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User experience is the new differentiator. How will that affect the internet?

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The world of business is changing, as are the locations of the people who are driving that business. How companies reach new users and how they treat them once they do will be the defining business issue of the future. Those who deliver the best user experience to a global audience will win this race will change the internet as we know it.

Improvements to the customer experience come in many forms — it could be a new mobile app, it could be data-driven proactive outreach and troubleshooting, it could be cross-platform messaging. Whatever tactic you choose to improve the user experience, the bar will be set and the stakes will be raised for expectations.

How will this force change the internet?

An improved customer experience rapidly turns negative when it’s unavailable or slow. The internet was architected with reliability in mind. Speed and performance were second-class citizens to availability (rightfully so).

But the business impact of slow is very real. One Google study found that a half-second decrease in speed equated to a 20 percent drop in traffic. For customers, slow is the new downtime.

The longer distance the information must travel between a customer and the infrastructure enabling the experience, the slower the experience. This latency can have as much, if not more, of an impact on the responsiveness and speed of a customer’s experience than the bandwidth of the connection the user uses to access the internet.

The Internet community addressed this with the deployment of content delivery networks (CDNs) — dense pockets of infrastructure in common internet exchange locations caching static content. This strategy has worked well for the last 10 years, piggybacking on the inherent reliability in the architecture of the internet. The next 10 years will see technologists pushing further out to the edges of the internet.

It is getting crowded

In search of competitive advantage, businesses will demand faster user experiences. There are, however, a number of macro trends driving slower experiences as the internet expands.

The first macro trend is found in the most densely populated parts of North America and Europe, where urbanization is straining internet infrastructure. To reach new users, many operators are deploying more backhaul networks. This will work for a while, but investing in new backhaul networks is largely a duct-tape solution.

The Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific lead the charge in internet growth. The unique geographic, economic and public infrastructure attributes of these regions will challenge network operators and CDNs in delivering the same performance enjoyed in North America and Europe. Many of these users in these regions will be mobile first due to sheer economics, and their first encounters with the Internet will be through wireless instead of wired broadband connections, bringing its own set of internet performance challenges.

To deliver exceptional, responsive and reliable user experiences to both new mobile first users and congested urban users alike, while not breaking the bank, horizontal architectures will be required, and infrastructure will be deployed closer to global users.

Rather than a single location in a major metropolitan area, savvy technologists are not only deploying their applications to each major city, but are leveraging multiple deployments per city to better deliver exceptional experiences at scale.

Today cloud vendors are providing multi-region infrastructure deployment options at the click of a button, and cloud-agnostic management frameworks are enabling sane management of global multi-vendor solutions. The barriers to horizontal scale have never been lower, and more technologists are taking advantage than ever before.

The future

How will all of this impact the internet? We will see less growth in city-to-city “backhaul” traffic and investment, and more growth in diverse investment closer to users. Inter-location investment will be dwarfed by intra-location investment.

We’ll spend less energy building wider pipes from city to city, and more energy building efficient pipes inside cities, and then focusing on the control plane intelligence to keep bytes local to users. Along the way, our architectures will become more resilient to disaster and more cost efficient to scale, providing added benefits.

Cory von Wallenstein is the chief technologist at Dyn, where he leads the technical vision on internet performance for customers like Twitter, Netflix, Etsy and over 100 of the Alexa 1000. Follow him on Twitter @cvwdyn

Feature image from Thinkstock/Alexaldo.

5 Responses to “User experience is the new differentiator. How will that affect the internet?”

  1. Andrew Lochart

    CDN evolution to include multiple locations per city is very good progress. Going further, and thinking about the smartphone as the actual “edge” of the network, will unlock new ways of thinking about how to deploy CDN, including “CDN on the endpoint” to provide the ultimate optimization of network capacity and latency.

  2. Zack Belcher

    Cory – I agree with you. End user experience is going to be the key differientiator as software becomes more and more central to customer engagement. We recently wrote aa few blog posts about this from an application performance management perspective.

    I am amazed at how much difference a slight increase or decrease in response time can make it conversion rates.

  3. Joshua Berg

    While the article concept is good, I was struck by usage of a postage stamp size picture in an article about “user experience.” Which also means that anyone sharing this article to many platforms will not even have a big enough image to meet some minimum image requirements.

    Secondly, the “one Google study” which is the only reference in the top half of the page, quickly caught my eye, I was then shocked to see it going back to a study in 2006. It’s not like there haven’t been plenty of other studies since then, but the authors priority usage of such an old reference caused me to seriously doubt how in tune they might be.