Netflix, YouTube make up more than half of 'downstream' Internet traffic in North America

Netflix and YouTube made up more than half of all “downstream” Internet traffic in North America for the first time, while use of the BitTorrent protocol to access pirated material fell in the U.S. for the first time, suggesting a drop in illegal downloads.

BitTorrent’s share of North American Internet traffic fell from 31 percent five years ago to 7.4 percent of daily Internet traffic, according to a report in The Guardian of a study released Monday by broadband service company Sandvine.

Downstream traffic represents a greater percentage of Internet traffic because it is sent to the average home or office user, while upstream traffic is sent from a computer or network away from the user.

While Netflix saw a slight drop in primetime Internet hours, from a 32.25 percent to 31.6 percent share of downstream traffic between May and September, YouTube saw a slight increase from 17.11 percent to 18.69 percent.

BitTorrent, which is used by both pirated and legal services, has seen its share of total Internet traffic fall 20 percent in the last six months to 7.4 percent, according to The Guardian.

Ten years ago, when Sandvine began compiling its twice-yearly Global Internet Phenomena Report, BitTorrent traffic accounted for a whopping 60 percent of use.

But BitTorrent remains popular in Europe, where it represents more than half of all uploaded traffic.

“If this trend continues I think it can most likely be explained by the increase in legal alternatives people have in the United States,” Ernesto Van Der Dar, founder of news site TorrentFreak, told BBC News. “In Europe and other parts of the world, it’s much harder to watch recent films and TV shows on demand so unauthorised BitTorrent users continue to grow there.”

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Dan Nakaso Dan Nakaso (72 Posts)

Dan Nakaso returned home to San Jose to help tell the story of Silicon Valley and the people who keep the Valley humming.