September 1, 2016
Infrastructure and market growth often play a tedious game of leapfrog. Cars were already in widespread use before the interstate highway system was built in the 1950s. But up until that point, they were primarily used for short distance travel around cities and towns.
Once the expanded infrastructure was in place, automakers began to roll out all kinds of new cars that filled numerous different purposes. Before long, so many cars were on the road that highways had to be expanded and new ones had to be added. And so the game of leapfrog continued.
The same is true with digital networks today. These networks have rapidly expanded in the last two decades to handle the onslaught of use. Despite being invisible to the public, an infrastructure exists and it has to match the developing networks around the world.
But despite being so massively funded by so many partners, both public and private, the internet is far from perfect. In fact, it has been built so quickly that parts of it are pretty glitchy. Consumers who lack the technical education to understand how the internet really works are frequently told that their internet troubles are the result of things that have nothing to do with it.
Nathan Barnett, CEO of video delivery company Swarmify, says that the issues most consumers experience with their internet are frequently not within their control to fix.
“Most people’s home internet today is more than capable of doing anything the average user needs to do online,” says Barnett. “Whether that is something that uses very little bandwidth, like sending emails, or more intensive, like streaming video, most people’s home internet is more than sufficient.”
Slow internet, and particularly the issue of video buffering, can be the fault of the media provider. In other words, if YouTube is buffering, it does not necessarily mean that a consumer needs to pay more for internet. It could just as likely be that YouTube’s network is lagging under pressure.
Video Buffering Issue
To better explain how video buffering is caused, Barnett compares the internet to a system of roads. On a Sunday morning when everyone is asleep, the roads are free and clear (no buffering). But on Monday morning at 8am, every road in the city is crammed full of commuters angrily cutting each other off on their way to work. The same is true of the networks that deliver streaming video services.
A video consumer may experience buffering because the network is jammed full of people trying to stream video at the same time. Additionally, a video may begin playing normally and experience buffering issues midway through because traffic suddenly spikes.
“The problem with many video delivery networks is their lack of agility,” said Barnett. “When traffic begins to slow video delivery, the network should reroute traffic through a less crowded corridor. Avoiding disruption and ensuring seamless video playback for the consumer.”
Most of the large video distributors on the internet have incredibly powerful networks. That is why Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and others rarely experience lag. But other video providers, like news companies, are plagued by delivery issues.
According to research conducted by Swarmify, video consumers who experience buffering ultimately watch. 64% less content than those who experience seamless playback. Anyone surfing the internet today has nearly limitless options for content to choose from. And a few seconds of buffering can divert them to another outlet.
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