Internet Black Holes – “the myth”

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I saw a YouTube video the other day that claimed that there are “internet black holes” that swallow data, never to be seen again. The host of the video claimed “data can’t be destroyed – this is a fact”. I can only assume this tool does not even understand the most basic concepts of TCP/IP networks.

Packets (or data transmissions over a network) have a TTL value associated with them. TTL stands for “time to live” and the value indicates how many hops (or router-to-router relays) a given packet can travel before it is dropped by the network. You can see the TTL by typing ping 127.0.0.1 at the command prompt of your computer and looking at the reply responses.

I’ll provide a simplified example of what happens to these packets for those who may be interested. Sometimes a network outage can cause the routers within it to get confused on how to route packets to their destination (especially if they are using a primitive routing protocol). Router A receives a packet and thinks the best way to deliver it to its destination is to send the packet to Router B. Router B thinks it should send the packet to Router C, and router C thinks its best route it to send the packet back to Router A. The packet will continue to travel along this route until the TTL value is reached, and the packet is dropped from the network. There really is no devilry, voodoo or unexplained phenomena going on there.

It was even more hilarious when the host made the conspiratorial claim that there could be a store of all these lost packets somewhere on the internet that could someday be discovered… As if they were delivered to a default storage server or something. People really need to do their research before posting YouTube videos on subjects that they do not possess even the slightest knowledge about.

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