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Is the Net starting to crumble?

19 March 2020

The internet is running a bit slow right now.

No, it's not just my connection, it seems to be happening all over the world -- as people are forced to spend more time at home and the lure of social media, Netflix and other diversions draw them to computers, phones, tablets and smart TVs.

I really started to notice this earlier in the week when usually snappy "big" sites started slowing down. BBC News, YouTube, and a host of other sites I regularly access are sometimes taking markedly longer to load.

After my weekly webcast yesterday I was chatting with folk from the UK and elsewhere in the world who had all noticed the same thing.

Last night I was treated to muffled grumbling from the living room as my wife expressed her dissatisfaction with the treacle-like rate at which Netfix was running -- and we're on a gigabit fibre plan.

Yes, it seems that the coronavirus is having quite a significant impact on the speed of the internet.

This will, of course, only get worse as more and more people find themselves self-isolating and lost for anything to do except while-away the hours online.

I'm pretty sure that gamers will get really pee'd off as latency starts climbing due to the higher than average loads -- with carefully timed shots failing to hit home because their opponents have dodged the bullets that took hundreds of milliseconds to weave their way through a congested Net.

Perhaps it's time to roll out those old games... you know, the ones that don't require an internet connection to work. The original Duke Nukem, Captain Comic, Castle Wolfenstein?

Okay, yes, I'm kidding... perhaps. It's kind of fun to play the old-school games with their totally unrealistic graphics but they simply don't deliver the same kind of visual experience as PUBG or other modern-day diversions. It seems kind of wasteful to throw the original PacMan game onto a modern gaming system with its multi-core CPU and RTX2080Ti GPU, doesn't it?

However, it's not just the comms links that are crumbling under the load... a number of the more popular social media platforms are suffering other maladies.

Huge numbers of Facebook posts that linked to stories in the mainstream media were deleted yesterday as the code responsible for flagging spam posts had a melt-down. People were getting highly pee'd off that their quite legitimate posts were removed without warning or fair reason and all Facebook could say was "oops".

Over on the Tube of Yous, similar things are happening.

YouTube has warned content creators that there will be much less manual oversight of the algorithms that flag inappropriate, spammy or copyrighted content and admitted that this lack of oversight will see an increase in the number of bad calls by its system. I've experienced this myself... with my last three videos being demonetized even though (originally) there was no mention of the COVID-19 virus in them and one consisted simply of me walking around a local supermarket with my camera.

All of this could mean huge problems to come.

With the internet replacing TV as the opiate of the masses and an increasing number of people relying on that opiate for the "fix" that's needed to retain their sanity in times of crisis... how will the Facebook addicts cope if that service, or the internet that connects it, goes down?

If you think the great toilet-paper riots of 2020 were bad, just wait until the great "OMG Facebook is down" riots begin! :-)

What's more, to add insult to injury, I see that a number of ISPs here in NZ and around the world are "uncapping" their broadband plans. Yes, how great is this? Now I'll be paying twice as much as my neighbour (who was previously on a capped plan) for exactly the same service! Will my monthly bill be discounted to match his -- since we're both going to be getting the same levels of service? Of course not. Boy, do I feel stupid!

Ah well, for every winner there has to be a loser I guess :(

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