Content Delivery as the Next Internet Revolution

08/06/08 :: by Chris

As a web developer, I consider part of my job responsibilities to ensure that I am aware of technologies coming down the pipe and to changes to the market (the internet). Sure I have to keep up with the differences between Firefox and Internet Explorer, jQuery and Prototype, CakePHP and Symfony. But I wouldn’t consider these market altering changes.

Since I’ve only been in web development for a few years, I would consider the introduction of Ajax to be the only major, market altering change that I have experienced. It revolutionized the interaction between users, their browser’s, and servers. Ajax truly revolutionize web development as it was known.

The next market altering change will be content delivery. What does this mean? Internet service providers are starting to take steps to control the flow of data from content providers to internet users. Whether it’s stopping or slowing the flow of P2P traffic, like Comcast was found to be doing, or just plain grumbling about their infrastructures not being able to hold up to the common user watching their favorite videos on YouTube, ISP’s do not like unmanaged data flowing limitlessly to users. Some ISP’s have even take steps to intercept ads in web pages and replace them with their own claiming that they know their clients better than anyone else.

So where does this all lead? It all points to one thing, content delivery. The internet has passed the content creation phase. When Google came to the internet, they brought the idea that user generated content is better than webmaster generated content. I don’t think anyone would disagree (except a few people who still hold the 90’s job title of “Webmaster”).

Content delivery is a multifaceted issue so let’s start with simple net neutrality. No matter how much spin is put on this term, it means one thing. Either all internet traffic is equal or it is not. Comcast has said that their bandwidth throttling practices only effect 0.01% of their uses and “More than 99.99% of our customers use the residential high-speed Internet service as intended.” This means that Comcast believes that less than a tenth of a percent of their users are causing major havoc to their networks and they are therefore justified to throttle the speeds at which content is delivered to users. It also means that Comcast believes that it has the right to determine what they believe clients should and should not be allowed to do with their internet service.

This leads to a very dangerous idea. An idea that means ISP’s, Comcast, AT&T, Rogers, Charter, Verizon, can determine what traffic their users receive and at what speeds. So, along those lines, let’s say you run a business called Bill’s Internet Widgets and your company develops hosted widgets for businesses. Company A calls your company and orders a news delivery widget. This widget will be used to pipe news to readers. This news happens to have one sponsored ad at the bottom of the widget advertising cheaper internet service in the readers area. The reader’s ISP notices this ad as detrimental to them and decides to make the speed at which content is delivered to that widget so slow that users decide to not use it. Or, as another example, instead of limiting the delivery speed of the content for that widget, the ISP picks up the phone and calls Company A and/or Bill’s Internet Widgets and tells them that in order for their content to be delivered at the same speed as other content, they will be required to pay a service fee to the ISP. Don’t think it will happen? Tell me the last time an ISP did something for their clients out of the goodness of their hearts.

Now let’s move to another side of content delivery, the internet browser. Currently, your browser is your’s. You get to decide what content is displayed. Ads flow to your browser via web pages that you are viewing. These ads profit the sites that server them and cost your ISP money to deliver them via their networks. Let me introduce Pogo, the internet browser being developed by, you guessed it, AT&T, an ISP. Open up your bookmarks. See any ads? Open up your history. See any ads? If you were using Pogo, your answer would be yes. AT&T discovered that if they can’t intercept ads on pages like Rogers and Charter were trying to do, they would develop a browser where they could fill every blank space with their own ads.

This post isn’t meant to be a bashfest on ISP’s. So let me get to the good stuff.

In comes AIR and now Aurora. What do these have to do with ISP’s, torrents, and the rest of the previous part of this post? Content delivery. AIR is a revolutionary content delivery method. No more firing up your internet browser and opening dozens of tabs for your news, music, social networking and work. Pandora or seeqpod no longer need to rely on the browser to delivery content. Facebook and LinkedIn can build their own AIR applications and delivery their content directly to the users without the need for cross browser compatible CSS or any of the other issues that come into play when developing feature rich sites.

Details of Aurora are still very limited, but if they are anything similar to AIR, I’m sure they are on the right track.

The entire time I’ve been writing this post, I kept fighting the urge to call it Web 3.0, mainly because I am not one to throw around marketing phrases, but I truly believe that content delivery will be the next great revolution of the internet, no matter what it is called by the marketing team.

3 Responses to “Content Delivery as the Next Internet Revolution”

  1. Marco Says:

    Wow, this is a great article. Reading this I see how the Dutch are behind on the internet. I’m very interested in the “AIR” Perhaps you know a good source for me to look upon?

    // marco

  2. Marco Says:

    Somehow I can’t read the article normally, which also causes me to be unable to click any link. However I managed to open the “AIR’” link so I found enough information at the moment :)

    looking good!

  3. brocksteady Says:

    Great post Chris. I’m really excited to explore AIR as well…

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