off-topic: historical query concerning the Internet bubble
odlyzko at umn.edu
Fri Aug 6 21:13:42 CDT 2010
To entire list:
I have received several requests to post a summary of the comments that
are flowing in, so I will do so in a couple of days, say by Tuesday of
next week, to allow for vacations, ... In the meantime, I encourage
If my posting or my paper mix UUNet traffic with that of the entire
Internet, I apologize for not being clear enough. O'Dell and Sidgmore
always, as far as I know (although I only have a transcript of the O'Dell
presentation at Stanford in May 2000,
just about UUNet capacity. However, the myth was that the traffic on
the Internet as a whole was "doubling every 100 days." The puzzle of
how people could confuse traffic and capacity is considered in some
detail in Section 5 of the paper. From the O'Dell presentation it is
possible to guess that the intended implication was that UUNet was
growing much faster than the rest of the Internet, but in any case
I have not seen any references where either O'Dell or
In the presentations that you heard by O'Dell (was that internal to
WorldCom, and if so when), are you sure he was talking of traffic, and
not capacity? It makes a difference in evaluting his claims.
Which of my references has O'Dell saying ‘network traffic’? I cannot
find it. The only similar quote I can find is in Section 5, where
Joe Cook of WorldCom is talking of ‘network traffic,' but there it
is clear it is just WorldCom traffic he has in mind.
Jessica Yu <jyy_99 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> I have a concern that your posting and your paper mix UUNet traffic with the
> Internet traffic. I personally was very much involved in the ISP world (was
> working for Tier1 ISPs) during the period and I’d like to point out the
> UUNet’s (or any other individual network’s) traffic does NOT equal to the
> Internet traffic, even at that time!
> I was working at ANSnet and later UUnet due to a three party acquisition deal
> between AOL, WorldCom and CompuServe during that time period. I did hear
> presentations about network traffic being doubling every 100 days by O’Dell but
> my understanding was that he was referring to UUnet’s traffic not the Internet
> At the time, the Tier 1 ISPs included UUNet, MCI Network, Sprint Network,
> ANSnet, etc. Each ISP could only collect network traffic stats on its own
> backbone and there was no one entity could collect the entire Internet traffic.
> For this reason, the prediction by O’Dell could only be based on UUNet’s traffic
> stats. I really doubt that O’Dell would say the Internet traffic doubling
> every 100 days rather than saying that of UUNet’s traffic. I’d encourage you
> to do some research to find out if he was really referring to the Internet
> traffic or just UUNet traffic. The reference listed by your paper showed that
> he was saying ‘network traffic’ not ‘Internet traffic.’
> I do not know if making such distinction would alter the conclusion of your
> paper. But, to me, there is a difference between one to predict the growth of
> one particular network based on the stats collected than one to predict the
> growth of the entire Internet with no solid data.
> From: Andrew Odlyzko <odlyzko at umn.edu>
> To: nanog at nanog.org
> Sent: Thu, August 5, 2010 11:38:38 AM
> Subject: off-topic: historical query concerning the Internet bubble
> Apologies for intruding with this question, but I can't think
> of any group that might have more concrete information relevant
> to my current research.
> Enclosed below is an announcement of a paper on technology bubbles.
> It is based largely on the Internet bubble of a decade ago, and
> concentrates on the "Internet traffic doubling every 100 days" tale.
> As the paper shows, this myth was perceived in very different ways
> by different people, and this by itself helps undermine the foundations
> of much of modern economics and economic policy making.
> To get a better understanding of the dynamics of that bubble, to assist
> in the preparation of a book about that incident, I am soliciting information
> from anyone who was active in telecom during that period. I would particularly
> like to know what you and your colleagues estimated Internet traffic growth to
> be, and what your reaction was to the O'Dell/Sidgmore/WorldCom/UUNet myth. If
> you were involved in the industry,
> and never heard of it, that would be extremely useful to know, too.
> Ideally, I would like concrete information, backed up by dates, and possibly
> even emails, and a permission to quote this information. However, I will
> settle for more informal comments, and promise confidentiality to anyone
> who requests it.
> Andrew Odlyzko
> odlyzko at umn.edu
> Bubbles, gullibility, and other challenges for economics,
> psychology, sociology, and information sciences
> Andrew Odlyzko
> School of Mathematics
> and Digital Technology Center
> University of Minnesota
> odlyzko at umn.edu
> Preliminary version, August 5, 2010
> Gullibility is the principal cause of bubbles. Investors and the general
> public get snared by a "beautiful illusion" and throw caution to the wind.
> Attempts to identify and control bubbles are complicated by the fact that the
> authorities who might naturally be expected to take action have often
> (especially in recent years) been among the most gullible, and were cheerleaders
> for the exuberant behavior. Hence what is needed is an objective measure of
> This paper argues that it should be possible to develop such a measure.
> Examples demonstrate, contrary to the efficient market dogma, that in some
> manias, even top-level business and technology leaders do fall prey to
> collective hallucinations and become irrational in objective terms. During the
> Internet bubble, for example, large classes of them first became unable to
> comprehend compound interest, and then lost even the ability to do simple
> arithmetic, to the point of not being able to distinguish 2 from 10. This
> phenomenon, together with advances in analysis of social networks and related
> areas, points to possible ways to develop objective and quantitative tools for
> measuring gullibility and other aspects of human behavior implicated in
> bubbles. It cannot be expected to infallibly detect all destructive bubbles,
> and may trigger false alarms, but it ought to alert observers to periods where
> collective investment behavior is becoming irrational.
> The proposed gullibility index might help in developing realistic economic
> models. It should also assist in illuminating and guiding decision making.
> If you would like to be on the mailing list for notifications of future
> papers on technology bubbles, please send me a note at odlyzko at umn.edu
> The previous three papers in this series are available at:
> 1. Collective hallucinations and inefficient markets: The British Railway Mania
> of the 1840s
> 2. This time is different: An example of a giant, wildly speculative, and
> successful investment mania, B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, vol.
> 10, issue 1, 2010, article 60 (registration required)
> preprint available at:
> 3. The collapse of the Railway Mania, the development of capital markets, and
> Robert Lucas Nash, a forgotten pioneer of accounting and financial analysis
> Source materials for the Railway Mania and the Internet bubble are available
> at the web pages
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