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The World Wide Web’s 25th anniversary

John Hayduk, President, Product Management and Service Development, Tata Communications | March 19, 2014
The web and Internet Traffic are expected to grow exponentially over the next 25 years. John Hayduk identifies two trends that will contribute to this growth.

Happy Birthday World Wide Web! Given the Web's ubiquitous influence on nearly all of our lives, it's hard to believe that it's only been 25 years since  Sir Tim Berners-Lee  set one of the most important communications platforms of all time in motion on  March 12, 1989.

The Web's growth, and growth of Internet Traffic in general has been staggering, and looking ahead to the next 25 years, there are no signs of it decreasing. So where does the data suggest we'll stand when the Web turns 50? Well, by the looks of the chart below, which shows the global customer traffic on Tata Communications' public IP network over the past six years, and projected growth for the next six, the curve clearly indicates exponential growth.

Click on graph to enlarge. Credit to Tata Communications.

The percentage growth in customer data does vary somewhat year to year, but it consistently averages around 60 percent per year (+/- 20 percentin any individual year).  That growth has been a surprisingly consistent, but will that continue?  Let me give you my views on this question.

Video consumption has been a very large driver of growth in the past, but I believe two additional trends will contribute significantly to the growth going forward. The first is the cannibalisation of audio-only conferencing/calling with video. This real-time video conferencing/calling will, over time, substitute and replace a significant portion of audio-only calls. We are at the very nascent stages of this transition, so there is considerable room for growth here. Moreover, since a standard definition video call today is at least five times more expensive than an audio-only call, this transition will provide considerable fuel for growth.

The second trend is the shifting dynamic of how consumers will view content, taking in less "broadcast" content and more "individual" content. Over the next 25 years, this trend will create a world of unicast video consumption, characterised by an influx of consumers that view video individually and on demand — and not via mass broadcast. This transition from the predominant broadcast world of today, to the unicast world of tomorrow will be a second large driver of growth.

Of course this will all be further enhanced by mobile demands. As I wrote last fall, Deloitte is predicting 4G subscriber numbers to triple in the coming year as compared to 2012, reaching nearly 200 million people — all driven by customer demands for high-quality video viewing and content consumption experiences. Now that's just one aspect of mobile growth over the next 12 months. When you start to factor in traffic growth projections for things like machine-to-machine technology, cloud computing and cloud storage, all of which have shown consistent growth rates over the past several years, one can start to imagine the sheer size of global traffic when the Web turns 50.

So cheers to Sir Tim and the last 25 years of WWW. As for what its future growth means to network design and capacity going forward, I'll explore that question in my next blog.


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