Interesting think-piece today in the Guardian about the global efforts to design a 'new' Internet. While revolutionary in many ways, the current model suffers from a few notable problems- crime (identity theft and child pornography), spam and viruses. The challenge is to come up with something that preserves and improves the openness of the 'net while parsing out the crap. So far, potential solutions include 'mesh networking', or the creation of strong local networks that share a single connection to the broader Internet, thereby insulating them from attack. Other options include the google-esque solution of creating local copies of the web, allowing users to surf inside their own machines. This allows online business to be conducted out of view of potential identity thiefs.
There's no shortage of funding for these efforts to remake the net. The American organization, Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) is slated to cost a cool $350 million. GENI's European counterpart, Future and Internet Research (FIRE- way cooler acronym, btw) is expected to cost $55 million.
But amdist all the fancypants technology and research grants, its important to sound a note of caution. Said researcher and UK Internet pioneer Jon Crowcroft:
"There's a risk in doing completely blue-sky research that fixes a problem but then turns out to be useless at the things the internet did well. There aren't that many who can do a clean-slate design – and you don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Indeed. And any attempt to restrict the freedom of information exchange on the web would be a disaster. Let's hope the money for the new Internet isn't entirely from Telcos looking to create a drab, if profitable, walled garden.