off-topic: historical query concerning the Internet bubble

Dorian Kim dorian at
Thu Aug 5 22:27:06 UTC 2010

On Thu, Aug 05, 2010 at 01:38:38PM -0500, Andrew Odlyzko wrote:
> 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.

The doubling rate from various parts of the tier 1 world I've seen
since mid 90s until now has been pretty consistent. It's been
ranging around 9-14 months or so with the shorter end of the
doubling number coming mostly during the 1996-2000 years, modulo 
specific fortunes of the tier 1 in question.

Was Mike O'Dell's famous doubling every 100 days just a myth?
Like any good tale, there most likely was an element of truth 
behind it.

It wouldn't surprise me if there was a 6-12 month span during 96-98
when the Internet traffic as a whole did grow by ~10x especially
as backbones made the painful and much delayed leap past DS3 and the 
back pressure was finally relieved. The problem is, the relevant
data are spread out all over and probably not obtainable.

I seem to remember thinking that those numbers seemed a bit high,
but mostly shrugging at it at the time I heard Mike and other UUNet
folks say it since it wasn't off by more than an order of magnitude 
and back then we tended to ignore things that were that close, and
UUNet was well known for their "forward looking statements" anyway.

Btw, just so we can at least put some real world scale to these traffic 
doubling rates tales, a non-descript tier 1 network that's not 
particularly any more or less successful than others have had an average 
doubling rate of roughly 13.1 months from 2000 to 2010 for their 
transpacific traffic.


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