The Internet: is it Time to Start Over?
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The Internet is approaching 40 years old, and like many living things reaching middle age, it is beginning to show signs of wear. It is now being put to uses which its creators never envisioned. Can we count on it to keep expanding, or should we consider starting over with something else?
In fact, there are a number of university projects currently receiving government funding with that idea in mind. The teams leading these projects believe that we need to start over with a clean slate. They point to the original assumptions that were built into the Internet when it was ďbornĒ in late 1969 and insist that they no longer apply. In fact, they hold us back from making the kinds of changes that can address issues such as spam, botnets, and other problems, to say nothing of handling some of the newer technologies so that users will get the most out of them.
ďItís sort of a miracle that it [the Internet] continues to work well today,Ē observed Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor involved with three different clean slate projects. Rutgers is only one of the many organizations working on these kinds of projects. Other universities pursuing them include Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A number of government agencies are also either researching clean slate projects, funding them, or both. The National Science Foundation is building a clean slate project, and funding several others through Future Internet Network Design, or FIND. The U.S. Department of Defense is researching it as well. The European Union has a program in the early stages that examines and funds clean slate initiatives. Itís called Future Internet Research and Experimentation, or FIRE, and met recently in Zurich.
Donít expect these programs to produce major results immediately. The Internet may grow and develop incredibly fast, but research takes time, and it could be a decade or two before we see anything that will affect us. Even if it takes a while, itís bound to be more up-to-date and able to cope with the current realities of the Internet than what we have now.
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