The Internet: is it Time to Start Over? - More Issues, and Moving Forward
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With so many more people using the Internet for purposes it wasn’t originally intended, workarounds had to be devised. Engineers created firewalls and other forms of security so that sensitive information could be passed safely. This permitted the birth of e-commerce and online banking. Other technologies were put in place to mark who sent what, but hackers and spammers continued to find ways of outwitting them.
Workarounds were also put in place to support mobile connections to the web. Nick McKeown, co-director of Stanford’s clean slate program, thinks that these workarounds “can work quite well if a small fraction of the traffic is of that type.” How long the mobile Internet will make up a small fraction of the whole is an open question.
After all, it’s not just the executives and heavy business travelers that use mobile Internet connections anymore. The phrase “mobile Internet connection for laptop” yields nearly two million hits in Google…and “mobile Internet for fun” yields more than 77 million hits (both phrases without quotes). While I have seen no formal studies or surveys yet, it seems as if more people are connecting to the Internet on the go not just for work, but for fun – checking personal e-mail, blogging, chatting, and writing the Great American Novel (and posting it to online writers' workshops), to say nothing of pursuing other hobbies. That kind of usage helped grow the Internet in the first place, and it’ll help grow mobile use of the network as well. Suddenly that “small fraction” doesn’t look as if it’s going to stay that way.
The fact remains that people are going to keep dreaming up new uses for the Internet that stretch its capabilities. To point to one example I hinted at in the previous section, some emergency applications will be able to do a world of good – but may not be possible on the Internet as it stands today. To quote the Associated Press on the subject, “Think of a doctor using teleconferencing to perform a surgery remotely, or a customer of an Internet-based phone service needing to make an emergency call. In such cases, even small delays in relaying data can be deadly.”
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