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The internet is looking much lumpier than it was just a few years ago. In 2007, the majority of internet traffic was more evenly distributed across tens of thousands of networks. Now, just 300 networks contribute to 60 per cent of all traffic online, according to two-year study by Arbor Networks.

Google is clearly the largest digester of the internet, accounting for 6 per cent of all web traffic globally. In total, 30 large companies handle a rather disproportionate 30 per cent of all web traffic, the report claims.

Arbor arrived at its figures after analyzing web traffic across 110 large ISPs between April 2007 and April 2009, for a total of 264 exabytes of traffic. The University of Michigan and Merit Network also contributed to the study.

Consolidation has also affected the number of application-specific protocols out in the wild, with more users migrating to an increasingly small number of web and video tools like YouTube and Adobe Flash. Alternative mechanisms to deliver content such as P2P have meanwhile fallen to the wayside.

Two years prior, P2P traffic peaked at 40 per cent of all worldwide traffic. Today, it only accounts for 18 per cent, the study claims.

For web traffic in general, 52 per cent is HTTP (up from 42 per cent in 2007), video-specific applications are 2.57 per cent and email protocols 1.41 per cent. However, Arbor reckons that web video accounts for between 25 to 40 per cent of all HTTP traffic.

Combined with a growing market for web advertising, consolidation has also modified the way internet providers operate. As basic IP connectivity services have become nearly indistinguishable from one provider to the next, it has forced companies like AT&T, Verizon, and British Telecom to compete chiefly on price. As a result, the major providers have shifted their focus instead on selling services like cloud computing and managed security to generate revenue.

"Saying the internet has changed dramatically over the last five years is cliché – the internet is always changing dramatically," stated Craig Labovitz, chief scientist at Arbor Networks. "However, over the course of the last five years, we've witness the start of an equally dramatic shift in the fundamental business of the internet." ®

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