Wednesday, December 28, 2005

It's the Ends, not the Means

I recently wrote a about the nature of the internet. There's a middle ground between too much emotional reflex and too much analysis... and it's an unhappy valley in the middle... where that post landed.

Bob Betcalf wrote in 1998
to respond to the "Death" of the Internet:
As I tried to explain in New York, the Internet is distributed in several dimensions. And one of the Internet's beauties is that it can evolve separately at many points along these dimensions. And evolve it does.
As with any complex system, there are tradeoffs made. Those tradeoffs may become unacceptable with time as the costs that were balanced shift with economies of scale, new technologies, etc. Most of the problems people associate with the Internet are actually problems at the ends of the network, not the means.

Email, for example, was created to allow Academics to send documents to each other. The cost of authenticating the source of a message was considered prohibitive, so it was left out of the SMTP protocol. Now that we have an Internet that is no longer limited to an enthusiast audience, the cost of authenticating the sender is probably far less than allowing the protocol to remain unmodified. I expect some form of authentication to take hold in the next few years. This is one of the many facets of life touched on by the Indentity thread that Doc and others talk about on a regular basis.

The underlying network doesn't need to change to allow a new Email protocol. Just as with most other "problems" with the internet, it won't take a complete replacement to fix things, just work on the affected components.

Internet 2, and Web 2.0 might be nice labels for collecting innovations, but they are generalizations at best. A set of tags to help associate things with, but not specific enough to warrant being a standard.

Technology keeps getting better... if we can keep the uninformed away from policy, we're going to get more and more value from the Internet for many years to come.

Thank you for your time and attention.


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