Level 3, and the Web 2.0 fatigue


The Web 2.0 conference hasn’t even begun, and you can feel the fatigue. You can almost predict the marketing “spin” coming over next few days, that is enough to make you groan.

A perfect example is this news from Level 3 Communications, touting the fact that they had won the contract to provide bandwidth to fast growing photo-video hosting service Photobucket. This is not the first, and I am betting the last news release from Colorado-based backbone provider trumpeting their deal with some “Web 2.0” company. They had made similar announcements when they did deals with YouTube and MySpace.

It is all spin and a blatant attempt to get a little Web 2.0 pixie dust. In fact, Level 3 is spending liberally to get it. They are sponsoring the Web 2.0 conference, and paying top dollars for it. I wonder why they are not one of sponsors (or even an exhibitors at) ISPCon, a conference that is closer to their core business.

Hate to break it to you guys, but you paint a pony with black stripes, it doesn’t become a zebra. You are a bandwidth provider, and might become a content delivery network, but you will still remain in the background, and a plumbing company. Not that there is anything wrong with it.

Getting associated with Web 2.0 might give a temporary sizzle to the stock, but in the long run that is not why anyone would care about Level 3. Clean balance sheet, profits and solid business fundamentals would be the best way to do that. If Level 3 CEO Jim Crowe or anyone else in his executive team wants to talk about that, have your people get in touch. Thanks but no thanks for Web 2.0 spin.


D Phillips

Oh gee what could be wrong with a company that provides streight to my computer the clear majority of Spam. Constant e-mails to thier abuse.com are pointless one more week of this and this growing file folder goes to Kansas Attny Gen.Paul Morrison.

Neil Henry

Your swipes at L3 may be entirely justified but the cynical tone makes me think you may not be thinking hard enough about infrastructure requirements for Web 2.0

If a primary goal is to blur the line between web and client-server apps, let’s look a little more closely at these rich client interfaces.

A well-designed Web 2.0 application is doing considerably more anticipatory work – pre-fetch operations, validation. Clients will request lots of data (some they will never need). This looks different on the wire. The traditional back and forth call and response model is left behind.

And this has nothing to do with bandwidth. Because latency is so expensive and has limits on a continental scale, cache awareness and pre-fetching will be used more – and more uniformly – to smooth out user interactions.

Again, I have no idea whether L3 has given this any thought but it is a more interesting thread than the “pile on the marketing dweebs”.

(sole conflict is as a career product manager)


I think their involvement is very simple: Web 2.0 is another vertical they have to embrace. Similar to their interest in Internet2 (via their FiberCo) initiative. And, they need to get better returns on their core business (IP transit/DF), as they can only refinance their debt for so long :)


level 3 is taking a page out of the how-to-make-infrastructure-cool playbook from intel. kudos to them if it goes well, but if they start having SLA-breaking outages and get their variable pricing out in the blogosphere because of the increased visibility…well…when you’re famous, with the good comes the bad.


I thought this blog post was going to be about the more obvious fact that the Web 2.0 hype machine is far worse than someone like Level 3 trying to get in on it. The fact they feel they need to because of the hype being generated by those you call the core businesses is what really generates the fatigue, IMO.

Death to buzzwords and hype. Life to substance and reality.

Joe Macellaio


I was hoping to learn something new about Level3 considering I sold against them at Cogent. In general they were able to keep a higher price than us due to a better name. You are all correct that the larger names will often ask for free or below cost bandwidth. In my mind not a good way to build a stable business and leads to boom bust.

I think that it makes sense to advertise where your customers are, so if Level3 sees that their customers are web2.0 and use lots of bandwidth then thats sensible. In fact this points to a refreshing change in the internet world where suppliers actually understand their customers apps.

This leads to my last point, The industry is not just Telecoms(Plumbing) or Internet or Web2.0 its a stack. Each company plays its part. If any part of the stack is not performing: ie no bandwidth, software crashes, cable break then the “Application” stops and the users turns to something else. We should all remember that we are competing more with daily papers, the television, radio etc (The oldernets).

For our own wellbeing remember what happened when we all didn’t understand each other. As one person said Level3 was designed 10 years to early. Probably due to some MBA in SSB or MS etc.

On a lighter note. With the changes in the US political scene does that mean a more optimistic tech market?


I don’t think Om would have been so surprised had it been Limelight that was a sponsor. I am surprised L3 sponsored this event but they did and are getting some attention for doing so and Om even spelled their name correctly so it’s been a success. I wouldn’t have expected L3 to sponsor such an event, it would be like uunet doing so. Good for them for jumping on the train but it’s not like this the big players aren’t already using L3 and everyone else for that matter. I don’t have a point I’m trying to make and i’m not sure if this indicated L3 is going to go more aggresively towards end users than they have in the past or if this is just some new mktg person who wanted a boondoggle in SF for a week.

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