The Trombone Effect, Explained


By Jayne MillerNov 8, 2016


No. This effect has nothing to do with a big parade.

The trombone effect - or just "tromboning" - attempts to categorize the curious, latency-causing path information might travel due to the hub-and-spoke nature of the internet.

In short: information doesn't always travel in a straight line. When content is hosted far away - even if it's produced within the building across the street - it will need to travel the exhaustive path to those faraway servers and back. 

There's actually a great example of the trombone effect in this recent piece about the local exchange of content in Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa has few data centers. Instead, many content providers in Africa host their content abroad because the cost to do so is much lower.

This content must still be delivered to Africa using international internet transit links. When most traffic is routed through Europe - even that website for a business down the street - it travels the trombone-like path in and out of Africa.

Unfortunately, this circuitous journey is known for increasing latency for the end-user. It's a phenomenon worthy of the sound produced by its namesake.


New call-to-action