|WarXchild Says |
The father of the internet gave an after dinner speech at F2C, persevering through thunderous applause and the occasional comment to describe the next step in the process of evolution of his baby.
Vint Cerf?s Wednesday evening at the Freedom to Connect dinner concerned where the Internet should go in the future. Having designed TCP/IP, the protocol that ties it all together, he is the person to ask about the Internet?s future.
"My initial job was getting IP on everything," Cerf said. That's been done by now. IP is on every device from the smallest handheld to the largest supercomputer.
"Now we need IP under everything," he added. By this he meant that now that the computers are all connected, we need to make sure that every device can use and access any service or product available to any one device.
He admitted that some services may require special priority for latency, but promised to get back to that later in his speech.
A more immediate problem, he noted, is regulation. Regulation is focused on verticals, such as television, wireline, and cable. A more important distinction, he said, is between the different layers. "We want to allow competition at each layer. Also, transparency is an important principal. We do not want one layer controlling another. That's a layer violation."
A member of the audience suggested that layer violators be condemned to the "stacks."
P2P is fundamental
Persevering, Cerf said, "the concept of P2P was part of the original design of the protocol. It was not part of the protocol that preceded it, NCP, which was built on a client server architecture."
The P2P principal is key to the Internet's success. "P2P was built in on purpose. Although you need flow control to connect a handheld device on a GPRS connection to a supercomputer running on gigabit lines, they connect to each other."
"The innovation of P2P program designers is that they use a private protocol. They can choose any port number for any protocol," he added. "I'm ambivalent about this."
"Port 80 is kept open for HTTP on most firewalls. Skype uses a technique that looks like an attack on a firewall, looking for open ports, and it usually finds port 80 open. It's clever and it works, but it essentially trashes standards. On the other hand, it's an example of the end to end creativity that the protocol allows."
Creativity and innovation are the success of the internet. "People need to be able to innovate without the permission of ISPs," he said. "Skype, IM, Bit Torrent, *ster, they were not invented by the ISPs."
ISPs, he noted, probably do not want control over any layer, because with control comes responsibility. "I do not want to the editor or policeman responsible for what users send over the network, but I am interested in how users are using the Internet."
Cerf then talked about what's really traveling over internet pipes, referring to a study by Cambridge, UK-based CacheLogic (for more on this report, see our story, Company Releases Real World Data on File Sharing).
"Half of the traffic is Bit Torrent, and a lot of that may be video. It's symmetric. As a user downloads a piece of a file, that piece is made available to others. The effect is that a user is pushing as much traffic as they pull. This does a funny thing to companies that offer 'broadband service.' Cable modems are asymmetric. DSL is the same."
Legacy providers do not want to offer true, symmetric broadband. "Symmetric service is competing with higher priced DS-3 and T-1 service. There's a built in disincentive to create symmetric services, but as fiber capacities reach residential users, we will all want to push as much information as we pull. I'm not talking about people doing anything illegal. There's a pressure from the edge for symmetry in the internet."
Cerf urged attendees to think broadly. "We are accustomed, as Americans, to talking about the Freedom of Speech. But there's another important freedom, the freedom to hear. Speakers need listeners. Listening should not be prevented by legislation, regulation, or bad business practices."
In the Q&A session, Cerf noted that MCI is looking at QoS and debating whether the cost of charging for services and examining traffic would be more expensive than simply building more bandwidth. He noted that the call data records (CDRs) for MCI require 90 TB.
Asked if there's anything he'd have done differently, Cerf said he'd have implemented IPv6 instead of IPv4.
He also noted that end to end authentication would have prevented spam and some fraud problems, but that such authentication can be problematic, because you can authenticate the wrong thing at the wrong layer and thereby avoid solving your problem.
Asked what his platform would be when we decided to run for President in 2008, Cerf's first response was, "now I understand how politicians put their feet in their mouth with off the cuff remarks."
After some thought he said, "I don't have a platform. I would run on science. You need to make decisions based on science. If you try to build a wheel based on the assumption that pi is 3, because that's pretty good, you won't do a good job. You need all of pi, 3.14159, etc. You need all of science."
While thinking big, you also need to understand the importance of symmetry in the internet, and to avoid filters, whether it's your neighbor or your government trying to limit what you can hear.