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Renaming the Next Generation Internet

Prof. David Farber has issued an interesting challenge: "Endlessly people talk about the Next Generation Internet... I need a name for the Internet-like network we will need when we are faced with end to end optical communications at hundreds of gigabits; multi-core computers (large number) and other now-research technologies." While we shouldn't confuse names with substance,... we understand the power of names to describe and even to inspire, including in the IT world.
Prof. David Farber has issued an interesting challenge:
Endlessly people talk about the Next Generation Internet. In fact the term has been used so badly that it is meaningless. I need a name for the Internet-like network we will need when we are faced with end to end optical communications at hundreds of gigabits; multi-core computers (large number) and other now-research technologies.
While we shouldn't confuse names with substance, and while the Net would, like Shakespeare's Romeo, "Retain that dear perfection which he owes/Without that title," yet we understand the power of names to describe and even to inspire, including in the IT world.Farber posted his query to his the Interesting People (IP) e-list, which I've been reading for several years. Farber is a computer-science pioneer who is one of that small class of IT visionaries with technical chops, real-world sensibilities, and persuasive power. He calls himself IP's "ringleader," a self-description that surely recognizes the importance of the IT/policy community he has nurtured.

So why the need for a new name? And is it enough to consider only the wiring and the processors and not also the interconnected people and services, the social and service networks (including Interesting People) that overlay the hardware?

The Internet is a network of networks, although it occurs to me that I haven't heard that description in a decade. In fact, an Act of Congress passed almost a decade ago, the Next Generation Internet Research Act of 1998, recognized changes underway. But like IPv6, the "next generation Internet protocol" that dates to a couple of years before that act, all this "next-generation" business seems to represent little more than natural evolution and technical tinkering.

Honestly, the Net seems to resemble more and more The Matrix: the movie irreality rather than the e-world mapped and described long ago by John S. Quarterman. It will be interesting to learn what responses Prof. Farber receives, but I have a feeling that the Net is most likely to evolve toward just another bit of everyday infrastructure: "information like water," Michael Saylor used to call it. No one will really care what it's called, and like the people of the Matrix movies, we won't even know that whatever-it's-called is there.


Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation. He consults on data management and analysis systems.Prof. David Farber has issued an interesting challenge: "Endlessly people talk about the Next Generation Internet... I need a name for the Internet-like network we will need when we are faced with end to end optical communications at hundreds of gigabits; multi-core computers (large number) and other now-research technologies." While we shouldn't confuse names with substance,... we understand the power of names to describe and even to inspire, including in the IT world.