Why Future Internet Research ?
The Internet, as we know it today, is almost 30 years old and has become a global success story. It began in the 1980s with research networks, with few users and limited economic impact, then in the 90s came the second generation of commercial services, which led to a traffic explosion and increased its economic impact. Today’s Internet has become the engine for networked innovation and a ‘highway’ to globalisation and circulation of services and knowledge.
Its size, complexity and the role it plays in modern society has far exceeded the expectations of its creators. It is a complicated and constantly expanding structure that has become an essential part of our lives, work, communication and entertainment. The Internet has become a critical infrastructure both from a social and economic perspective.
Although the original Internet design has successfully enabled multiple waves of innovation, novel societal and commercial usages are continuing to push the original Internet architecture to its limits. Not only are the basic Internet protocols now 30 years old and the Internet scale has increased by many orders of magnitude, but it has also accreted hundreds of additional protocols and extensions, which make its management more and more complex.
Unforeseen and extremely useful and popular applications, such as skype, wikipedia, facebook, and you tube, have sprung up and steered the use of the Internet into directions which were not initially anticipated, posing demanding technological and policy challenges in different domains, such as security, mobility, heterogeneity, ad hoc connections and complexity.
The solutions found so far to address these concerns are seen by some observers as ‘patches’, which cannot last forever, and which will require a radical redesign or change of paradigms in the mediumor long-term. In recent years, a number of researchers and industries worldwide have started considering radically new approaches to Internet design, sometimes called ‘clean slate’.
At the same time, other observers affirm that the current Internet is instead fully scaleable, some even suggesting that efforts to impose a new architecture are the biggest threat to long-term stability and growth.
The key issues related to the future of the Internet go far beyond the technological dimension. There are strong economic, social and even ethical dimensions. Freedom of speech, distributed user-generated encyclopaedia and new applications have had a profound cultural and economic impact in nearly every sector of our societies.
Social networking sites are attracting hundreds of millions of users worldwide, mostly young people. Plus, the increasing availability of user-generated content fuels the ‘Web 2.0’ revolution and generates complex challenges related to security, privacy and Intellectual Property Rights.
Everybody, the wider public, the policy-makers, and even researchers themselves, should be aware of the possible positive and negative effects and impacts of various technological choices, which face us. In particular it is important to maintain a business perspective in Future Internet research, to fully involve industry and end-users in the research and innovation cycle, and to ensure that the regulatory and legislative agenda moves accordingly.
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