Video streaming service Netflix has revolutionised the way people watch TV and film. Now, the extent of its popularity has been truly revealed, with the news that it accounts for 15% of all web data today.

Bandwidth management company Sandvine identified video as the largest user of data across the world, collectively accounting for 58% of all downstream traffic. This comprised everything from Netflix to YouTube, as well as videos embedded within web pages. Much further behind in second place was web browsing on 17%, followed by gaming (7.8%) and social media (5.1%).

Though this may not be quite such a surprise to some (seeing as video streaming is more data intensive than loading the average webpage, for example), the sheer volume of Netflix traffic showed just how popular the service has become. What’s more, this figure only represents the average; during peak evening hours in the US, Netflix accounted for nearer 40% of all downstream data traffic.

That said, researchers noticed that internet diversity was increasing, and even though Netflix and YouTube remained by far the biggest players, many other localised services were making an impact on their relevant regions.

“There is an ever-growing number of other streaming providers capturing consumer screen time”, the report notes – before going on to suggest that trend is likely to increase further.

Video’s domination of the downstream data traffic is also set to grow over coming years. With the likes of 4K video becoming more prominent, streams of TV shows and films will become even more data intensive to display in this format, thereby giving it an even higher percentage still.

One challenge outlined by Sandvine concerned encryption. It found that more than half of web traffic was now encrypted, and the number is growing daily. Whilst this is undoubtedly a benefit for consumers, it poses a challenge for network operators, as they’re less able to understand the composition of traffic, which provides the valuable information they need to offer a quality service and solve any problems.

“With a higher percentage of traffic encrypted every day,” the report notes, “operators are struggling to gain a holistic view of their networks.”