Will Influx of Netflix Instant Streaming Break The Internet?

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The addition of Netflix’s streaming only plan has had many people excited. With a good portion of their movie and TV catalogue online, paying $7.99 for immediate unlimited legal, crystal clear video is barely nothing compared to cable plans and buying a television. The anticipated increase of Netflix online subscribers has some people worried, however. Due to the increase of traffic, the Internet might not be able to contain all the added screaming ability, and well, just collapse from the sheer volume of users.

A recent study from Sandvine confirmed those fears. The findings show that right now 20 percent of all downstream home Internet traffic in North America comes from people on Netflix – beating out Hulu, YouTube and peer-to-peer file sharing programs like BitTorrent. The problem is, Netflix is growing and signing even more deals with distributors to allow even more content – giving people more stuff to watch online. Especially with Christmas coming up, small cable and telephone lines can potentially slow down to a virtual standstill with everyone trying to watch something at the same time. The Federal Communications Commission is going to discuss this very issue this month, according to the Kansas City Star. Still, computer scientists say we shouldn’t worry.

“Nothing can break the Internet,” Professor of Computer Science at UCLA Doctor Lixia Zhang said.  “I’m sure we’ll have solutions to handle all challenges.”

(More on TIME.com: Netflix Adds Streaming-Only Plan, Raises Prices Across The Board)

Her new project, Named Data-Networking, hopes to change the current model of how the Internet works. Right now, everything is host-based. Each piece of information has it’s own location on the Internet, called an IP address, and users have to find it in order to transmit information from the host, or location where the address is stored. Zhang hopes to create a more efficient form of communication where people will transmit data packets. Instead of looking for the information, being given a location where on the Internet the data is hosted (like the IP address for a specific streaming video) and then going to that place, you can directly request what you are looking by name and receive that data directly. It cuts out some steps and allows for automatic caching to make your bandwidth usage more efficient.

(More on TIME.com: Is Netflix Making Cable Obsolete?)

If your fears aren’t assuaged by still to be developed technology, know that Netflix’s technical operational model is guaranteed to work against an overload of people trying to watch Battlestar Galactica. Fortune interviewed Akamai, the company the runs the servers where all the Netflix movies are storied online, who assured them that it’s all under control. The company takes information from its main hub and puts it in one of Akami’s  77,000 centers that is nearest to your area. This means that if you you wanted to watch something, chances are someone else in your area on your server has already downloaded it for the first time on the server, cutting down on the actual physical act of streaming it from the main server. Netflix also spent $3.6 million more upgrading their streaming service, so they’re preparing for the increase in traffic.

“That video is growing rapidly and going to be huge is true,”  Akamai co-founder Tom Leighton said to Fortune. “But there’s tons of capacity out at the edges of the network….plenty of capacity in the last mile to your house.”

(More on TIME.com: Is Comcast Extorting Netflix Instant Streaming?)

The final verdict: We think you should keep streaming that video. This hype that the Internet is going to collapse sounds like a little like the panic behind Y2K, the biggest event that never happened.

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