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!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
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

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?