FYI: paper about Metcalfe's Law

Andrew Odlyzko odlyzko at
Wed Mar 2 21:20:58 PST 2005

Dear Colleagues,

Sorry for the spam, but I thought you might be interested in the
paper described below.  Comments are invited.


                     A refutation of Metcalfe's Law
                  and a better estimate for the value
               of networks and network interconnections

                            Andrew Odlyzko
                       Digital Technology Center
                        University of Minnesota
                            odlyzko at

                            Benjamin Tilly
                       ben_tilly at


Metcalfe's Law states that the value of a communications network
is proportional to the square of the size of the network.  It is
widely accepted and frequently cited.  However, there are several
arguments that this rule is a significant overestimate.  (Therefore
Reed's Law is even more of an overestimate, since it says that the
value of a network grows exponentially, in the mathematical sense,
in network size.) This note presents several quantitative arguments
that suggest the value of a general communication network of size n
grows like n*log(n).  This growth rate is faster than the linear
growth, of order n, that, according to Sarnoff's Law, governs the
value of a broadcast network.  On the other hand, it is much slower
than the quadratic growth of Metcalfe's Law, and helps explain the
failure of the dot-com and telecom booms, as well as why network
interconnection (such as peering on the Internet) remains a
controversial issue.

                           FULL PAPER AT:


--- end forwarded text

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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