Cuban ruffles feathers

Mark Cuban is both entertaining and insightful, the latest example being his remarks on the dead and boring Internet:

A lot of people are all up and upset about my comments that the Internet is dead and boring. Well guess what, it is. Every new technological, mechanical or intellectual breakthrough has its day, days, months and years. But they don’t rule forever. That’s the reality.

Every generation has its defining breakthrough. Cars, TV, Radio, Planes,highways, the wheel, the printing press, the list goes on forever. I’m sure in each generation to whom the invention was a breakthrough it may have been heretical to consider those inventions “dead and boring”. The reality is that at some point they stop changing. They stop evolving. They become utilities or utilitarian and are taken for granted.

Some of you may not want to admit it, but that’s exactly what the net has become. A utility. It has stopped evolving. Your Internet experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago.

Cuban is right, of course, and even Om Malik (broadband cheerleader extraordinaire) admits as much:

But the bigger question Cuban is asking is whether the Internet’s infrastructure is sufficient to keep the innovation cycle moving forward. And the answer is no.

And why? Om quotes Nortel’s CTO:

John Roese, chief technology officer of Nortel (NT), is of the same school of thought. “If you look at the progress made from 300-baud modems to 10-Gigabit Ethernet,” said Roese, “the cost per bit has declined by a factor of 22 million to one. But that isn’t reflected in the consumer Internet experience.”

The fault is in the asymmetric nature of the Internet. The downstream speeds are getting higher, but upstream speeds are still being controlled in a miserly fashion by ISPs, thus acting as a break for truly interactive applications.

An asymmetric Internet is good for disseminating information – after all pulling down information (or YouTube videos) moves packets in one direction. This is perhaps the point Cuban is trying to make when he says that the Internet is like a utility and therefore boring. Electricity, after-all, also works as a one-way service — it comes into our house and we use it for everything from stereos and air conditioners. Today’s Web and Internet applications are doing precisely the same on our desktops.

I don’t know that a symmetrical Internet is any less boring than the one we have, as it’s probably just harder to administer. Today we upload our videos to services like You Tube to asymmetrically distribute them, and I don’t see them getting more interesting if we distribute them directly from our homes and offices. Maybe somebody can explain that to me.

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