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Increasingly Slow Internet Will Hurt E-Commerce

By Chet Dembeck
Oct 14, 1999 12:00 AM PT

According to a study by Northeast Consulting Resources, Inc., e-commerce will be substantially hindered by the fact that the Internet remains slow and will probably get slower over the next few years.

Increasingly Slow Internet Will Hurt E-Commerce

"It is clear that the World Wide Web won't fulfill its promise unless the right design decisions are made," said Peter Sevcik, a senior analyst who conducted the study.

Lack Of Speed Costs Billions

Other research confirms these findings. A recent report relevased by Zona Research, Inc. states unequivocally that longer Web page download times are already costing e-tailers billions (US$).

According to Zona, the key benchmark that companies must meet is an eight-second download time for their Web page. If the download takes longer, Zona reports that more than one-third of Internet shoppers simply give up trying -- becoming frustrated with their e-commerce experience. This lack of speed could cost U.S. e-tailers more than $4 billion each year, the report concludes.

Moreover, it could get even more costly, because the 44.1 million current online shoppers in the U.S. will almost double over the next 12 months.

Findings Based On Reliability Of 40 Sites

Meanwhile, Northeast Consulting based its findings on the Web performance measurement results compiled by Keynote, an independent consulting firm that has been measuring the performance and reliability of 40 top business Web sites since 1996.

Keynote found that the "growing complexity in Web pages and a growth in network delays" offset the overall increase in the speed the Internet has enjoyed since 1995.

Cyberspace Gridlock

The study also discovered that while the Internet's Web site delivery capacity has been doubling every 24 months, this growth pattern would not be sustainable because of infrastructure problems.

"You can't run a fast network with the complexity and number of router hops typical of the current infrastructure," said Sevcik.

One solution, Sevcik added, is for Internet Service Providers to begin streamlining how their access networks are connected.

"The task won't be trivial," Sevcik pointed out. "The current rate of improvement will start to slide backwards -- putting the whole idea of Internet-hosted applications in serious jeopardy."

How Can It Be Fixed?

The study of the 40 Web sites found those that were generally faster than predicted used content distribution services from such companies as Akamai Technologies.

Such services act as Internet traffic cops. By using complicated mathematical algorithms, they are able to improve the speed of downloading Web pages by delivering them from the closest server to a customer's location -- thereby passing through fewer router hops. This process also helps to eliminate Internet congestion.

"Today, caching and content distribution is the only practical way to reduce network delay," said Sevcik.

The study shows that good caching reduces overall response time by 2 to 3 seconds.

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