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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Google+ could kill broadband connections in (rural) UK!

Got my invite to Google + last night, and have spent a happy few hours unwrapping its presents - it's just like Xmas, but this is actually fun! However.....

This blog post can be read at

I spy a huge problem for anyone on a halfway crap broadband connection, or even the USC.

Google+, for those who don't know, is Google's next attempt at social networking like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and more all rolled into one, and right now it seems to be gathering fans and positive feedback from the limited number of people who have been let in on the first round of invites. The invite system has had to be closed down within just a few hours because of the massive demand, but many of the people already in are the hardcore early adopters who are putting this through its paces as I write.

So, I've played on it quite extensively over the last few hours, and Google are saying that so far only a few features have been rolled out - there is obviously much more to come. The one that I can see causing immediate problems for broadband is Hangouts.

Hangouts let you invite, at present, up to 10 people into a video, audio and chat room. Like Skype on steroids really. Judging by what Matt Cutts (he of Google fame) is saying in Robert Scoble's profile, there are plans to make Hangouts way more funky yet - more people, more features etc. All of these will require bandwidth at the user's end. Not only can you do video chats, but you can also group view YouTube videos and comment on them. And that's just for starters....Wait till people are in 5 hangouts at the same time; I had 7 open at one point to see how good my multi-tasking is (!) and the connection just couldn't cope, despite my pleas!

Bear in mind, I'm looking at this for clients at the moment and not for fun, then the possible business uses are endless. And hence the likely use of bandwidth is only ever likely to increase as Hangouts are broadened and functionality is added. Chuck it into a friends and family environment and the likelihood is that this could totally hammer bandwidth on your average so-called fast broadband connection in the UK, up and down.

Just because right now it only has a Youtube button doesn't mean that within days or weeks Google won't add "share your own video", "record this group" and multiple other possibilities. This means that, as of tonight, the USC is totally insufficient for the likely places that Google's social network is going. And the general feeling right now seems to be that Hangouts are going to be the 'must have' app that sees Google+ taking off.

Whilst Wave and Buzz fell at an early hurdle, it seems Google has learned from those mistakes and there is much in Google+ which gives early indications that Google have no intention of getting "social" wrong again. It would also seem that Google are going to use Google+ to force the fibre agenda forwards, and that anyone who hasn't worked out that Google need fibre to get everyone maxxing out on Google's time to get IT fast!

Facebook may well push an upgrade out quite quickly on the back of this - Facebook chat has been pretty shoddy to date, showing FB up as an almost analogue property. With Skype belonging to Microsoft, and Google launching chat and video on day one in Google+, Facebook seems to be a bit of an outsider at the moment on the VOIP and video front. But Facebook has a fair amount of clout and money and has undoubtedly been working on this for some time because it is a much-needed and wanted feature for any social network.

This video conferencing feature, plus the ability to group view and share videos will start to consume bandwidth. And those who cannot chat with at least 9 of their mates/colleagues/family members will inevitably feel left out. I don't yet have any info on the bandwidth that Hangouts consumes, but having tracked down quite a few of the Google development team in the last few hours, I hope an answer will be forthcoming quite shortly...


PhilT said...

Doesn't your system monitor show the amount of bandwidth you're using to track the effect of adding 1,2,3 etc to Hangout ?

Ctrl/Shift/Esc to get Task Manager then look at the Networking tab in windows or System Monitor resources tab in Linux

Cybersavvy UK said...

Had quite a lot on my plate at the time ;o), but will endeavour to repeat the multi-tasking experience later when I've connected up a new HD webcam to see how that works!

Somerset said...

Would be good to know what bandwidth is used!

chris said...

Agree Lins, this is going to put the cat among the pigeons for sure.
Currently even with my excellent connection I can hardly have a skype call with one of my daughters at once due to their limited access. One lives next door to a rural exchange and one lives in Manchester and can spit on the M25. Hardly notspots. I don't think it is going to be possible for the vast majority to hangout. Once I can get invites for them I will try it out, I am sure there will be a way I can measure it on a mac too Phil. I have some contacts with good connections so I will try it on them first. Its good to tell who has a decent connection when you skype call them. Most can't keep video up though voice is usually ok.

Somerset said...

Skype bandwidth:

Cybersavvy UK said...

The implication being, Somerset, that the vast majority of people who we try to have conversations with can't even access that level of connecivity in the UK?

I know I seriously struggle with Skype and can't even consider using video with it now, whereas when I was the only digital person in the village, it just about worked.

Anonymous said...

Not only rural UK where the connections won't cut it either.

As Chris points out, living in a big city like Manchester guarantees nothing from BT copper.

What I like about video hangout is how it does what and others were calling for a decade ago and more:

Break the network to force investment - video hangout will starkly expose the upload bottleneck present across the UK, which is a good thing.

Cybersavvy UK said...

Did a test tonight with 5 people around the world. It's pulling over 1Meg with only 4 webcams running.

Hangouts seem to have some neat features to reduce load and noise eg the webcams alternate between whoever is speaking in the main pane, with everyone's webcam showing far smaller below.

Cybersavvy UK said...

Tried with 8-9 people too. Rarely went over 6% but there were issues with the server at Google's end. This is after all a field trial still and they will obviously throw far more resource at this once it opens to a wider public. Which will not be yet, judging by the Google+ dev discussions. Far better than anything I have seen with Ning and Skype with only one or two people.

Next test will be over the mobile connection in one of the 3G laybys which Cumbria has in Upper Eden (patchy as hell despite the 3G maps saying we are surrounded by the stuff!).

PhilT said...

If someone lives next door to a rural exchange and can't run Skype they've picked the wrong retailer and/or product.

I saw this last week where a 7616 sync connection 300m from the exchange ran at 150 kbits/s at 4pm - Utility Warehouse reselling Tiscali now run by Talk Talk.

Same with the pub here - can't stream iPlayer in the pub, walk 60m home and get 10 times the bandwidth for the same sync speed. Pub on Tesco provided by NTL / Virgin cheap and oversold.

BDUK won't be addressing any of these issues, not the many people still on their original 576/288 or 1152/288 connections from when ADSL arrived.

PhilT said...

"one lives in Manchester and can spit on the M25"

Impressive !

chris said...

She's with BT Phil.
and she's been through all the syncing stuff many times with them. Its a new build house and new wires from exchange. I guess she's getting throttled somehow, or they just keep cutting it down for some reason. OR it could be that now many folk are online the little exchange can't cope?

Somerset said...

And there is the issue of dodgy home wiring. I improved a 600k connection to 3M by moving the router.

yourpennamehere said...

Do we know what outgoing speed(upload speed) g+ hangout uses in sd and hd?

PhilT said...

An overloaded exchange is a possibility though they usually get fixed in due course. I have found several people on 576/288 connections and persuading call centre plankton of that is a nightmare.

She needs to go through it with someone who knows what they're talking about !

chris said...

been there, done that Phil, don't you remember? you helped me with it in 2005. we tried everything. She moved after that, into a new build house on the same exchange, new phone number and still the same issue.