The diversified range of new products being built and provided by Google now make the company accountable for nearly quarter of all internet traffic, up from a mere 6% just three years ago, according to a new study.
Based on measurements of end device and audience share, that makes the internet company's reach larger than Facebook, Netflix and Twitter combined, according to Deepfield, a Big Data and internet infrastructure research firm.
Some 60% of all internet end devices exchange traffic with Google servers during the course of an average day, said Deepfield, which conducted the ongoing study. The analysis includes computers and mobile devices as well as hundreds of varieties of game consoles, home media appliances and other embedded devices like Apple TV, Roku, Xbox 360 and mobile apps.
The data focus primarily on North America and cover roughly one-fifth of the US consumer internet, making it "the largest ongoing study of its kind," the group said.
Deepfield co-founder Craig Labovitz attributed the meteoric rise in traffic patterns to server growth at Google as well as the success of a range of products such as YouTube, which the company bought for $1.65 billion in 2006, Android-based mobile devices and various Google cloud services like Google Drive.
Only Netflix has larger bandwidth, Deepfield claims, but Netflix peaks last for only a few hours each evening during prime time hours and during Netflix cache update periods in the morning.
"The odds are, if you have an internet-connected device, at the end of the day it will be exchanging information with a Google server," Labovitz said.
Google, for instance, has seen serious growth in its Android mobile operating system since its launch in 2008. At the company's I/O developers conference in May, executives reported that the Android OS had 900 million users.
"While it is old news that Google is big, the sheer scale and dominance of Google in the internet infrastructure has significant implications on network design and evolution," Deepfield said.
The results, Labovitz said, speak to the growing trend of not just Google, but other major technology companies like Facebook, Netflix and Apple either building out their own networking infrastructure or relying on the hosting services of other companies like Amazon's S3 cloud hosting.
The rise in Google's presence online is strongly linked with the deployment of thousands of Google servers in internet providers around the world, Deepfield said.
Growth of the company's Google Global Cache (GGC) dedicated server programme in the US in particular is an important factor in the trends - Deepfield's last large-scale study in 2010 only revealed GGC deployments mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Google's GGC programme is designed to let network operators and internet service providers deploy a small number of Google servers inside their network to serve popular Google content, like YouTube.
"GGC can be located anywhere in an operator's network to maximise savings in backbone and transit bandwidth," Google says. While rates vary depending on the unique consumption patterns of each operator's network, typically between 70% and 90% of Google cacheable traffic can be served from GGC, the company claims.
Google operates data centres in South Carolina, Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Oregon.
Deepfield's results are based on an ongoing analysis of anonymised internet backbone traffic across a large cross section of North America and multiple collaborating infrastructure and internet providers.
The group's findings, however, may be a tad high, said Brad Casemore, an industry analyst with IDC. "I suspect the numbers are not an entirely accurate representation of Google's proportion of internet traffic," he said. However, "that is not to say that Google and other hyper-scale cloud purveyors are not accounting for a growing percentage of internet traffic," he added.
"As consumers, startups, small businesses, and enterprises of all sizes increasingly leverage cloud services, from Google and from other hyper-scale players, we can expect these entities to account for a growing percentage of overall internet traffic, though the exact proportion at any given moment will be difficult to ascertain," Casemore said.