Why Internet Speed Defines Modern Entertainment

Before the new millennium, the slow speed of the internet made online media experiences limited at best. Though the potential in certain sectors like video gaming had begun to shine through, integration into the greater media zeitgeist wasn’t really possible until the early 2000s. Since that point, the internet has become a dominant force in how we consume media, with speed acting as the driving force of what we can experience.

It’s been a long journey, one where we’re only just now achieving the potential laid out more than 20 years ago.

The Internet’s Journey

Though the first steps in creating the internet occurred in the 70s and 80s, it wasn’t until 1993 that the world wide web opened for everyone. At the time, the web’s infrastructure only allowed for a maximum speed of 56kbps, which wouldn’t arrive until 1996. Assuming a maximum speed (which was rarely attainable), this data rate would take just over 42 hours to download a one-gigabyte file. Of course, files this large were nearly non-existent at this time, with smaller and more common files around 10 megabytes only taking about 25 minutes at full speed.

While this low speed would make large file downloads untenable, the idea of a constant data flow quickly led to the genesis of video and audio streaming. This first instance of this was also in 1993 when a band called Severe Tire Damage utilised online technology to stream their performance to their nearby friends. Though the quality of this stream would be completely unwatchable by today’s standards, it demonstrates just how early the thought of extending existing media capabilities took place.

After the year 2000, the internet had reached mainstream consciousness. Though 56k had taken over, it was the new possibilities of broadband, backed by better supporting infrastructure, that meant that broadband’s dominance was just a matter of time. As prices dropped and technology improved, it was around 2005 that cabled systems like DSL took over. At this point, newer systems like 2Mbps DSL could manage a gigabyte download in not much longer than an hour. Supported wirelessly with 3G, the scope of the internet was becoming inescapable.

Towards 2020, new fibre connections and 5G had become the status quo. With home speeds of 1Gbps, this system again raises the bar over old speeds to a spectacular degree. Operating at gigabit speeds, a gigabyte file would download in eight seconds, 42 hours faster than 56k connections could.

Different Media, Different Advantages

Though the internet’s eventual takeover of the greater media universe is undeniable, not every development has been created equal. Instead, each type of media has seen different advantages based on the internet’s integration. Each form may take different paths, but each has also arrived at the same conclusion that online methods offer enough to dethrone the former mainstays.

In movies and television, better speeds have led to an exodus towards streaming services over traditional broadcast, satellite, and cable systems. Thanks to the greater flexibility allowed by computer software, these new streaming approaches have meant far greater choice and far lower costs than what was possible before high-speed internet.

Today, you can gain access to hundreds of movies with systems like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video for less than you would spend renting three movies 20 years ago. In television, streaming systems mean you no longer have to work around broadcast schedules, letting you engage whenever you want. Combined with the ability to watch from so many digital devices, older systems could never keep up

Similar advantages apply to music with services like Spotify and Tidal. With 5G and a mobile phone, music streaming today lets you listen to thousands of songs at a fraction of the cost that purchasing used to imply. Essentially, this lets users create their own radio stations without waiting through constant advertisements or DJs.

In interactive entertainment, it’s again the speed and convenience that shines through as a major reason why people are turning to online entertainment. Simple titles like board games are much faster to play online, as even slow internet connections grant instant access. The same is true for online casino games like Hyper Strike or Chicago Gold, which don’t require trips to a physical location or any additional setting up. Despite these games providing for many potential outcomes of a single click, often using random number generation to produce outcomes, the speed of the internet makes them run without fault. You can read more to get a wider look at what else is possible and see why online systems are the favoured options of many.

Implications for the Future

Ever since the arrival of the internet, the goal has been to eventually reach a point where waiting time was no longer a thing. Though large files transfers can still be an issue in some areas, when it comes to media, internet speed has now finally attained a level where instant access is achievable and easy.

With so many advantages over older approaches, the market continues to grow, and traditional methods continue to shrink. Provided market competition remains fair, this could lead to lower overall prices and better access for everyone, but such progress could also introduce additional challenges. For a long time, near-monopolies like Netflix and Spotify were the only ways to engage, meaning a centralisation of media within just a few services.

As the market expands, media availability begins to fracture, with certain titles being locked to certain services. In some instances, like board and casino games, shared licenses make this a positive development. In the case of television show exclusivity, this expansion has had negative effects on our wallets if we want to watch everything we used to.

Going into the 2020s, with the media sectors already so well integrated into the online space, the next few years are laying the groundwork for what could be many decades to come. Whether or not evolution will favour the side of the consumer or industry giants, that much remains to be seen.