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April 14, 2007 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Researchers are exploring the idea of scrapping the Internet and starting over with a Clean Slate. Stanford researchers say the 'Net could be a whole lot better, if it were rebuilt from the ground-up. They say that their research complements that of the National Science Foundation's Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) effort to build a better network research platform, as well as the Future Internet Network Design (FIND) program for developing new Internet architectures.
posted by ericb (68 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's wrong with the Web?
posted by ericb at 5:07 PM on April 14, 2007




I'm sure there would be no hidden agendas in a new internet.
posted by pwedza at 5:09 PM on April 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


Will zombo.com still be on the new version?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:09 PM on April 14, 2007 [6 favorites]


Ahem. "Imminent death of the Internet predicted. Film at 11."
posted by davy at 5:13 PM on April 14, 2007


If this means bigger tubes, I'm all for it.

And will someone please make an 'OVERTHINKING THE INTERNETS' comment?
posted by AwkwardPause at 5:13 PM on April 14, 2007


Well, that's kind of bizzare. New technologies are rolled out all the time on the 'net. IPv6, for example. It makes a lot of sense to layer secured communications systems on top of the regular internet.

I think any attempt to re-create the internet today would lead to far to many (government) hands in the cookie jar and result in a huge mess.
posted by delmoi at 5:16 PM on April 14, 2007


I've learned not to study these kind of projects; their progress is measured in decades.
posted by jouke at 5:22 PM on April 14, 2007


Well if it leads to greater privacy and anonymity I'm all for it.
posted by bobo123 at 5:25 PM on April 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


I was thinking of posting about this yesterday or the day before, emphasizing the following (from the FPP's first link):

"These clean-slate efforts are still in their early stages, though, and aren't expected to bear fruit for another 10 or 15 years — assuming Congress comes through with funding."

10 or 15 years, maybe, if the U.S. Congress spends the American taxpayers' money on it -- and not, say, another domestic police state project or colonial conquest adventure. I won't hold my breath; it's too much like OVERTHINKING THE INTERNETS to me.

So, like, eb, with all due respect, you've posted about not just vaporware but hypothetical vaporware. Maybe for an encore you'll tell us some much-ignored researcher predicts that warp drives might someday be conceivable?
?
posted by davy at 5:27 PM on April 14, 2007


P.S. So AwkwardPause, are you happy or should I have made it BLINK too?
posted by davy at 5:27 PM on April 14, 2007


No problm with a new net so long as they keep all that porn
posted by Postroad at 5:30 PM on April 14, 2007


The best porn can be found on the oldest part of the internet, Usenet, for FREE.
posted by davy at 5:46 PM on April 14, 2007



I think any attempt to re-create the internet today would lead to far to many (government) hands in the cookie jar and result in a huge mess.


You do realize that the Internet started as a government-funded project, right? Not that you're, you know, wrong or anything. Except that I'd also be afraid of too many corporate hands in the cookie jar. Or maybe the cookie jar being replaced by a vending machine that sells only MonopoFoods genetically modified Eat-a-Treats to Approved Citizens under constant surveillance.
posted by arto at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Seconding arto.
posted by davy at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2007


I thought it was Tabula Rasa, unless we're talking pink here. Maybe the poster was thinking Sub Rosa?

Speaking of pink, back to surfing the web...
posted by sidereal at 5:53 PM on April 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe for an encore you'll tell us some much-ignored researcher predicts that warp drives might someday be conceivable?

Fuck the warp drives. I'm still waiting for my personal jet-pack.
posted by ericb at 5:55 PM on April 14, 2007


I thought it was Tabula Rasa

Indeed, you are right. But as a gay man I prefer the "pink!" ;-)
posted by ericb at 5:56 PM on April 14, 2007


Yeah, I'd be more concerned about corporate interests too. Think of all the things that, if they could charge for, they would.

DNS for instance.
posted by quin at 5:56 PM on April 14, 2007


Al Gore's head will not be pleased.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:01 PM on April 14, 2007


But as a gay man I prefer the "pink!" ;-)

I thought it was br... nevermind

cheers mate :)

(excellent FPP BTW, I was hoping someone would pull some germane links together about this)
posted by sidereal at 6:04 PM on April 14, 2007


Most of the knee-jerk responses to these projects are that the new networks will inevitably give users less privacy and give companies more control. Given the current arguments over net neutrality, I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be the case.

That said, I wonder if the old internet will stick around as a lawless, dangerous place much like the old USENET?
posted by sudasana at 6:07 PM on April 14, 2007


If they tear it down and rebuild it, I call dibbs on sex.com.
posted by Ziggurat at 6:08 PM on April 14, 2007


Smells fishy to me. I suspect this is part of the vast right wing conspiracy which, unfortunately, is all too real and runs much deeper than the current clowns occupying the White House.
posted by chance at 6:09 PM on April 14, 2007


Design by: the FBI, the CIA, Congress, Disney Corporation, Microsoft.

Can't wait!
posted by stbalbach at 6:30 PM on April 14, 2007


I think the real motivation of these researchers isn't improving the internet (though that would certainly be a by-product of their efforts).

The real motivation is glory.

Continuous improvement simply isn't glamorous. People (sometimes) like ownership of their creations. Netscape made the same mistake, and it cost them dearly.

Imagine the ego-boost that would come with being able to say "I'm the guy that re-invented a better/stronger/faster internet". Certainly not as effective as "I'm the guy that made meaningful improvements to what was already there".
posted by brian_willis at 6:36 PM on April 14, 2007




Second System Syndrome
posted by well_balanced at 6:52 PM on April 14, 2007


I'm surprised by some of the responses here. It seems that the flaws these researchers find in the present internet really are problems (lack of anonymity, lack of security, etc.). Whether or not they can come up with something that fixes these problems without introducing worse problems (and whether or not it could get implemented without government and corporate meddling) is an open question. Still, it's worth thinking about these issues, and that's precisely what these folks are doing. The fact that this research is going on is also interesting in itself.
posted by epimorph at 6:56 PM on April 14, 2007


So is this that web 2.0 thing I keep hearing about?
posted by macmac at 7:06 PM on April 14, 2007


Tabula Rosie O'Donnell?
posted by wendell at 7:06 PM on April 14, 2007


This is actually a pretty good idea.

Almost every internet protocol is dramatically flawed. I can't right off think of anything wrong with TCP/IP that IP6 won't fix but it'd be interesting to rethink the fundamental transport -- I'm sure you could do better with decades of hindsight.

But consider email (missing authentication, guaranteed delivery, privacy, etc), http and HTML (massive hodge-podge of features implemented variously by different browsers), FTP (massively insecure), all the streaming protocols... all seriously or critically flawed....

Plus, if you did have internet V2, you'd of course keep the legacy internet intactus, embedded into the new structure. sex.com would still be there.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:32 PM on April 14, 2007


Um, I should add that it's a good idea but there doesn't seem to be any real work yet generated... and in fact their lecture series seems to have trickled off into silence.

Ideas are cheap.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:35 PM on April 14, 2007


If memory serves, the government started what later became the Internet, but abandoned the idea. The collegiate educational system in America actually built the thing - or at least its foundations. The Internet didn't really take off until after the government LEFT the project.

File Transfer Protocol. Usenet. The Web. Peer to Peer Networks. Corporate Intranets behind Firewalls and what not. Each one of these have been add-ons, efforts to improve on what was technically the first email program between college computers.

If you build an I-V-2, you're not gonna wipe the present architecture. You'd be riding on the same superhighway. The answer isn't to create a whole new beast - learn to tame the wildthing you got.

Personally? For all its quirks and shortcomings, I like this new frontier moderately untamed. Of course I'm sure I'm in the minority.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:58 PM on April 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Me, I'm a worse is better kind of guy.

There have been all sorts of email systems that were better than SMTP- they've all been subsumed by SMTP because it hit critical mass.

There were all sorts of protocols better than TCP/IP- novell's IPX was better than TCP for lots of applications. It's dead now, of course.

You can create a beautiful jewel of a system, locked away in your tower- but if it has to compete with a sloppy, sprawling, anarchic system that harnesses the brains of millions of people, you're gonna lose.

None of us is smarter than all of us.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:31 PM on April 14, 2007


Stanford? No shortage of bullshit there.
posted by trondant at 8:43 PM on April 14, 2007


You can create a beautiful jewel of a system, locked away in your tower- but if it has to compete with a sloppy, sprawling, anarchic system that harnesses the brains of millions of people, you're gonna lose.

My brain harness hurts!!
posted by longsleeves at 9:07 PM on April 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


ow.
posted by longsleeves at 9:10 PM on April 14, 2007


Yes, let's burn, burn, burn MetaFilter to the ground and start all over again!! We can all try a little harder next time.

And I wanna be the mathowie this time.
posted by dgaicun at 9:39 PM on April 14, 2007


If it has inline images, I'm all for it.
posted by Dasein at 9:43 PM on April 14, 2007


as long as I get to be jessamyn.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:49 PM on April 14, 2007


Only if I can be her panties.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 PM on April 14, 2007


ZM, I've disagreed with you elsewhere in the blue recently, but here I find myself in full agreement. People tend to mis-underestimate the importance of what universities did to make the Web what it is today. Yes, it is a government project, but it really became the thing we know and love because of geeks in schools.

I raised a point earlier about DNS, this was from a class I taught where I was trying to explain about how the internet worked, and someone asked 'So you have to be a member to have DNS work?' and I needed to explain why that wasn't the case.

The idea floored the youngsters, that there would be a free system of exchanging IP addys just didn't sit. They couldn't find the idea profitable in a corporate sense.

It bugged me.
posted by quin at 10:34 PM on April 14, 2007


pentafish, that might cause some... difficulties.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:13 PM on April 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


You dash my dreams, dnab.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on April 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think a new internet would turn out well. The first time we created one, everyone was too worried about making it work at all to worry about what it would be used for. This time, it would be different - corporations would force DRM in at the lowest levels, governments would force in censorship, telecoms would force in preferential transport, parents would force in pervasive filtering... it would be bland and banal, like radio has become. The first time, the powers that be weren't paying attention - they won't make that mistake again.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:28 AM on April 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


quin, DNS is like the yellow pages; you have to pay a fee to be listed. But you can look up a listing for free because ISPs give you a free phonebook when you sign up for service. Those kids were confused because they've never had a landline.
posted by ryanrs at 1:55 AM on April 15, 2007


And I wanna be the mathowie this time.

as long as I get to be jessamyn.

I call dibs on cortex!!!
posted by sparkletone at 1:57 AM on April 15, 2007


Cool. Maybe this time we'll sidestep the RIAA, MPAA, FBI, MS, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, NSA, DHS, and DC.

I smell freedom.
posted by sourwookie at 2:17 AM on April 15, 2007


jenkinsEar wrote: You can create a beautiful jewel of a system, locked away in your tower- but if it has to compete with a sloppy, sprawling, anarchic system that harnesses the brains of millions of people, you're gonna lose.

On the other hand, if you can lock away the sloppy, sprawling system, you can collect royalties. I believe that's what Vint Cerf does. Of course, you can do other things as well. Paul Vixie created his own personal black hole and used it to crush his enemies.

It all makes sense once you realize the internet was created by a consortium of BOFHs.
posted by ryanrs at 2:40 AM on April 15, 2007


I think the logistical overhead/nightmare of restructuring the higher layers of the network aren't worth it -- with the exception of SMTP, protocols like HTTP or SFTP aren't broken enough to warrant the effort.

The lower levels, on the other hand, could most definitely use some change. The advantage here would be avoiding the political, social, and corporate issues while accomplishing a more capable (read faster) network. The current haphazard ethernet standard seems like it's reaching its limit.
posted by spiderskull at 3:14 AM on April 15, 2007


Correction: crush his enemies competitors.

(Also spammers, but they weren't missed.)

posted by ryanrs at 3:21 AM on April 15, 2007


Will internet 3.0 have the IMG tag? Because I want that back. Yes, I do.
posted by who squared at 3:47 AM on April 15, 2007


Which is why we created 802.3an aka 10GBASE-T, 10 gigabit ethernet over 56 meters of CAT6 or 100 meters of 6a or 7. Not that ethernet is used much on the internet, of course. In any case, no layer 2 protocol is going to help you avoid those layer 8+ issues.
posted by ryanrs at 3:48 AM on April 15, 2007


Super rule of engineering:

IF IT AIN'T BROKE DON'T FIX IT
posted by elpapacito at 4:11 AM on April 15, 2007


Speaking as a son-in-law who has devoted years of tech support to one customer: Please do not f*ck with this.
posted by hal9k at 6:16 AM on April 15, 2007


Elpapacito believes this is the best possible internet; hal9k fears he is correct.
posted by ryanrs at 6:44 AM on April 15, 2007


It's like Candide all over again!
posted by klangklangston at 7:48 AM on April 15, 2007


Dear Sir: I am writing to solicit your urgent assistance in the transfer of several gold sheep. These sheep are the excess of what my Branch in which i am the Manager made as profit during the Last Year Auditing. As the Branch is hemmed in on all sides by mountains ten thousand feet high, I require your assistance to complete this transfer...
posted by ryanrs at 8:26 AM on April 15, 2007


Quin: "ZM, I've disagreed with you elsewhere in the blue..."

If everyone agreed with everything I said, it'd bug me. =)

"They couldn't find the idea profitable in a corporate sense. It bugged me."

It bugs a lot of the dot coms too. Hence a desire for 'improvements' to something that already works. People thought that as soon as the corporate world got wind of the 'Net it'd take over, and in the late nineties that happened for the most part, but there was this presumptive illusion that anyone who threw great gobs of money at the Net would one day see it come back at them ten-fold, and except for a seemingly random few, that never happened.

Many believe that's because no one controlled the playing field. There's a dramatic difference between seeing baseball played in a corporate owned stadium, and kids playing stickball on the streets of a major metropolitan city. In the corporate version, everything must aquiesce to the corporate need, right up to the price you pay for a beer and nachos. In the street version, everything must conform to the street.

There's reasons why corporations don't put as much money into stickball as they do baseball. There's no return on their investment in stickball. Those kids are gonna grow up whether we support them or not.

Mitrovarr: "This time it would be different.."

Yep. And different ain't always better.

I fear they'll create their memorial gridiron stadium, and then accuse our little street diamond of being 'unethical' or 'immoral' or 'offensive' or whatever. Try to shut it down by demonizing it - like they've been doing with mp3s and other filesharing. The truth is, it's not economical if 'they' can't own a piece of it, so they'll try to make something they can own, and squelch the competition by belittling it in the eyes of the public.

We're talking years of 'evolution' though, if not decades. Perhaps even a century of time will pass before our children look back and not at all recognize today's Internet compared to what they take for granted.

For the moment, we're overexamining the beans, which personally I find amusing and entertaining, so what's not to love?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:49 AM on April 15, 2007


Now that I've read the links (sort of), it occurs to me that these researchers just need a more restrictive firewall. Or a grant. Or maybe they're trying to get a grant so they can buy a new firewall. Yeah, that last one.
posted by ryanrs at 10:13 AM on April 15, 2007


Whatever. So long as I get to keep my right to say "Remember when?" all superior-like and pretend like I never made the bad design mistakes of yore, I'm cool with it.
posted by katillathehun at 1:06 PM on April 15, 2007


Metafilter - we prefer the pink!
posted by winks007 at 5:29 PM on April 15, 2007


If we get an internet do-over, I'm choosing a different stupid nickname.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:42 PM on April 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


Stavros, can I have yours? I'm only tehloki because loki was taken.
posted by tehloki at 1:33 AM on April 16, 2007


Stavros - want to swap?
posted by Jofus at 4:28 AM on April 16, 2007


Cringely has a write up of a proposal to create a new DNS system with more accountability. Seems the purpose is to lock out spammers and phishing and have more accountability with disputes. It's premise is that back in the old days everyone knew each other and that today trust is a big problem cause you can't really tell who's who. The other problem it states is that DNS, which was originally supposed to be a cheap service with low administrative overhead but has now turned into this multi-billion dollar industry. This new proposal has some interesting ideas to fix all that.

It works over top of the current infrastructure and doesn't replace any protocols so the whole thing seems relatively painless. The only bad thing I anticipate from it is an end to anonymity for website operators.

And of course like most of Cringely's columns it sounds good on paper but who knows what we'll see from it.
posted by daHIFI at 9:00 AM on April 16, 2007


Jinx, Jofus. Buy me a sockpuppet account.
posted by tehloki at 11:16 PM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


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