Why Should We Expect A Rebuilt Internet To Work Any Better?

from the a-centrally-planned-internet dept

Researchers associated with various universities and government-backed initiatives are exploring the idea that the existing internet should be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up. Right off the bat, it seems pretty safe to say that our current internet infrastructure, which has billions upon billions invested into it, isn’t going to be dismantled, and the researchers involved with these projects almost certainly realize that. Still, these studies are interesting from an academic perspective, and because they may influence future build-outs in some way. Those who are in favor of a clean start point to a number of different areas where the internet could be made better. Security is obviously a big one, and many of the different plans explore ways of building more security directly into the infrastructure of the internet. They also point to the rise of the mobile internet as something that the original internet researchers never conceived of, and thus didn’t account for. As one professor puts it, in light of how much things have changed, “It’s sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today.” That sentiment, of course, would seem to betray the whole thing, since the internet does work well, despite it undergoing radical changes over the years.

The whole question sounds analogous to the debate between free markets and central planning. If you believe that complex systems need a high level of planning in order to work, it would seem miraculous that a free market system could remain relatively stable and efficient. But history has shown that, if anything, it’s the centrally planned economies that more often go haywire. Perhaps the internet question should be turned around: why should we trust that a rebuilt internet, that was designed to fix the problems that we can imagine today, would be able to accommodate completely unforeseen issues that arise 40 years down the road?

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Comments on “Why Should We Expect A Rebuilt Internet To Work Any Better?”

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Yet Another anonymous coward says:

As an old fart on the Internet

I had a connection before CERN brought up the 1st web server, and I’ve seen a lot of the development of the Internet.

Little has been long-term planned in this environment. It has been built ad-hoc layer upon layer, until now you don’t even recognize the original intent.

How many have ever used the command line to download a file by FTP?

How many remember e-mail was supposed to be only text, that binary attachments was a later proposition? Could you imagine how many security problems would go away if e-mail was text only?

Let me also barf on this idea from another point: Please name for many ANY large IT project with major planning that has produced a usable product. Vista is selling in dribbles. XP was only accepted after the public flogged MS into fixing their misconceptions of what people needed.

The FBI’s database project failed miserably.

Let’s instead try a different approach: KISS

g says:

Re: As an old fart on the Internet

I respect that you’ve been on the internet for a long time, and have seen a lot of things.

But your assertion that the internet is layers upon layers of stuff is not true.

The internet is simply a bunch of circuits moving bits, and formatting them into IP packets. The packet has a small header (20 bytes minimum) and stuff goes inside.

Reliable transmission, which most people use almost exclusively except for VOIP and a few other things that stream, is another small packet inside the IP packet.

This is not convoluted and not crufty. It’s elegantly simple, and it’s scaled incredibly well. Most of the changes have been in routing algorithms, and they all work nicely.

IPv6 was already an attempt at over-thinking the problems of IPv4, and one of the reasons it hasnt caught on is that besides providing more address space, almost every feature they added into the protocol is done BETTER with the things built on top of IPv4 to change the problems.

We will only migrate to IPv6 because of Asia coming online, and needing more IP addresses. All the smarty pants additional features pretty much suck in the real world compared with the normal ways we figured out how to do things with IPv6.

KISS is indeed the proper way to do things, and the world is rife with over-engineered crap that doesnt work.

Luckily those people arent allowed to build the bridges we drive cars over, but they can teach CS at prestigious universities.

Xenohacker@hotmail.com says:


If someone proposed a new internet today… it would have to be called the governet not the internet. It would be as worthless as the one they are trying to propose now. Like I said if they do come up with anything that is applicable it will be stolen. One of many reasons for internet popularity is how little control any one group can have over it and that includes governments. Many groups keep trying to control it but its only a matter of time before they discover great opposition from all sides and a total lack of control. See they are trying to tame a wild animal (a democratically run internet) and it makes me happy when they get their hands bitten off…

Buzz says:

I'm all for a rebuild!

There are obvious, huge drawbacks to just ripping up the current Internet infrastructure in favor of an upgrade, but I have always believed a major upgrade is necessary sooner or later. Even before I heard about Stanford’s Clean Slate program among other ideas, I felt the current Internet needed a revamp. It has reached the point to where, if you think of the Internet as a pair of pants, there are sooo many patches (upgrades, fixes, tweaks, etc.) that you can’t even see the core material anymore (the denim is completely hidden by the off-colored various fabrics of patches).

Yes, that was a rather off-the-wall analogy, but it’s really how I saw it in my mind. I just feel it is time to produce a new pair of pants with a new material that combines the strengths of the various patch jobs. Ironically, both pants and software perform (and look) better and are stronger when implemented with native support of the upgrades.

That is my 2 cents… probably all it’s worth too. LOL!

Tom O'Leary (user link) says:

Who would you call to fix technology?

“University Researchers” would be better off trying to get university websites up to speed with the rest of the Internet. Imagine leaving .edu’s to plan Internet infrastructure when they can’t even develop good websites with the existing infrastructure and technology that is available to them. They should just continue publishing their theoretical works, which this is a good example of. Academia certainly has it’s place in our society, but more often than not, it doesn’t have much to do with reality.

Ditto for the government and .gov sites. Actually, they would probably make a good team if convolution is the goal.

Xenohacker@hotmail.com says:

Educated Idiots

“University websites have nothing to do with the technical genius of the people pondering how to improve the internet. get aclue”

If they are such technical geniuses they could at least design a web site… These university geniuses sound like “educated idiots” maybe they need a couple years in their field actually working with technology and less time sitting around thinking about how smart their ideas are. As a person with multiple degrees. I understand that design and implementation are not always in alignment. Maybe that is what they need a head alignment. They need to compare their designs with reality… 😛

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Educated Idiots

they have better things to do than make a damn university website which is marketing, business, and bureaucracy driven rather than in the least bit technical. you get a clue, also. seriously, proposing that compsci and engineering profs make the university website is about the biggest joke I’ve ever heard on techdirt. hint: theyre inventing routing protocols, not learning css and ajax

theevocater says:

Last time I checked...

universities were critical in creating the internet in the first place. And anyone who thinks that what universities have nothing to do with reality needs to get a fresh look at reality themselves. Sure the applied math of the early 20th century did not look important… but how do you think computers came about? Computers are the result of thousands upon thousands of math and engineering research.

theevocater says:


They don’t design the websites because they don’t have the time to design websites. They have to teach multiple classes and do research. Of course, I’m sure that leaves plenty of time to design a website which 1000’s of students will use to get information about all of their classes, events and register for classes. Silly me.

Quetwo says:

Re: Websites

Most researchers don’t do anything with their own websites; this is typically left to secretaries or student interns. Why would somebody who is a highly-paid, highly-skilled researcher do their own website? It would be like an engine mechanic working for Ford making the http://www.ford.com website.

On another note, there is no real connection between how good a website looks, and how solid a product or bit of research is behiend the website. Think of some of the most god-awful website that we are forced to go to, all because a particular company or open-source group has a product that we want or need.

Robb (profile) says:

Special Interests

When the internet got started no one understood the goldmine and threat that it would become. If we restart the internet large corporate and government interest understand the threat and potential of the internet.

The RIAA will demand DRM everywhere. The government will ask demand the ability to monitor and control it. All existing business models will seek to make sure that it can’t upset them in the future.

If we want a better internet we need to evolve it in parts as a community effort. Community wireless is a step in this direction and ISP’s, cable and telephone companies have lobbied to stop it.

The new internet will have to be a democratic effort in the face of special interest opposition.

Reed says:

Re: Special Interests

“If we want a better internet we need to evolve it in parts as a community effort. Community wireless is a step in this direction and ISP’s, cable and telephone companies have lobbied to stop it.”

Yes community is the most important thing. This is where the NEW internet should start, with the people who actually use it.

I already see this new idea failing because they are coming at the internet with professional paradigms. This type of vertical communication belays the very point of the internet to begin with. You have to start with everyone to begin with, not just your cronies and special interest groups.

“The new internet will have to be a democratic effort in the face of special interest opposition.”

I agree, I see several internet-like systems designed by the people emerging as competition to the Internet. The one net to rule them all concept is a dumb idea when it takes only one legislator/provider to press the red button and end any part of it they feel like.

Just like open source has taught us, we the people can own something that is real together. This is a public good that cannot be exhausted and continues to grow as it is used.

Sound familiar? Yep, its called community. Thats what makes the Internet special and it is the next major upgrade for the Internet.

Duane M. Navarre says:

Internet Rebuild

$200 Billion USD of taxpayer money was given to the
Telcos for the supposed internet rebuild, and it was
squandered and pilfered:



The Internet as we know it does need some major changes in a few areas. The Core routers should
all be optical routing, and I am tempted to say
even 2nd tier, due to its near zero latency.

The other shift I would make is IPv6 due to NAT
making a lot of things not work properly.

Security is more an issue for the clients, the Internet
itself is just a conduit for data some more security
comes with IPv6.

Also I would say as much as possible, phase out
Asynchronous data protocols like ATM, and move
towards synchronous communications like SONET.

SONET already has a lot of the backbone, ATM is
just cheaper, and its cheaper for a reason.

Peer routers that are overloaded and have high
traceroute values should be required to be upgraded.

A LOT of ISPs are cheaping it, and not upgrading some
of their overloaded gateway infrastructure, and
they use piracy as their primary reasoning.

I think what it will take to break the monopolies is
ISP Cooperatives, Net Access by the ppl for the
ppl as a non-profit with contractors rolling it out
via dark fiber and bypassing the greedy blood sucking
telcos once and for all.

If the third world can have better GSM2 cell phones
for less than what we pay it is just greed.


Xenohacker@hotmail.com says:

Educated Idiots: Part II

I have EE and CS degrees and I will say that from my experience. A person unable to grasp the simplicity of css and ajax should not be contemplating the creation of new routing protocols. They say people that can not do… teach. I am glad I struck a nerve… with some of the educated idiots.

Xenohacker@hotmail.com says:

Educated Idiots: Part II

You make your education look pretty inadequate if during your education you did not choose to learn the basics of web site creation of your own free will and now attempt to defend your lack of knowledge. See knowledge without the ability to apply it is worthless. Even if you are a Ph.D. I would say your education was just about worthless if you do not have a thorough enough knowledge of your field to create a proper web site. You might be very educated but you’re still an idiot. I see idiots like you all the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Educated Idiots: Part II

You demonstrate your ignorance of the breadth of the field and the time necessary to acquire the depth of expertise that these people have by proposing that making proper web sites is anywhere on their lifetime agenda. It is a shame that your exposure to computing is so limited that all you can think of are ($#@$ing web pages. Theyre not the center of the universe, its not a lingua franca, and its not a necessary skill. Come back and talk to me when youve seen algorithms geniuses that can’t even code, or operating systems experts who can’t change their mouse speed in Windows, so I know that you have experienced more of the gamut of eccentricity. But you might have a tough time finding those guys in a junior college.

Tom O'Leary (user link) says:

Rebuilding. It's what we do.

This money would be better spent rebuilding our health care and education systems in practical ways.

The Internet is not a US-controlled commodity. As a matter of fact, the presumption that some university researchers and the US government has the authority to do so is simply arrogant and misguided. The US has fewer Internet users (233m) than do Asia (399m) or Europe (315m). Can you imagine how difficult it would be to achieve any sort of international consensus regarding new standards for a centralized Internet strategy? We can’t even agree on basic local issues in towns and cities across the nation.

This is simply further evidence of our penchant for ‘rebuilding’ things that aren’t ours in the first place.

Bira Rai (user link) says:

learn from the past

“wisdom of crowds” sound familiar, that’s the evolution of the internet. The founding fathers of the internet, created it to be be free and highly adaptable. Email is the greatest, scalable and extensible application ever build to this day.

The free market built the internet, the free market will take care of adapting and changing it to suite societies needs. The free market has brought the internet this far why not let the free market dictate it’s evolution in the future.


Yet Another anonymous coward says:

Rebuild? Here's what we need...

1. TV Networks record new episodes for micropayment downloads or streaming.
2. VoIP phone system.
3. Delivery to my home by power lines or my choice of cellular provider at a reasonable price.

Then I’ll tell the phone and cable monopolies what they can do with their networks, watch CSI when I want to, and not be bothered by my local broadcaster degrading my HD images to NTSC because they feel they need to put up a weather map in the corner, and they can’t produce an HD signal locally.

I already listen to radio over the Internet, and get my news that way too.

wacko92 says:

Uneducated input

I don’t claim to be the most educated of people, but I will say this, as a person that has years of practical experience scripting and of course fiddling with the internet, I can say that a change would be good. Good for who you might ask, well good for the larger corporations that would have a chance to get an earlier start this time around. It would benefit them greatly, but it would also hinder much of the established businesses that are currently web based.
I’ll speak in terms of a realist. The majority of businesses on the web right now are that of the adult industry. Any changes made would have a direct impact on their business model. They have a somewhat anonymous business model that is slightly harder to track unless the “client” uses a credit card.
Any extra security or other forms of client registration would practically kill this anonymity, and thus drastically injure the current largest single industry on the web.
Now I’m not saying that the shear number of these sites hasn’t gotten slightly out of hand, but that’s the beauty of the current model “limitless expansion”.
Once this becomes a regulated process the so called innovation and expansion that the proprietors of this new internet are suggesting will happen will be drastically decreased. Not only on the adult side but also websites like youtube, myspace and the like. The more restrictions there are on innovation the harder it is to come up with new and creative ideas.

Now I’ve also had the chance to work directly with IPv6 Development teams and from what I’ve seen its a huge leap in the right direction. IMO a better and more suitable fix to the internet problems right now, than a complete overhaul.

Now as for the people working on the overhaul, I don’t blame them. Again with the whole idea of innovation in perspective, then why not? As long as its not forced on people why not just have both running side by side. I remember seeing something on techdirt on this topic earlier on and I personally feel that that would be the ideal situation for many people, so at least that way the “democratic process” that some of you on here were talking about, wouldn’t be removed.

Now I might be talking out of my A$$ but that’s just my opinion.

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