Saturday Night Live, Healthcare.gov & BitTorrent

You may have watched Saturday Night Live’s spoof on the woes experienced during the launch of Healthcare.gov on October 26, 2013.

Always on the mark with social and political satire, SNL was quick to jump on the site’s problems as millions of Americans attempted to access it simultaneously. This bottleneck caused by high demand for access is a common problem in the Internet age. Video game companies work to mitigate issues that come with downloadable distribution with each major title launch. Just this week, Apple experienced a similar issue when high demand for it’s new Maverick OS caused an escalated level of congestion and caused frustration amongst it’s customers.

But for the writers of SNL this is actually a teachable moment.

SNL's Cold Open on October 26, 2013

SNL’s Cold Open on October 26, 2013

BitTorrent is of course a protocol, not a website (see Bloomberg TV’s, “BitTorrent is a Protocol Not a Place”). It is a way for machines to talk to each other and the most efficient way to move large data sets. You see, the better known HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, was created as a layer on top of the Internet to allow for the sharing of text and small images. And it is very effective of moving light loads like text and small images, as well as sparking imaginations and creating new businesses over the past two decades.

However, the number of people accessing and using the Internet is on a fast growth curve. In 1999, it is estimated that less than 5% of the world’s population was active on the Internet, or about 248 million people. By March of 2013, that number has estimated to grow 10X to just about 40% of the world’s population, or 2,749,000,000 people. (Internet World Stats)

Today, the size and amount of data moving across the Internet is also exponentially higher than it was when HTTP was first widely implemented in 1999. With the rise of HD smartphone cameras, internet connected TVs, rich media web sites, and streaming video the demands on the network can be crushing.

The size, quality, and frequency of content on the Internet is continually on the rise.

The size, quality and frequency of content on the Internet is continually on the rise.

BitTorrent is of course, not a piracy website and has never hosted pirated content or promoted copyright infringement in any way. One accurate reason for SNL to mention us would have been because BitTorrent can in fact help programs like Healthcare.gov, Apple and content sites like Netflix that create bottlenecks in Internet traffic. HTTP breaks under the strain.The BitTorrent protocol was designed to move the heavy traffic loads that HTTP cannot and actually improves as the number of people accessing content increases.

As EVE Online, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook already know, using BitTorrent solves the problem of high demand. It distributes the workload across a wide area taking the pressure off of a single node or access point.

This is our unique approach to the Internet, a decentralized network that is more durable, less susceptible to the failures associated with centralized servers, and offers significant cost savings across the board.

SNL wrongly framed Bittorrent as a problem. But when it comes to traffic problems and heavy lifting on the Internet, BitTorrent is the solution. We believe distributed computing will shape the next 20 years of the Internet and invite the US government and companies like Apple and Netflix to work with us to build a better Internet.

Matt Mason
Written by: Matt Mason

Matt Mason currently serves as Chief Content Officer at BitTorrent, Inc. He is also the bestselling author of The Pirate’s Dilemma, the first book in the history of the world to hit the number one spot on Amazon’s economics/free enterprise bestseller list and the rap bestseller list at the same time. He has written and produced TV series, screenplays, comic strips, apps and records, not to mention award-winning, global advertising campaigns. His journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer Music Monthly, Dazed & Confused, Adweek, VICE, and other publications in more than 20 countries.

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