The Future of the Internet
this paper describes, the architecture of the Internet has always been
driven by a core group of designers, but the form of that group has
changed as the number of interested parties has grown. With the success
of the Internet has come a proliferation of stakeholders - stakeholders
now with an economic as well as an intellectual investment in the network.
now see, in the debates over control of the domain name space and the
form of the next generation IP addresses, a struggle to find the next
social structure that will guide the Internet in the future. The form
of that structure will be harder to find, given the large number of
the same time, the industry struggles to find the economic rationale
for the large investment needed for the future growth, for example
to upgrade residential access to a more suitable technology. If the
Internet stumbles, it will not be because we lack for technology, vision,
or motivation. It will be because we cannot set a direction and march
collectively into the future.
Brief History of the Internet, Barry Leiner, Vinton Cerf, David
Clark, et al, 20 Feb 98.
Just as the Internet revolutionized
how the world accessed information and communicated through the 1990's, the
ongoing development in
speed, bandwidth, and functionality will continue to cause fundamental changes
to how our world operates for decades to come. Some of the major trends shaping
the future of the Internet are summarized below, along with extrapolated
- Globalism. The future of the Internet global distribution
of information and knowledge at lower and lower cost will continue to
lift the world community for generations to come. People will have access
to any information they wish, get smarter sooner, and be more aware of
the world outside their local environment. A better informed humanity
will make better macro-level decisions, and an increasingly integrated
world will drive international relations towards a global focus. Attachments
to countries will marginally decrease, and attachments to the Earth as
a shared resource will significantly increase.
- Communities. The future of the Internet communications
revolution is ongoing, now uniting communities as it recently united
networks. Not everything about the Internet is global; an interconnected
world is also locally interconnected. The Internet will increasingly
be used for communications within communities as much as across countries.
Local communities will organize in virtual space and take increasing
advantage of group communication tools such as mailing lists, newsgroups,
and websites, and towns and cities will become more organized and empowered
at the neighborhood level.
At the same time, communities will be as profoundly affected by the capabilities
the Internet is bringing to individual communications, providing individuals
in the once isolating city the ability to easily establish relationships with
others in their local area by first meeting in cyberspace. From hobby clubs to
political organizations to social networking, Internet applications will change
expectations of geographically oriented community organizations, and provide
increasingly wide choices to individuals who wish to participate in local communities
that share their interests.
- Virtual reality. The future of the Internet technological revolution
will continue to be made in man's image. Experiments with wide area voice
and video communications on the Internet began to be held in the early
1990's. Voice over IP (VOIP)
began to be used regularly for long distance voice communications in
2002. Internet video phones won't be far behind. With the continued doubling of
computer capability every couple of years, the ability of technology
to process the complex analog environment that humans live in -- "reality" --
will continue to increase, and will be increasingly integrated with the
Three dimensional graphics will become more sophisticated, and virtual reality
interfaces such as viewers and tactile feedback systems will become more realistic.
The technology will be applied to innovative ways to navigate the Internet's
information universe, for hyper-realistic gaming, and for group communications.
There will come a day when you will be able to have dinner with a group of friends
each in a different city, almost as though you were in the same room, although
you will all have to bring your own food.
Virtual reality applications will not only better and better reflect the natural
world, they will also have the fluidity, flexibility, and speed of the digital
world, layered on the Internet, and so will be used to create apparently magical
environments of types we can only now begin to imagine. These increasingly sophisticated
virtual experiences will continue to change how we understand the nature of reality,
experience, art, and human relations.
- Bandwidth. The future of the Internet growth in bandwidth
availability shows little sign of flattening. Large increases of bandwidth
in the 10 Mbps range and up will continue to be deployed to home users
through cable, phone, and wireless networks. Cable modems and telephone-based
DSL modems will continue to spread high speed Internet throughout populated
areas. High resolution audio, video, and virtual reality will be increasingly
available online and on demand, and the cost of all kinds of Internet
connections will continue to drop.
- Wireless. The future of Internet wireless communications
is the end-game. Wireless frequencies has two great advantages: (a) there
are no infrastructure start-up or maintenance costs other than the base
stations, and (b) it frees users to become mobile,
taking Internet use from one dimension to three. Wireless Internet networks
will offer increasingly faster services at vastly lower costs over wider
distances, eventually pushing out physical transmission systems.
The Internet's open TCP/IP design was originally inspired by
use of radio communications networks in the 1970's. The wireless technologies
experimented with in the 1990's were continually improved. By the early 2000's,
several technologies provided reliable, secure, high bandwidth networking that
worked in crowded city centers and on the move, providing nearly the same mobility
for Internet communications as for the cellular phone.
- Grids. The future of the Internet grid movement is
as inevitable as the spread of the Internet seems now. The connection
of thousands of computers on the Internet together to solve problems,
often called grid
computing, will continue to evolve and change many areas of human
endevour. In a large scale example of the connected Internet fostering
technological cooperation, un-used computer cycles from home users across
the world will be harnessed together to provide enormous reservoirs of
computer power for all sorts of purposes. Increasingly used for scientific
and engineering research, grids can create processing powerhouses far
larger than any one organization by itself.
- Integration. The future of the Internet integration
with an increasing number of other technologies is as natural as a
experimentation with notes. The Internet will become increasingly integrated
with phones, televisions, home appliances, portable digital assistants,
and a range of other small hardware devices, providing an unprecedented,
nearly uniform level of integrated data communications. Users will be
able to access, status, and control this connected infrastructure from
anywhere on the Internet.
One of the leading efforts to define the future of the next
generation Internet is the Internet2
project, which grew out of the transition of the NSFNET to
the Very High Speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS, vbns.net).
The vBNS supported very high bandwidth research applications, and was established
in 1995 as a cooperative agreement between MCI and the National