Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Not remaking the internet

Security guru Ed Felten writes about the efforts to redesign and rebuild the internet:
It's folly to think we can or should actually scrap the Net and build a new one.

The Net is working very nicely already. Sure, there are problems, but they mostly stem from the fact that the Net is full of human beings -- which is exactly what makes the Net so great. The Net has succeeded brilliantly at lowering the cost of communication and opening the tools of mass communication to many more people.

Let's stop to think about what would happen if we really were going to redesign the Net. Law enforcement would show up with their requests. Copyright owners would want consideration. ISPs would want some concessions, and broadcasters. The FCC would show up with an anti-indecency strategy. We'd see an endless parade of lawyers and lobbyists. Would the engineers even be allowed in the room?

The original design of the Internet escaped this fate because nobody thought it mattered. The engineers were left alone while everyone else argued about things that seemed more important. That's a lucky break that won't be repeated.

The good news is that despite the rhetoric, hardly anybody believes the Internet will be rebuilt ... For better or worse, we're stuck with the Internet we have.
The temptation to attempt to rearchitect the internet is high. Spam dominates e-mail and clogs servers. Downloads of copyright materials are rampant. The internet is poorly suited to traffic that requires real-time guarantees, like VoIP or video, or to broadcast traffic like TV.

But the cure likely would be worse than the disease. When the internet was built, no one had a financial interest in meddling with the details. Now, many would see big profits if they can push for certain outcomes. A new internet would more likely be a sickly pile of legal goo than a product of good engineering.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And radio broadcasting should have been good enough that we didn't need television.