Convergence and Divergence on the Internet

For a concise yet breathtaking history of networks, read this document by Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics. Swanson explains how the the American vertical voice network has evolved to a paradigm of horizontal hyperconnectivity.  He gives a dizzying account of the divergence of providers, platform, services, content and apps in the midst of the convergence of networks for telecom, TV, and media all to IP.  Rather than the notion of over the top “OTT” (pass through applications on top of broadband networks), it’s a world of “everything over everything.”  This economic environment is characterized by co-opetition.  Firms compete fiercely and cooperate creatively.

3-The Hyperconnected Network2-Early Convergence and Divergence1-Vertically Integrated Voice Network





Check out the cool infographics above (click to enlarge) that highlight the five competitive broadband networks and the tens of millions of customers on each.  It is also interesting to see how firms such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook, and Netflix are infrastructure providers in their own right, given their massive deployment in data centers and fiber networks.  It’s estimated that some 80% of today’s internet traffic bypasses traditional backbones and opts instead for peering, paid transit or content delivery services.

It’s time to update the outdated notions of the internet from the archetypal model of backbone, exchanges and ISPs to the more complex reality.