On the Google Public Policy Blog, Richard Whitt’s response to the recent Wall Street Journal article (of now considerable infamy) fails to mention one of the primary benefits of Google’s OpenEdge caching program. Whitt only mentions the following benefits:
By bringing YouTube videos and other content physically closer to end users, site operators can improve page load times for videos and Web pages. In addition, these solutions help broadband providers by minimizing the need to send traffic outside of their networks and reducing congestion on the Internet’s backbones.
What Whitt doesn’t say is that caching programs like Google’s have the potential to dramatically reduce the total traffic on tier one and tier two carriers (networks that peer, or exchange data without charge, with other networks). But this traffic reduction is one of the biggest benefits Google’s program provides to the rest of the Net.
How would OpenEdge do this? Let me explain using a bit of anecdotal evidence.
Running a trace route on “youtube.com” from my PC, I found that it takes 23 hops for me to get from the middle of Washington, DC to YouTube’s servers. Out of those 23 hops, 7 are on Comcast routers. Most of the other hops travel through Level3’s network, and Level3 is a tier 1 carrier.
Let’s say 5000 people in DC watch the same YouTube video of a sleeping cat tonight. Under the current system, these 5000 videos careen their way over 23 hops, crossing the entire country and using up scarce bandwidth on a tier 1 carrier at the core of the Internet.
With caching, presumably that same movie of cats sleeping would only have to cross the country a few times before Google decided to cache it locally (or perhaps only once). Once cached in the servers parked at one of Comcast’s facilities in the area, it would only have to make a few hops, and only through Comcast’s network.
This means Google’s OpenEdge program could reduce the amount of traffic Level3 and other tier one carriers have to shuttle across the country by orders of magnitude. This model reduces core traffic even more for more popular videos, making it the perfect solution to moving broadcast-style video programming onto the net.
This also means that the average web user will have a much less congested Internet to deal with.
Additionally, small web businesses won’t have to put up with an Internet filled with sleeping cats. This would give Google some edge over the little guy, but it also represents Google paying to reduce its bandwidth use, making it easier for much smaller competitors to have a presence online.
So, is Google’s OpenEdge neutral? No one seems to know what that means anymore.
Does OpenEdge give Google a competitive advantage? Yes, having faster videos and other rich media content makes Google’s products much more desirable to consumers. Presumably, smaller competitors will not be able to offer the same quality of service.
Does OpenEdge hurt the future of the Internet? No, it improves it for everyone.