According to an estimate by the Cisco Visual Networking Index, 80% of the Internet’s total worldwide traffic will be video by 2019. It’s already around 65% of the web’s total bandwidth today, mostly as streaming entertainment content. Netflix alone accounted for 35% of all US Internet traffic in 2014, and it’s estimated that an additional 30% came from adult websites.
Besides confirming that Americans are spending a lot of nights in, that data reveals that the vast majority of video bandwidth is used for leisure. But video is a highly versatile medium with nearly unlimited use cases. Those of us on the front lines of video’s application in the workplace know that we’re barely scratching the surface of how it can be used.
Which leads us to wonder: what if the Internet became 80% video not by bandwidth, but by application? And what if that percentage rose even higher… to 100%?
Some of the most common applications of the Internet would change radically, but others, surprisingly little. A thought experiment on how it might look if the entire Internet became video:
Social media. It might feel like we’re halfway there already, given the preponderance of video on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, which has recently made aggressive moves to become one of the biggest players in video. Even Twitter, which is famous for its text-specific constraints, owns micro-video service Vine. A news feed exclusively populated by videos is actually pretty likely.
Communication. Peter Thiel is right that the future didn’t bring us flying cars, but sci-fi’s predictions of picture phones were spot on. Skype and Apple’s FaceTime haven’t displaced the phone call yet, but there’s no reason they couldn’t.
As for email, the workhorse of the cyber world, it’s hard to imagine how video could replace text. Video email messages would be easy for quick replies, but more cumbersome for precise, formal messages. That said, a video of someone presenting composed thoughts could plausibly replace the written version of the same message.
Research. Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It’d be a stretch to imagine Google making videos out of the centuries-old texts they’re uploading, but those old sources comprise a very small and diminishing share of the planet’s information base. Over 90% of humankind’s total recorded output is less than three years old, a mind-boggling stat that reflects a pace of data creation that’s only accelerating.
So even if some of the Internet’s research material never makes it past text, more than 99% of “the world’s information” will be contemporary. That means a lot of video. The act of research could one day look like an informational trip to YouTube (which some claim is already the world’s second largest search engine) or a more specialized video learning platform like Grovo.
E-commerce. We’ve all seen QVC, the Home Shopping Network, and late-night infomercials. While I’ve never patronized any of those, having never needed 300 pounds of torque to violently impose hula on my spine, clearly someone buys from these channels. They could be visions of the future of commerce.
There’s also the prospect of a much better kind of video shopping experience, one with two-way communication between you and a salesperson. That would actually be nice—sort of a reversion to traditional shopping. Interactive video could also be the future of banking: just you, a CGI teller, and your imaginary digital cash, all woven together in one seamless virtual reality.
An era of video literacy
An all-video Internet raises the interesting prospect of whether we’ll ever need to think about something like “video literacy.” Right now, digital users associate video mostly with entertainment, which is content they’re not accountable for acting upon. We associate it with leisure, even laziness. But that doesn’t indict the format, just the content.
When mass market, highly entertaining novels made their debut in the Victorian era, moralists condemned the dime novels (called “penny dreadfuls” in the UK) for their lurid content. But the stories also helped increase literacy in young readers, which was an important development for the newly industrial societies.
The same might be true of video consumption today. Your employees are already watching a lot of video. They’re comfortable with the format and they know how to tune in and out as the content demands. If video truly does take over the Internet, streaming services like Netflix and YouTube could be seen as early promoters of an essential kind of literacy. Which Grovo will be happy to make a few videos on.