Quick, what do you use the Internet for the most? I'll bet a lot of you said Facebook. However, if you have Netflix or another streaming service, the answer is probably watching video.
Because streaming video now comes right to our TVs, it's easy to forget that it's coming to your home over the Internet. In fact, at peak times 30% of Internet traffic is just Netflix video, and if you factor in YouTube, that total tops out to more than 50% of all Internet traffic.
Given that online video hardly existed 10 years ago, that's a staggering shift, and it's only going to continue. Cisco, which makes a lot of the hardware and software for the Internet's underpinnings, has done some calculating and discovered that in five years, online video will take up 85% of Internet use in the U.S.
This shift is partly because of people cutting out cable in favor of online, on-demand services. However, the fact that broadband connections are getting faster, which allows users to watch higher-quality video is a big factor as well. The arrival of 4K video will put serious strain even on today's fastest connections.
As the Washington Post points out, Internet providers already understand this shift is taking place and gearing up for it.
Telecom firms like Verizon are racing to expand their cellular networks so that they can deliver video over LTE. Cable companies are fleshing out their public WiFi hotspots so users can watch videos outside their homes. Content providers like HBO and CBS are putting their programming on the Internet so that customers don't have to be tethered to their television sets.
A lot of this growth in video is going to hit mobile gadgets. Tech expert Mary Meeker found that five years ago Americans were on smartphones and tablets for one hour a day. Now daily gadget use is up to three hours. In another five years it could be much more, especially if wearable headsets take off.
What do you think about this shift in the Internet's focus? Let me know in the comments.