Is the internet running out of space?

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iol scitech dec 6 ebay logo AP The weight of data crashed auction site eBay this week, leading to complaints from sellers claiming they had lost valuable custom.

London - The boom in smartphones and tablets is overloading the internet, causing some major websites to crash, experts said on Thursday.

So many gadgets are now connected to the web that the constant traffic means parts of the internet are running out of space.

The weight of data crashed auction site eBay this week, leading to complaints from sellers claiming they had lost valuable custom.

The problems are thought to relate to the ageing infrastructure which provides the crucial “nuts and bolts” of the internet – a system called the Border Gateway Protocol.

The BGP is made up of millions of pathways that send information between different parts of the internet. The system relies on firms which provide the machines called routers that maintain these paths.

But the routers have failed to keep up with the huge explosion in traffic driven by new mobile gadgets such as smartphones and tablets. Users no longer need to be sitting in front of a computer to access the internet. They can surf the web on their phone while sitting on the sofa or on the bus, driving up the numbers on the web at any one time.

Many new devices such as smart TVs, internet radios and the latest central heating systems also rely on a connection to the web, adding another burden on the system, leading to the crashes seen this week.

Jim Cowie, a web analyst at online business consultants Renesys, said: “This has been coming for some time. The internet keeps growing, which is what it does best.”

James Gill, chief executive of internet traffic monitoring experts GoSquared, said: “This is likely to happen more and more.”

One problem is that many older routing machines can cope with only 512 000 routes being used at any one time, a number experts say is out of date with current usage.

Sebastian Anthony, of technology website Extreme Tech, said that website crashes are usually caused by routine maintenance. “But in this case they’re the early rumblings of a much larger networking earthquake that could cause major outages and disruptions across the global internet,” he said.

“The good news is that internet service providers are aware of the problem. In many cases, routers are being proactively fixed before they start flapping around, thus major disruptions are unlikely.”

Mr Cowie is confident that enough investment has been made in new machinery to avoid serious problems. “This situation is more of an annoyance than a real internet-wide threat,” he said.

“Most routers in use today at midsize to large service providers, and certainly all of the routers that operate the core infrastructure of the internet, have plenty of room.”

Even so, a repeat of the problems could cost online retailers millions. Figures from the Official for National Statistics show that weekly internet retail sales averaged £729-million in June, accounting for 11.3 percent of all sales. - Daily Mail

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