Millions of organizations and individuals connected to the Internet provide an ever-expanding universe of digital content to end users. Commercial entities and other organizations provide a large portion of such content, but individuals are increasingly contributing content to the Internet for personal, social, and creative purposes.
Content providers (also called edge providers) use various methods to distribute their offerings over the Internet. Smaller organizations and individuals typically lease space on a shared or dedicated computer server from a specialized company that provides a connection to the Internet, typically through a negotiated agreement with a backbone provider. Large companies may build their own server farms with direct access to an Internet backbone.
Some companies also provide websites where users can post self-generated content, such as photos, blogs, social networking pages, and audio and video files, while the companies themselves manage the site’s underlying technical aspects. Increasingly, content providers are also copying their content to multiple computer servers distributed around the world, a technique called local caching or mirroring. This practice allows data to be transmitted to end users more quickly, over a shorter physical distance, and using fewer routers. This strategy, in turn, generally decreases the potential for transmission problems such as the delay or dropping of data packets. The Internet allows content providers to transmit cheaply an expanding array of content, such as music and video downloads.
Originally, most Web content consisted of static text and graphics files that could be viewed graphically using a basic Web browser and a narrowband connection. Some of the newest content, however, are time-sensitive, bandwidth-intensive, or both. VoIP, for example, is sensitive to both “latency” — the amount of time it takes a data packet to travel from source to destination — and “jitter” — on-again, off-again delay associated with bursts of data traffic. High-resolution video files and streaming video applications are examples of bandwidth-intensive content and applications that some observers suggest are already challenging the Internet’s capacity.
- Popular examples include: Blogger.com (Web logs); flickr.com (photo sharing); YouTube.com (audio and video sharing); and MySpace.com (social networking pages, Web logs, photo sharing, audio and video sharings).
- See, e.g., TheHostingChart.
- Marjory S. Blumenthal & David D. Clark, Rethinking the Design of the Internet: The End-to-End Arguments vs. the Brave New World, 1 ACM Transactions Internet Tech. 72-73 (2001); Charles B. Goldfarb, Access to Broadband Networks: Congressional Research Services Report to Congress 2-3 & n.4 (2006).
- See, e.g., Goldfarb, at 3-4.