About this site
















Virtual Bandwidth

Tuesday, October 31, 2000 by Dave Winer.

Good morning! Permalink to Good morning!

I'm back from my trip to the East Coast of the US. There was a Scripting News dinner in NY on Wednesday night at Katz's Deli. Great food, total geekout. On Thursday I went to the World Series; on Friday on to Miami and yesterday, back home to the Bay Area.

In New York I spent the better part of two days brainstorming with Adam Curry, former MTV video jock, Internet advertising entrepreneur, and now a man obsessed with a vision that I'm beginning to understand.

In this brief warmup piece I don't hope to capture the whole thing, but I want to talk about part of it.

Virtual Bandwidth Permalink to Virtual Bandwidth

Adam wants the Internet to be Everyman's broadcast medium, to route around TV and radio broadcast networks, with no compromise in quality. Now if this were easy, or the solution obvious, we'd already be doing it. But there's a big sticky problem in the way, the pipes don't seem big enough.

Believe me, I know about that. I have a relatively slow DSL connection. If I download a multi-megabyte QuickTime movie, it can take five minutes for less than a minute's worth of video. So it's hardly ever worth it to me click on a video link.

That's because "the last mile" between my desktop and the high-speed Internet backbone is so slow. But what if we put another computer in the middle, one that's sitting next to my machine, on my desktop. Adam calls the distance between my PC and the middle-computer "the last yard". If I had such a computer, running something like a mail server, I could simply order the network to deliver a video to me when I'm not using my line, and it could take its sweet time, while I'm doing other things like meeting and walking, eating and sleeping. The important point is this, while the last mile is very slow, that last yard is very very fast, and that's the secret idea.

An example. If you've been using Napster with a relatively slow line as I have, think how nice it would be if you could check off a set of twenty songs and know that they'd all be there on your hard drive in five hours while you run errands. No buttons to push, nothing to sit around waiting for. The last-yard computer does the nursing of the line while you can have fun and have a life.

If you mulitply the number of bits per second times the number of seconds you're not using your line you can get a lot of bits down the pipe. And that, both Adam and I believe, is the secret to turning the Internet into a super-satisfying broadband experience. A little software, some new protocols (maybe not very new) and we're there.

Adam has written more about this idea on his website:


Dave Winer

PS: Congrats to Napster and Bertelsmann on their deal. Looks like there will be peace in MusicLand on the Internet. Now maybe we can create the technology to make it fun, interesting and creative, without fear of ending up in court.

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."