Time to scrap the Internet?
Although it has already taken nearly four decades to get this far in building the Internet, some university researchers with the federal government's blessing want to scrap all that and start over. The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a "clean slate" approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on September 2, 1969. The Internet "works well in many situations but was designed for completely different assumptions," said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. "It's sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today."
Even Vinton Cerf, one of the Internet's founding fathers as co-developer of the key communications techniques, said the exercise was "generally healthy" because the current technology "does not satisfy all needs." One challenge in any reconstruction, though, will be balancing the interests of various constituencies. The first time around, researchers were able to toil away in their labs quietly. Industry is playing a bigger role this time, and law enforcement is bound to make its needs for wiretapping known .....
A new network could run parallel with the current Internet and eventually replace it, or perhaps aspects of the research could go into a major overhaul of the existing architecture. ... And it could take billions of dollars to replace all the software and hardware deep in the legacy systems. Clean-slate advocates say the cozy world of researchers in the 1970s and 1980s doesn't necessarily mesh with the realities and needs of the commercial Internet ....
The Internet's early architects built the system on the principle of trust. Researchers largely knew one another, so they kept the shared network open and flexible - qualities that proved key to its rapid growth. But spammers and hackers arrived as the network expanded and could roam freely because the Internet doesn't have built-in mechanisms for knowing with certainty who sent what. The network's designers also assumed that computers are in fixed locations and always connected. That is no longer the case with the proliferation of laptops, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices, all hopping from one wireless access point to another, losing their signals here and there. [source]
There is something nostalgic about the early development of the Internet and the WWW - probably that it wasn't sponsored by McDonald's and Coca-Cola. (That came later.) I find similarities between early Internet development and the Open Source movement.
I am not disagreeing, of course, that malicious and illegal activities take place via the Internet which would ideally be avoided with a better system of policing. However, what I envision happening here is a further commercialization and corporate exploitation of the Internet, not just in its content, but in the actual technological infrastructure. Couple this with enhanced Patriot-Act-esque policing tactics, and what's the result? A hyper-secure network closer to the ideals of sharing and trust that the original 'Internet' sought to construct? A perfectly executed system capable of connecting and exchanging information quickly, easily and safely? Will we finally achieve the utopian expectations that the Internet has long since promised to fulfil?
Or will billions upon billions of dollars be spent setting up a new playground for pre-teen hackers and nameless, faceless criminals?
I am genuinely interested in seeing if this plan works. Of course, if its future depends on (US?) governmental funds as this article suggests, I'll never get the chance.
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