When Google buys something -- like YouTube -- it usually makes front-page news. That's why some Google watchers are intrigued by the company's extremely quiet purchase of miles and miles of dark fiber.
Dark fiber is high-speed fiber-optic networking cable that hasn't been switched on yet. Insiders say Google owns more dark fiber than any other organization in the world [source: Cringely].
What could a company like Google do with all of that extra wire? The short answer: It could actually hijack the Internet.
This is the doomsday scenario proposed by technology writer and columnist Robert X. Cringely. As more and more people use the Internet to download movies, TV shows, music and other media, Internet service providers (ISPs) will struggle to meet the increased bandwidth demands. Google, meanwhile, will use all of that dark fiber to build its own faster, more efficient version of the Internet. When ISPs reach their capacity, they will have no option but to route all of their traffic through Google.
"We won't know if we're accessing the Internet or Google and for all practical purposes it won't matter," Cringely wrote in 2007. "Google will become our phone company, our cable company, our stereo system and our digital video recorder" [source: Cringely].
Google representatives have a slightly less dramatic explanation for the dark fiber purchases. They simply want to use it to interconnect data centers located around the globe.
Google also partners with telecommunications companies like AT&T to borrow bandwidth on their nationwide networks. To make these arrangements work, Google has to route a lot of its traffic to specific remote "peering" locations [source: Sullivan]. That requires a lot of extra networking fiber as well.
"You see an article in the New York Times about how AT&T has bought more fiber, and their stock goes up," Google's Chris Sacca said in 2006. "Then there is the same article over here about how Google bought some fiber, and it's like 'Google is trying to take over the world.'" That doesn't seem to be the case -- at present.
Keep reading for links to lots more information on social networking.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Boggan, Steve. "Are we mad to let Big Brother Google to take over the world?" The Daily Mail. April 25, 2009 (June 23, 2009)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1173326/STEVE-BOGGAN-Are-mad-allow-Big-Brother-Google-world.html
- Carr, Nicholas. "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" The Atlantic Monthly. July/August 2008 (June 23, 2009)http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google
- Cringely, Robert X. "When Being a Verb is Not Enough: Google Wants to be YOUR Internet." PBS. January 19, 2007 (June 23, 2009)http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit_20070119_001510.html
- Garner, Rob. "Google Ups Share of Search to 72%; Yahoo, MSN and Ask Continue to Tank." Search Insider. March 11, 2009. (June 25, 2009)http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=101971
- Google Earth. "Data and Imagery: Age of satellite imagery and data" (June 23, 2009)http://earth.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=21414
- Google. "Investor Relations" (June 23, 2009)http://investor.google.com/fin_data.html
- Google Operating System. "Google's Market Share in Your Country." March 13, 2009. (June 25, 2009)http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2009/03/googles-market-share-in-your-country.html
- Grier, David Alan. "Google is Making You Dumber." BusinessWeek. (June 23, 2009)http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2007/05/google_is_makin.html
- Liedtke, Michael. "Google's Profit Falls for the First Time." The Huffington Post. January 22, 2009 (June 23, 2009)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/22/googles-profit-falls-for_n_160154.html
- Orlowski, Andrew. "Google founder dreams of Google implant in your brain." The Register (UK). March 3, 2004. (June 25, 2009)http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/03/03/google_founder_dreams_of_google/
- Polaine, Andy. "Google isn't making us dumb, but 'smart' is changing." Polaine.com. June 17, 2008 (June 23, 2009)http://www.polaine.com/2008/06/17/google-isnt-making-us-dumb-but-smart-is-changing/
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "Privacy and the Internet: Traveling in Cyberspace Safely" (June 23, 2009)http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs18-cyb.htm
- Rich, Motoko.. "Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?" The New York Times. July 27, 2008 (June 24, 2009)http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html
- Rosenblatt, Seth. "Street View throws Japan for a loop." CNET News. August 14, 2008 (June 23, 2009)http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10017303-2.html
- Sullivan, Mark. "Google: Dark Fiber Story Not So Dark." Light Reading. October 11, 2006 (June 23, 2009)http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=107080&WT.svl=news1_1
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