Do You Want a New Internet?

Posted on February 18, 2009. Filed under: Internet | Tags: , |

The lack of security and privacy online has some technology experts pushing for a do-over on the Internet, according to a Sunday Week in Review article in the New York Times.Security Internet

“What a new Internet might look like is still widely debated, but one alternative would, in effect, create a ‘gated community’ where users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety,” writes John Markoff. “Today that is already the case for many corporate and government Internet users. As a new and more secure network becomes widely adopted, the current Internet might end up as the bad neighborhood of cyberspace. You would enter at your own risk and keep an eye over your shoulder while you were there.”

A core problem with the current version of the Web is that it was designed for data exchange, and security has been added patch by patch. Some engineers want a more comprehensive approach.

One project discussed in the article, Stanford University’s Clean Slate, says in a statement on its site: “We believe that the current Internet has significant deficiencies that need to be solved before it can become a unified global communication infrastructure. Further, we believe the Internet’s shortcomings will not be resolved by the conventional incremental and ‘backward-compatible’ style of academic and industrial networking research. The proposed program will focus on unconventional, bold and long-term research that tries to break the network’s ossification. To this end, the research program can be characterized by two research questions: ‘With what we know today, if we were to start again with a clean slate, how would we design a global communications infrastructure?’, and ‘How should the Internet look in 15 years?’

The existing Internet’s openness and anonymity might change, however, and Mr. Markoff notes that a totally secure network isn’t coming any time soon.

On the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer suggests another option: “splinternets.” Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. wrote about the concept for Forbes in 2001, calling splinternets multiple Internets “where prespecified ground rules regarding privacy and other governance issues replace regulation and central planning.”

That model, writes Mr. Thierer, could be more feasible than revamping the Internet (”Starting over isn’t even possible in a practical sense”) or getting rid of anonymity altogether (”There’s just something about a ’show-us-you-papers,’ national ID card-esque system of online identification that creeps most of us out”).

What do you think? Do you want a new Internet? Do we need one?



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