Facebook, Twitter, and Skype face an unusual challenge if they are to keep the dominance in their respective markets. It may be difficult to keep each of the services online all of the time. Service interruptions may become more frequent, which would alienate some portion of their users. It is only a guess of how badly weak infrastructure would hurt them. It is likely that a portion of their users would turn their backs on what they believe are flawed services.
Skype went down for the better part of day earlier this week. Twitter is famous for its “fail whale” service problems. Facebook has the most stable platform to accommodate its subscribers 24×7, but the challenges of maintaining thousands, if not tens of thousand of servers is incredibly complex, and there are weaknesses in the world wide web itself.
There is a vocal minority of scientists who believe the Internet will become so overloaded with traffic that it will have large outages, or may even collapse in some parts of the world. This analysis is fueled by the fact that there are not only more people on the Internet each year. Video sites like YouTube and data sharing services which work on the “cloud” have begun to put an unsustainable amount of stress on the global Internet infrastructure. The creation of more “backbone” by telecom, cable, and governments has been too slow to allow the world wide web to operate seamlessly. Private sector online carriers may not be willing to invest in “pipe” as quickly as they have before. Expansion had become expensive, often ranging into the billions of dollars.
Facebook has come to dominate its market so thoroughly that is has no competition. Its user base is nearly 600 million. Its valuation is as high as $20 billion. Twitter also has no real rival. It has nearly 200 million users. Skype has some VoIP completion, but none have the global infrastructure and large number of customers to really challenge the Internet telephone company.
If Skype can essentially collapse for a day or more, then there is a chance that any of the largest Web 2.0 giants may face upcoming overload problems. Their primacy intact, each of the companies has as its only rival as the reliability of its own technology and the fragility of the Internet.
Douglas A. McIntyre