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Matthew Prince (US) - 2012: The Road Ahead (Part 2)

2011 was a big year for the Internet; we saw its impact on the Egyptian political protests and the surge of consumers demanding Internet access while on the go. The big question is, what’s next? At CloudFlare, the web performance and security, we see a lot of traffic as it’s passing through our network, giving us the ability to make some big predictions for what to expect in 2012.

China Will Drive the Most Internet Traffic

Looking ahead to 2012, China will surpass the U.S. for the country driving the most traffic. There will be further growth in the International audience for 2012, especially for sites that take the easy extra steps to cater to it. There will also be a new entrant to the ABC big traffic club: Turkey. With a solid Internet infrastructure and a young, web-savvy population, the country has surged early in 2012 into one of the top sources of Internet traffic across our network.

Cyber Crime Gets Epic

Unfortunately, 2012 is likely to continue the trend of increasing attacks. Criminal organizations that had previously been able to make profits with spam email are finding their campaigns less effective in the face of better filters. This year they'll be searching for new ways to monetize their criminal Internet infrastructures. Denial of service and targeted hacking attacks are options we think they'll increasingly adopt. Moreover, the environment is ripe for political hacktivism. With hack attacks having proved themselves an effective way to get yourself on the cover of magazines, and the increased political pressure of a United States presidential election year, we see politically motivated attacks continuing to rise.

In 2012, every site should focus on having better protection and insight into their traffic in order to protect themselves and their customers.

Mobile Performance Will Be Top Priority

It's a no brainer to predict that the rise in mobile traffic will continue, but with this comes the rise in limitations of mobile platforms. While download speeds will rise with LTE and other modern networks, the current structure of the web which requires many connections to many different servers just to render a page doesn't play well in an environment where someone turning on their microwave can disrupt your mobile signal. More websites will turn to web performance optimizations tuned specifically to the characteristics of mobile devices in order to extract the maximum performance given their inherent limitations in 2012. From the other side, there will be more experiments like Amazon's Silk browser on its Kindle Fire devices that will try and reshape the underlying protocols of the web in order to get them to play well as they stream across the airwaves.

Ecommerce Will Have to Tackle Taxes, Innovate to Dominate

The year poses challenges for ecommerce. As more governments seek ways to generate revenue, the Internet is a tempting target for new taxes. In 2012, we will begin witnessing several states across the U.S. aggressively tax web sales. This means ecommerce sites will no longer be able to beat brick and mortar retailers just by providing a way to dodge sales tax, but will need to compete even more on service and the overall experience.

The year ahead will be a curvy, bumpy road for the Internet infrastructure, but a fun ride nonetheless.

This article is part two in a two-part series by Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of CloudFlare. Read part one here.

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