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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Future Of The Internet

While the framework of governance continues to evolve there is a widespread belief that along with the growth of the internet, more and more problems such as spam, viruses and "denial of service" attacks that can cripple large websites shall begin to be felt. It seems reasonable to assume that the number of devices on the network will continue to multiply in new and unforeseen ways. So researchers are starting from the assumption that communications chips and sensors will eventually be embedded in almost everything, from furniture to cereal boxes - "hundreds of billions of such devices". While today's internet traffic is generally initiated by humans- as they send e-mails, click on web links, or download music tracks- in future, the vast majority of traffic may be "machine to machine" communications: things flirting with other things – all ready to be connected wirelessly, and will move around.

The Economist has a related article titled Reinventing the Internet. Asking the question if a can a “clean slate” redesign of the internet can ever be implemented.
Few solutions float around:
- One is “trust-modulated transparency”. The network's traffic-routing infrastructure shall judge the trustworthiness of packets of data as they pass by and deliver only those deemed trustworthy & dubious packets might be shunted aside for screening. The whole system would be based on a “web of trust”, in which traffic flows freely between devices that trust each other, but is closely scrutinized between those that do not.
- Another idea is a new approach to addressing, called “internet indirection infrastructure” - It would overlay an additional addressing system on top of the internet-protocol numbers now used to identify devices on the internet. This would make it easier to support mobile devices, and would also allow for “multicasting” of data to many devices at once, enabling the efficient distribution of audio, video and software. With Activenets or metanets, devices at the edge of the network could then dynamically reprogram all the routers along the network path between them to use whatever new protocol they wanted.
While the research is still on there some hopes of making some progress on the technical front – but It may well transpire that the greatest impediment to upgrading the internet will turn out to be political disagreements like this , this, over how it should work, rather than the technical difficulty of bringing it about.
The OECD hosted a workshop titled The Future of the Internet in Paris on 8 March 2006. Some of the presentations look good and a few of them make a compelling reading.

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