Networks: Friends, Money and Bytes

Christopher Brinton

Mung Chiang

  • Professor of Electrical Engineering

You pick up your iPhone while waiting in line at a coffee shop. You google a not-so-famous actor, get linked to a Wikipedia entry listing his recent movies and popular YouTube clips of several of them. You check out user reviews on Amazon and pick one, download that movie on BitTorrent or stream that in Netflix. But suddenly the WiFi logo on your phone is gone and you're on 3G. Video quality starts to degrade, but you don't know if it's the server getting crowded or the Internet is congested somewhere. In any case, it costs you $10 per Gigabyte, and you decide to stop watching the movie, and instead multitask between sending tweets and calling your friend on Skype, while songs stream from iCloud to your phone. You're happy with the call quality, but get a little irritated when you see there're no new followers on Twitter. You may wonder how they all kind of work, and why sometimes they don't.

Take a look at the list of 20 questions below. Each question is selected not just for its relevance to our daily lives, but also for the core concepts in the field of networking illustrated by its answers. This course is about formulating and answering some of these 20 questions.

  1. What Makes CDMA Work for My Smartphone?
  2. How Does Google Sell Ad Spaces?
  3. How Does Google Rank Webpages?
  4. How Does Netflix Recommend Movies?
  5. When Can I Trust an Average Rating on Amazon?
  6. Why Does Wikipedia Even Work?
  7. How Do I Viralize a Youtube Video?
  8. How Do I Influence People on Facebook?
  9. Can I Really Reach Anyone in 6 Steps?
  10. Does the Internet Have an Achilles' Heel?
  11. Why Do Mobile Carriers Charge Me $10/GB?
  12. How Do I Save on Each GB?
  13. How Does Traffic Go Through the Internet?
  14. Why Doesn't the Internet Collapse Under Congestion?
  15. How can Skype and BitTorrent be free?
  16. What's Inside the Cloud?
  17. Which Way to Watch Video on the Internet?
  18. Why is WiFi Faster at Home Than at Hotspot?
  19. Why Am I Only Getting 3% of the Cellular Speed?
  20. Is It Fair that My Neighbor’s iPad Downloads Faster?

Course Status

In Session

What Learners Say

"I wanted to thank you for the great work you put into this course. I have learned a lot more than I had expected. I am going to utilize what I learned here to build my next successful business & utilizing social media. Thank you and I am looking forward to taking more courses with you in the future!" -Seth

"It is really a exceptional course which illustrates networking problems and answers with real life examples."