off-topic: historical query concerning the Internet bubble

Jessica Yu jyy_99 at
Fri Aug 6 21:52:11 UTC 2010

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>
To: nanog at
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

          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

                  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

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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