Keeping pace with the 'Net's astonishing growth

For years now, International Data Corp. has generated an admittedly less-than-bulletproof forecast of the number of URLs on the Web.

In antiquity, IDG (my employer) could get occasional fixes on its forecast from the major search engine companies, but now everybody seems to have given up trying to count total pages on the Web. Nobody can see the whole thing at once.

We figure the Internet now supports more than 700 million pages. In a few years, the total will be 10 times that. According to Vinton Cerf, speaking at the Internet Society's annual meeting last month, the number of 'Net connections will exceed phone connections by the middle of the next decade. My own forecasts puts a billion devices on the Internet by 2004. By then, the overall 'Net economy will be pushing 5 per cent of the world's gross domestic product.

So, as soon as the IT world gets a hammerlock on the year 2000 problem, we'll face another one: a wired market growing like a weed.

There's bound to be pain involved.

Merely dealing with the traffic will be one issue. According to my calculations, Internet traffic is already 1 per cent of the world's total voice and data traffic. In five years, it will be almost 20 per cent -- a whopping 2,000 terabits a day. We may have the wires and fiber circuits in place to handle all that, but I doubt we have all the switches, routers and software to handle peak loads and traffic jams at key junctions. I also doubt that most IS directors realise how much they'll have to worry about network performance in years to come. Or how much disk capacity they'll buy.

And with so many new users coming to the Internet, the neighborhood is bound to go downhill. Extrapolating from US crime statistics, I once figured that by the year 2002, there will be nearly 10 million crooks on the Web. That means multiple millions of nefarious events (those perpetrated on other 'Net users and those that use the medium to con or scam those who aren't 'Netizens). Given the law of averages, some Internet criminals will be quite sophisticated. Good luck to the average auditor, prosecutor, FBI agent -- or IS director -- trying to fight this crime.

That growth also means that the Internet will be harder to understand. It will metastasize and mutate beyond recognition. The Internet Society, which has gone through at least one transformation already, is discovering that now as it heads for another. There are at least three separate plans for a next-generation Internet, domain name management is under fire and the job of setting standards has passed from an official Internet Engineering Task Force committee to vendors in the market. The 'Net, once a federation of networks governed by common protocols and understood at least by a few, is now unknowable in its entirety.

And that, folks, is the milieu in which we will manage our computers, our applications and our networks. The Internet will become a stew of probability states: something you can use, like quantum mechanics, but not really understand. If the efforts of companies such as Sun -- with its push for Java and now Jini -- bear fruit, the 'Net will become the mysterious backlight for a giant worldwide computer that we will all time-share.

The best we can do as the Internet takes us places we've never been is to keep our all-too-little house in order.

(Gantz is senior vice president at IDC in Massachusetts. His Internet address is jgantz@idcresearch.com.)

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Gantz

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?