Giving predictions – it's a thankless task. However, in order to assess the prospects that are waiting for "ours" with you Internet in the near future, you do not need to look too far. We want to imagine the future of the Internet, which will certainly give everyone a unified opportunity to access services and content, but this will most likely never happen.
The Internet is a global network, right? However, most of the traffic goes through private networks of mega-corporations. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google are deploying their content delivery networks (CDN) at such a rate that in 5 years they will be 70% of all traffic.
The main reason for this situation is the popularity of streaming video. According to Cisco, by 2020, 90% of all Internet traffic will be in video. This is a very realistic forecast, because in 2006, video accounted for only 12% of traffic. Nobody wanted to watch the video with buffering, and Google set about creating its own CDN system, investing billions of dollars in infrastructure. Success did not wait – by 2009, Google accounted for 5% of global Internet traffic, and this experience began to take over other companies (Microsoft and Yahoo).
According to researchers from Nielsen, in the first quarter of 2016, the length of viewing various types of online video (people aged 18 to 34 years) reached 30 hours per week, confidently overtaking television (it was watched 21 hours)
From the results of a study by Cisco (which kindly provides infrastructure for backbone traffic), it can be seen that improving the quality of video broadcasts and other online media networks CDN are growing at an unprecedented pace. The main investors are Netflix, Google and Facebook. The deployment of such networks is much cheaper than laying optical transatlantic cables. Researchers from TeleGeography indicate that almost half of all traffic passing through the Internet actually passes through these parallel routes.
And in different regions the situation is very different:
CDN domination will be more pronounced in rich countries: North America, Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. By 2021, 91% of all Internet traffic in North America will go through CDN, compared with 31% in the Middle East and Africa. About 60% of all Internet traffic will pass through a private CDN-server, created by Netflix in North America, as early as 2021. Only ten percent of Internet traffic in the Middle East and Africa will go through fast private CDN
What happens in countries where demand for paid services is not high? The quality of the "Internet of the future" will become insufficient. While users in countries with deployed CDN networks will receive smooth real-time streaming video, fast voice interfaces, minimal response for online games and other benefits, this will not happen in poorer regions. It is not necessary to hope for charity of private corporations – it may take years, and even decades, to improve the economic and investment situation in disadvantaged regions.
This data transfer scheme means that content owners (such as Google and Netflix) de facto have more power than ever, and can easily control the way that content is delivered to the end user. Who wants (and can) compete with Google without own CDN system? Ultimately, consumers can choose a small number of companies that own both data on the Internet and their means of delivery. In the long term, this will lead to an "old good" monopolization and will limit users in the choice of content.
And Alphabet bravely experiments in this direction: potentially the Google Fiber project can become an alternative way of access to a new, ultra-fast Internet, the content in which will pass exclusively through Google's servers. Competing with "first-tier" providers, private companies will be able to gain a weighty advantage. This will not be too difficult, since the number of major Internet providers in countries is often not too large. For example, in England, the top eight Internet providers provide 70% of all traffic.
With the growth of mobile Internet speed and the increasing popularity of wireless connectivity in rural areas, the problem will worsen. Users want to watch video without interruptions and in good quality, and without expensive infrastructure, small providers will lose their subscribers.
At the same time, projects aimed at providing high-speed Internet even the most remote corners of the world are still far from real Incarnations. The Loon project, developed by Google X, implying access to the Internet for rural residents and remote regions, will not solve the problems with the upcoming Internet gap and will additionally give Google (and other companies with similar projects) access to the "last mile" of connection.
Many technological services that appear on the Internet of the future, risk initially become highly centralized, which will seriously affect our daily life. Founder Pirate Bay Peter Sunde draws attention to the loss of our control over the Internet of things.
Other researchers agree with him, in particular Maria Farrell, the former senior executive director of ICANN. In her opinion, in the traditional Internet there is a consolidation of power, which in the medium and long term may lead to the fact that local content providers will be forced out. Vertical integration leads to the emergence of a set of global monopolies in social networks, in the search for and delivery of content.
Joe McName, executive director of the European human rights group EDRi, asks: "What happens when someone has their own infrastructure CDN and access to the last mile, like Facebook and Google? You run the risk of finding yourself in another world. "
It's easy to crank without violating the network neutrality law. Already today Netflix actively cooperates with some providers, ignoring others – and the access speed starts to differ significantly. In the competition "content provider vs provider", the content owner is the winner. So it was in 2014, when there was a conflict between Netflix and the Verizon operator. In the end, the consumer wants to watch the video, and the technical difficulties of the operator are of little concern to him.
Even very successful technologies, such as Bittorent, can not compete with the financial capabilities of techno-giants investing in the private infrastructure of CDN. In 2008, Bittorent accounted for up to one-third of all Internet traffic, and today it fell to 1%.
Imagining the future, researchers ask themselves – how will the Internet become, where high-quality VR video will be demanded? Who can provide the speeds necessary for holographic communication? And will the Internet remain a "free network" or become a set of "virtual private networks"?
From various proprietary devices to future self-managed cars – all somehow belong to several large corporations. Over the past 10 years, almost every successful technology company or website has been bought by a big five: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.
Who can resist these giants? Peter Sunde believes that the only chance is to choose the lesser of two evils and allow the state to introduce various restrictions. Not a very happy prospect, but there are also positive examples – for example, the success of the Pirate Party in Iceland.
And if we are talking about unfreedom, then it's enough to remember how in 2012 Google, Microsoft and Netflix wanted to add DRM to HTML5. In 2017, they actually succeeded in this – the W3C approved the DRM standard for HTML5. The DRM plug-in itself is already fully integrated into Chrome 57. This means that copyright holders will be able to prohibit and restrict the playback of movies and music on users' computers.
The Internet of the future promises to be a gloomy place, and someday we will be able to talk about, That everything started with an innocent "we just wanted to watch the video without buffering."