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Researchers map out Netflix's servers across the globe

Netflix delivers a lot of video. Now researchers from Queen Mary University of London have mapped out where the servers that send out all of that data are located. 

Last year, the video streaming giant made up 37 percent of internet traffic (with similar numbers over the past few years), but it's been (sort of) unclear as to how it delivered that traffic so efficiently. 

Five researchers from QMUL's School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science attempted to figure it out by loading Netflix videos on university computers, localizing the requests to different regions with a browser extension, and then studying the traffic delivered by servers in those areas. 

Their results, compiled in a new paper, identified servers at 233 locations among six continents. They also found that in the United States — which the paper found creates the most Netflix traffic — there were many servers spread across the entire country. In Europe (with the exception of the UK, which also had widespread distribution), however, the servers are concentrated in just a few places.

Servers are much more sparse in areas with lower traffic. Brazil, for instance, was the only South American country where researchers found CDN servers operated by Netflix at IXPs, but is also the nation with the platform's fifth-highest level of traffic. (Taking second through fourth were Mexico, the UK and Canada.) 

"The study is important as it provides an insight into how today's internet works," Timm Boettger, one of the researchers, said in a statement. "The different deployment strategies observed are caused by inherent regional differences, forcing Netflix to adapt its strategy to ensure low movie start-up times and to avoid video stalling during playback."

For a company famed for its secrecy, its mechanisms and digital footprint just became a bit clearer. Now if Netflix could just improve service internationally. 

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