and the sound of air conditioners.

As a matter of fact, it was only a couple weeks ago now that I think about it.

I am finally giving in to the fact that I no longer need to turn the air conditioning on in my car and at home.

Curl up in that favorite blanket or pour yourself a cup of coffee and read what your local humble columnist came up with for this week’s column.

According to a couple recent studies, our friends at Cisco, which make routers, switches and other exciting computer peripherals; and something called the Online Publishing Association are announcing that we “consumers” are about to become the number one users of the Internet.

Yes, we will soon be number one, overtaking business traffic usage on the Internet and even what I thought would be the largest user of the Internet, those folks in the halls of government.

The Online Publishing Association report measures how all Internet users spend their time, whereas the Cisco study tracks how and where those bits and bytes we consume come and go.

So both of them are collecting information about different events but come to the same agreement about where the most usage of the Internet is coming from.

The Internet has become a place where people “consume” content. We look at videos; we read the news, participate in blogs and read about history. We research news and information about our favorite hobbies, we can listen to the radio over the Internet . . . the list goes on and on. The bottom line is that more than anything, we, as consumers, are not just consuming Internet content, I feel we are devouring it.

You have heard about TV couch potatoes?

Well, now entering the Internet language lexicon: Web Couch Potatoes or WCP for short.

In other words, we’ve made the move from vegging out in front of our TVs to gazing at the computer monitor with our mouse in hand, busily clicking away.

I feel “consumer content,” with web sites like YouTube, along with the movement of more video and voice transmissions over the Internet, is going to probably be the major driving force on the Internet for years to come.

Cisco noted that whenever there is a popular video on YouTube, the sudden surge of petabytes or even exabytes of digital data bursts can actually affect the Internet’s infrastructure.

To give you an idea of the numbers, remember that one petabyte is one million gigabytes, or the numeral one followed by 15 zeroes; an exabyte is one billion gigabytes, or the numeral one followed by 18 zeroes.

We are seeing mediums that have their own dedicated networking facilities, such as television broadcasting, telecommunications, videoconferencing, as well as much of the data computing interactions of business and government moving onto the Internet.

Some Internet analysts out there are spreading doom and gloom and are predicting Internet “digital brownouts.”

Cisco, in a report they recently made public, does not feel that the Internet will, in fact, “crash” anytime soon.

It seems that any Internet outages are not going to be caused by traffic congestion alone; we should probably be more concerned about an outside “hack-attack” on the Internet, itself.

The recent reports of China hacking into US military web sites including the Pentagon, has, in my opinion, escalated this concern.

Today, I read a Washington Post article that China is now claiming “foreign intelligence agencies” have caused “massive and shocking” damage to China by hacking into their computers.

The Cisco report I mentioned is called “The Exabyte Era,” which strongly claims that “. . . the Internet is in no danger of collapsing under YouTube traffic, nor is it likely to.”

YouTube alone now accounts for 10 percent of all Internet traffic, according to Ellacoya Networks, which provides systems that manage high-bandwidth network applications.

The Online Publishers Association’s Internet activity report states that a typical Internet user spends 47 percent of their time online looking at content, 33 percen communicating (e-mails, Instant Messaging) 15 percent shopping, and 5 percent Googling or using other search engines.

This is good news to the advertisers because to them, the more time we spend online, the more attractive the Internet looks to them for advertising revenues.

You might have already noticed new advertising in the form of what are called “overlay ads” appearing on YouTube videos. This is in the experimentation stage, but I read this will probably become the norm, so I suppose we need to get used to it.

For more information about Online Publishers Association, visit http://www.online-publishers.org.

To read “The Exabyte Era” report, just type it in on Cisco’s search engine at http://www.cisco.com.