Reinventing the Internet is a Silly Idea
The Internet carries with it many problems, and over the decades, a large number of people have discussed reinventing the Internet. Some of these efforts have had a significant impact on the networking world. For example, IPv6 was created to solve the problem with the growth in Internet-connected computers and other devices, as we were going to run out of IPv4 addresses. IPv6 is happening, but at a much slower pace than its proponents intended. And in the 1990s, long before we ran out of IPv4 addresses, Network Address Translation (NAT) became a popular and effective way to greatly reduce the number of public IP addresses needed to connect everything to the Internet.
Even the Stanford Clean Slate Program, which was created to rethink the Internet, has resulted in innovations designed to make the Internet better, not to replace the Internet. When I think about reinventing the Internet, I mean truly replacing it with something new and better, it reminds me of a joke about getting Britain to switch from driving on the left side of the road (with the steering wheel on the right) to conform with most other countries. However, the initiative was stalled because of objections due to the upheaval of switching overnight. And the best solution anybody could come up with was to phase it in gradually, over a year, based on license plate letters. Cars with plates ending in the letters A through C would switch in January, letters D, E, and F in February, and so on.
The reality is, we can add to inventions and rules pretty easily, but making changes to them that aren’t strictly backward-compatible is pretty difficult.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities for innovation at every level and every corner of the Internet. Opportunities abound and 2017 will bring both new challenges in security, information privacy, and expanding services for fixed and mobile devices — not to mention the exploding world of IoT.
But reinventing the Internet? Not very likely.