The Internet Is Dead; Long Live the Internet

BOSTON (06/12/2000) - As an industry analyst I spend a lot of time traveling the world and talking to communications users, equipment and application vendors, service providers, entrepreneurs, investment bankers, venture capitalists and investors. What they all have in common is a strong belief that Internet technology will lead the way into a future communications age rather than an information age.

In every sense of the word, technology will be the driving force of the future.

The spring decrease in the valuation of technology companies on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange Inc. and the reduction in initial public offerings are examples of rejection of hype rather than rejection of technology. Stock markets seem to go up and down on perception rather than reality. Communications technology will have an enormous impact on the national and global economies in the next five years - greater, in fact, than in the past 100 years.

Today, we think of the Internet as a global ubiquitous communications entity that is in its infancy. Change occurs on a daily basis, with new applications and consortia creating portals of community or trading interest. What was once thought of simply as an e-mail vehicle soon became an information access tool, and now has morphed into a business sales and trading portal. The Internet, as we know it today, is constantly changing through the addition of more and more enabling intelligence and applications. What will tomorrow bring?

Well, based on events unraveling throughout the world today, the simple ubiquitous Internet will be gone in the not-too-distant future.

Why? First and foremost, the existing Internet is built on technology meant for a different age. Just as 64K-bps transport bandwidth increments and circuit switches are remnants of the past generation of communication, so will IPv4 and the router be remnants of a past Internet. I'm not talking about Internet II as an evolutionary replacement for the existing Internet, but a return to the original concept of an Internet being a network of networks - in this case, a network of Internets.

Second, the world is not English/American-centric, as we would believe.

Millions of people speak ideographic languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sanskrit, Arabic and Farsi, with a small percentage knowing English as a second language. How will these users, businesses and governments communicate? They will develop and use their own Internets.

Third, I cannot talk to venture capitalists without their eyes glossing over with the dream of building a wireless Internet, an optical Internet and a broadband Internet. Not only are these Internets different, but their applications are also. New tools, applications and protocols are needed for a wireless telephone, personal digital assistant or appliance Internet. The same is true for broadband and optical Internets. Start-ups are developing optimized protocols (such as Multi-protocol Label Switching using optics) and applications (such as broadcast video) for use in the new Internets. In fact, it is almost impossible to get venture capital funding for a 'Net application start-up unless its product is optimized for a broadband or wireless Internet.

Fourth, politics will impact the way society looks at the Internet. We in the U.S. are an open society believing in freedom of speech and our own form of constitutional law. These concepts do not apply throughout the world. The current Internet is believed to be a manifestation of American culture and a propagandist of American politics by a large segment of the world. What better way to solve this problem than to create their own Internets?

I have just returned from a business trip to the Middle East and Asia. The Internet as it exists today will not reach the populations of those regions without change; it will exist as an elitist manifestation of the upper classes and large corporations. The Internet revolution will bypass the majority of the earth's population unless its concepts are adapted to local technology usage, society mores, government and religious laws, and natural language. The existing Internet will not go away, but will become just one of numerous Internets linked into a true network of networks on a global basis called the Internet.

Dzubeck is president of Communications Network Architects, an industry analysis firm in Washington, D.C.

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