Shaping the Internet's Future

The Invisible Internet

Editor’s Note: Fifty years ago today, on October 29th, 1969, a team at UCLA started to transmit five letters to the Stanford Research Institute: LOGIN. It’s an event that we take for granted now – communicating over a network – but it was historic. It was the first message sent over the ARPANET, one of the precursors to the Internet. UCLA computer science professor Leonard Kleinrock and his team sent that first message. In this anniversary guest post, Professor Kleinrock shares his vision for what the Internet might become.

On July 3, 1969, four months before the first message of the Internet was sent, I was quoted in a UCLA press release in which I articulated my vision of what the Internet would become. Much of that vision has been realized (including one item I totally missed, namely, that social networking would become so dominant). But there was a critical component of that vision which has not yet been realized. I call that the invisible Internet. What I mean is that the Internet will be invisible in the sense that electricity is invisible – electricity has the extremely simple interface of a socket in the wall from which something called electricity is provided reliably and invisibly. Well, the Internet is anything but invisible as yet. Its interface often includes a clumsy, sometimes tiny, keyboard, using a small screen displaying characters that may be smaller than my aging eyes can accommodate and applications that incorporate navigation tools which are clumsy, nonstandard, and frustrating.

Such an invisible Internet will provide intelligent spaces. When I enter such a space, it should know I entered and it should present to me an experience that matches my privileges, profile, and preferences. These spaces can be any location on earth, i.e., my room, my desk, my automobile, my fingernails, my body, my favorite shopping mall, London, or even the Dead Sea. Moreover, I should be able to interact with that space using human friendly interfaces such as speech, gestures, haptics and, eventually, brain-to-Internet interfaces. Indeed, what I am talking about is characterized by a pervasive global nervous system across this planet. The Internet will be everywhere and it will be invisible.

Technology is moving us forward toward such an invisible Internet as we deploy the Internet of Things in our physical space. It takes the form of embedded devices consisting of sensors, actuators, logic, memory, communications, microphones, speakers, cameras, and displays. This is where physical devices disappear into the infrastructure. Moreover, we are also beginning to deploy intelligent software agents acting on our behalf, and customized to our desires; they provide alerts, information, suggestions, and act on our behalf. They could also be useful in enforcing the privacy policy we expect to be applied to us when we access web-based services.

We recognize that such an environment is a highly distributed network of intelligent devices and agents and we may well see the application of blockchain-distributed ledger technology to help implement this invisible Internet.

What will the Internet look like in another fifty years? Explore the Global Internet Report and learn how you can help shape the Internet’s future.

Image of Leonard Kleinrock with the Interface Message Processor at UCLA’s Boelter Hall, where the first message was sent ©Tsutsumida Pictures

Deploy360 IPv6

Final report on TCP/IP migration in 1983


Sometimes you need to go back to the past to learn lessons for the future, and with much current discussion revolving around the transition from IPv4 to IPv6, we should perhaps reflect that we’ve been here before when the Internet transitioned from NCP to the TCP/IP protocols. That’s why it was great to have a presentation on the ARPANET TCP/IP migration of 1983 from Ron Broersma (SPAWAR-US Navy) during the recent NLNOG Day in Amsterdam.

Ron Broersma & Jan Žorž with front panel of IMP
Ron Broersma and our colleague Jan Žorž with front panel of IMP #3

Ron joined the US Naval Undersea Center in 1976 where his responsibilities included operating Node #3 of the US Department of Defense ARPANET, which was comprised of a number of nationally connected (usually at 50 Kb/s) mainframe systems that eventually evolved into the Internet. An IMP (Interface Message Processor) at each node ran the NCP (Network Control Program) protocol that performed the routing functionality, and were identified with an 8-bit address. This allowed for a total of 256 hosts; split into 2 bits for the host (for a maximum of 4 hosts per node), and 6 bits for the network (for a maximum of 64 nodes). Addresses were denoted with a / as a separator, which meant Ron’s node was addressed as 0/3.

The ARPANET was designed in an era before microcomputers which only arrived in the mid-1970s, before which computing facilities required substantial investment and therefore need to be shared. However, even then it was becoming clear that just 256 addresses would impose an intolerable limitation on expansion of the ARPANET, which had even branched out internationally to University College London (UCL) in the UK. The solution of course, was to develop a new protocol that would increase the address space, which probably sounds familiar to regular readers of the Deploy360 blog!

Make the transition!
Make the transition!

Thus TCP/IP was born, although several different prototypes were actually developed and tested between 1975 and 1982 before the final specification was settled upon. In March 1982, the US DoD declared TCP/IP to be its official standard, and a transition plan outlined for its deployment by 1 January 1983. Both protocols would be supported until then, but after that NCP would be turned off and any hosts not making the transition would lose access to the ARPANET!

The immediate impact of TCP/IP adoption was a huge increase in the available address space, as 32 bits allows for approximately 4 billion hosts. Unfortunately, this address space was not allocated efficiently due to router limitations and the way existing NCP addresses were transitioned. For example, Ron’s network became the Class A address with 16 million possible hosts, which even accounting for the growth in the Internet, proved to be far more than necessary and was eventually returned to IANA.

However, another consequence was that hosts no longer needed to be directly connected to an IMP, which allowed a network of networks to be built, exterior routing protocols to be run, and essentially created the Internet as we know it today.

It really is orange!
It really is orange!

With far more systems connecting to the Internet, another issue arose with respect to keeping track of how to access these. Host names were originally mapped to addresses in a downloadable file called HOSTS.TXT that was compiled by the Stanford Research Institute. Name conflicts arose though, and it became too much effort to maintain this file, which led to the development of the Domain Name System in 1983. It’s perhaps also worth pointing out that the first hacking incident occurred that year too, which meant system and eventually network security needed to be considered and which led to the development of the Orange Book standard.

The ARPANET’s research functions were eventually taken over by the US National Science Foundation-funded NSFNET, with its military role being taken over by the separate MILNET. It survived until 1990 when it was dismantled, with just a few artefacts remaining as testament to its pioneering role in the evolution of the Internet.

Perhaps the one lesson to learn though, is that protocol transition can happen if there’s a strong incentive such as being disconnected. This happened before with the move to IPv4, and it can happen again with IPv6!

We at Deploy360 like to do our bit to help, so please take a look at our Start Here page to understand how you can get started with IPv6.

About Internet Society

Remembering Ray Tomlinson

The Internet community has lost one of our true innovators and pioneers.  Ray Tomlinson, best known as the inventor of sending email over a computer network and choosing the @ sign, passed away this weekend.  Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.  Ray was an incredible contributor to the Internet and was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012 for his many achievements.

Ray’s breadth of work speaks for itself.  You can read more on the Internet Hall of Fame website.

In addition, here are Ray’s own words about his career:

We join with our community in mourning this tremendous loss.

Community Projects

History of the Internet Holds the Keys to Its Future

June 11, 2015
16:30 UTC
Hashtag: #InternetAge
Watch the event on LiveStream

 The Internet Society, in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, is hosting today “The Internet Age: Founders to Future”, a panel discussion featuring Internet pioneers and visionaries discussing the diverse elements that have enabled the innovations leading to the Internet Age and exploring the challenges and opportunities facing the Internet’s future.

Speaking at the panel are Vint Cerf, Mitchell Baker, David Farber and Sebastian Thrun, the first three of whom are also inductees to the Internet Hall of Fame. Given their personal histories and unique relationships to the Internet, this group is eminently qualified to provide us with both a look back at the origins of this “invention” and ponder where it will take us in the years to come.

One of the most powerful and influential innovations ever created, the Internet started simply as a network run by government agencies and researchers for collaboration, to being run by research and commercial interests as a curiosity and an informal electronic communications medium. Today it has evolved into a cornerstone of economic and social development that has an immeasurable impact on individuals’ daily lives.

This progression has been dramatic. But because we believe the promise of the Internet to be so vast, we believe it is still early in its evolution. It is no longer solely in the hands of the United States, as it was in its infancy, but it now belongs to the entire world – borderless in geography and limitless in potential.

At the Internet Society we are always working to make sure that everyone is included in that promising future and in the possibilities created by the Internet. However, in that quest, we often find ourselves less focused on what that future will bring but rather on how we will get there. In other words, how do we expand the reach of the Internet and address the ongoing challenges without destroying the original principles that made it so transformative?

The Internet is, in essence, collaborative. It’s the result of immeasurable steps by thousands of people across the globe. No prior approval from any corporation or government is necessary to invent the future on the Internet. It is a platform for innovation that is permissionless.

The Internet is facing a pivotal time now, and there are many challenges that must be confronted to ensure that the billions yet to come online can trust its potential and enjoy all it has to offer. Its strength is built on its openness and the spirit of collaboration. This is the Internet of opportunity and it now rests in the hands of the global community to take it into the future.

Looking back, we can see what the Internet was at its core and we can imagine the promise it holds for our future. As we hear from these Internet luminaries, we know that the Internet’s future is not pre-determined or set in stone. We must be vigilant that this platform for human creativity and innovation – unprecedented in history – will only remain so if the path forward embodies the collaborative, global, open nature of its past and present. We at the Internet Society are committed to continuing in this fight for an Internet that is fit for the future.


Internet Governance Public Policy Technology

Happy Birthday, Backbone

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the decommissioning of the NSFNET backbone on April 30 1995, an important milestone in the development of the commercial Internet. The NSFNET was set up by the US National Science Foundation in 1985 to enable university researchers access to five supercomputer sites across the United States, using Internet Protocol technology. In stepping back, the NSF supported a transition to an Internet shaped by market forces, and the explosion of commercial use soon followed.

The changes since that time are truly breathtaking and bear reflection. In 1995 there were 16 million Internet users – now there are likely over 3 billion; in 1995 there were under 5 million hosts; now there are over 1 billion; and the NSFNET had 45 Mbit/s capacity across the network – a bandwidth level that can be exceeded by a single mobile broadband access connection today.

It is impossible to determine what would have happened if the NSFNET had not been decommissioned. Netscape had just released it’s first browser, which no doubt would have led to an explosion of World Wide Web traffic for commercial backbones regardless. However, there seems little doubt that the way that the NSFNET functions were replaced contributed greatly to the vibrancy and growth of the Internet through today.

As it happens, my first exposure to Internet issues came in 1997 when I was at the US Federal Communications Commission and led the review of Internet backbone issues arising from the MCI WorldCom merger, and then later from the Bell Atlantic GTE merger. I was struck by the lack of any interconnection regulations on Internet services at the same time that telecommunications services, using the same or similar facilities, were regulated.

This led me to write a working paper entitled ‘The Digital Handshake: Connecting Internet Backbones’ (FCC Office of Plans and Policy Working Paper 32, 2000) to examine how interconnection was reached in the absence of any regulatory obligations. I soon learned that the foundation for the lack of any interconnection regulation was laid by the NSF, which fed into the FCC’s own position of not regulating Internet services at the time.

The NSFNET was a backbone in the true sense of the word – the spine through which an increasing number of regional educational and research networks connected to each other and the supercomputers. The few commercial networks at the time exchanged traffic through the NSFNET to the extent allowed by the NSF acceptable use policy limiting commercial traffic, and setup the first commercial exchange in 1991 to directly exchange the rest of their traffic.

As such, a significant issue that had to be addressed was what would take the role of the NSFNET in exchanging traffic, and the answer was that the NSF awarded contracts to manage and operate four privately owned network access points (NAPs) scattered around the US, where providers could exchange traffic with one another. While establishing the NAPs, the NSF notably did not impose any rules or regulations as to how and with whom traffic was exchanged.

In this vacuum, commercially negotiated peering and transit arrangements took hold. These arrangements remain a steady constant today against a backdrop of unending change since that time:

  • Exchange points. The original public NAPs were soon congested, and as new ones emerged, they evolved from their original form to include large commercial data centers where providers could privately connect directly to one another, and Internet Exchange Points owned and operated by their members with different interconnection models.
  • Content. Originally used to download or exchange text-based content, new Internet services now include real-time communications such as voice calls, which are latency sensitive, as well as video streaming, which takes high bandwidth and now dominates total traffic.
  • Players. Of the original list of largest backbones in 1995, only Sprint remains in its original form – the others have all merged or dropped away, to be replaced by newcomers, alongside a new breed of provider, the content delivery network (CDN) optimized to deliver content to end-users.
  • Globalisation. While the original backbones and NAPs were all in the US, for historical reasons, there are now hundreds of exchange points around the world, and Renesys’ annual list of the largest backbones is now global, with Europe and Asia well represented.

The NSFNET, and the NAPs that originally replaced it, are now an anachronism in an Internet in which the US no longer occupies its historical central role as founder, but whose founding principles expand with the Internet to every corner of the World. This is nowhere more true than here in Kyrgyzstan, where I am this week with a team from the Internet Society, working with the local ecosystem to improve Internet interconnection arrangements, and thereby help to initiate for the country the same evolution and growth that the NSF helped kick off for the world 20 years ago.

Photo: "Happy Birthday" © 2013 Kevin D CC-BY-2.0
Internet Governance

Internet Milestones

When thinking about the Internet these days, many people think about ‘big data’, but we should also keep in mind the big numbers that the Internet is generating. This was driven home several weeks ago, when the Gangnam Style music video hit two billion views on YouTube, which The Economist pointed out represents 16,000 years of continual play!  

Other milestones are somewhat less trivial:

  • More than 1 billion Internet hosts
  • More than 2 billion Wikipedia Project edits (including Wikipedia)
  • Almost 3 billion Internet users
  • Nearly 4 billion IPv4 addresses allocated

The list continues into the tens of billions (apps downloaded) and hundreds of billions (Tweets per year).  In our recently release Global Internet Report, we compiled a number of these in the Timeline below.  This graphic highlights some significant underlying trends as well, in terms of movements away from dial-up to fixed broadband, and then from fixed broadband to mobile broadband Internet access; from developed to developing world usage; and from text to video traffic.  

What milestone did we miss?

Deploy360 Improving Technical Security Open Internet Standards Transport Layer Security (TLS)

On The 25th Anniversary Of The Web, Let Us Keep It Open And Make It More Secure

Web 25th AnniversaryCan we even begin to count the ways the “Web” has affected all of our lives? Today is the 25th Anniversary of the proposal that led to the creation of the World Wide Web. Over at, Tim Berners-Lee, the W3C and the World Wide Web Foundation are celebrating this milestone with greetings from people all around the world, including Internet Society President and CEO Kathy Brown, who recorded a video greeting, as well as IETF Chair Jari Arkko and IAB Chair Russ Housely.  The WebAt25 effort is also promoting an active campaign on Twitter using the #web25 hashtag and is encouraging people everywhere to get more involved with efforts to ensure the Web remains an open platform for creativity, innovation and collaboration.

As our Leslie Daigle wrote in an excellent Internet Technology Matters post today, the Web is a prime example of how “permission-less innovation” enables the creation of new services that run on the Internet and also of both the global nature of the Internet and the value of open standards.

For us here at the Deploy360 Programme, our use of the Web is the critical cornerstone of our efforts to accelerate the deployment of key Internet technologies… even as most of the protocols (IPv6, DNSSEC, BGP) we promote are actually part of the underlying Internet infrastructure that makes services like the Web possible. Without the Web, we would not be able to bring you all the resources and news we bring you here, nor would we be able to share it with you through web-based social media. It is critical for our work.

On this day, we  join with the W3C, World Wide Web Foundation and so many others in celebrating this 25th anniversary and the amazing success of the Web. As we do so, though, we know that for the Web and other Internet services to prosper they need to not only continue to be as open as they have been in the past, but they also need to be more secure to protect the privacy and security of information. That is why we’ve worked so hard getting DNSSEC deployed more widely,  recently opened our new “TLS for Applications” topic area, and why we’re looking for your help to build more content to help application developers, website designers and many more people understand how to make the Web and other services more secure.

Thank you, Tim Berners-Lee, for the proposal 25 years ago that led to the creation of the World Wide Web, and for everything you’ve done to keep the Web open to all. We look forward to joining with people around the world to continue to keep the Web – and the Internet – open for all!

Growing the Internet

The History of the Internet in Africa

The Internet is now growing faster in Africa than any other region. But, it took a lot of time and effort of the pioneers to reach this stage. Here at the Internet Society, we believe that it is very important to remember and document the history behind the Internet in Africa so that the contribution of the pioneers is not forgotten.

This why we created the History of the Internet in Africa section in our a website. This dedicated interactive site was developed with the support of African experts to give an overview of the current status of the Internet in the continent as well as compile the defining moments and people that were key to this process.

In fact, as in other regions, the Internet could not have reached the millions of Africans that access it today without the selfless contribution of the pioneers whom this site celebrates. Today’s generation should know about their sacrifices so that it doesn’t take the Internet for granted and work so that it reaches the 85% of the Africans that still do not have access to the network.

Click to view our interactive infographic

It is always difficult to record history, especially since important events and contributions are not always documented and the people who can talk about them may not be available or reachable. This work is made even more difficult since the Internet was developed bottom up and there were many local initiatives that contributed to build it in Africa. As a result, we recognize that there might be some omissions for which we would like to ask for your understanding.

This work could not have been possible without the support of our many members and friends who contributed by sending information for the project. The Internet Society also recognizes the invaluable contribution of the team of African experts led by Pierre Dandjinou who compiled the many inputs we received from the community.

Know more:

Deploy360 Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC)

Introducing The DNSSEC History Project – Can You Help Complete The Story?

dnssec-history-projectCan you please help us fill in the blanks and complete the story of how DNSSEC came about?  Back in 2010 after the root of DNS was signed with DNSSEC, Steve Crocker sent out an email suggesting that the community should document the history of how DNSSEC came to be. As documented on the “About The DNSSEC History Project” page, Steve said in part:

It’s taken twenty years to reach this point, starting with Steve Bellovin’s demonstration of cache poisoning and the early proposals for adding cryptographic signatures to DNS.  A very large number of people, working in a large number of places, have contributed.  There were false starts, technical challenges, controversies and long hard marches.  The large bulk of this work is not very well documented, and there is no place to go to find anything approximating the full story.

To help, the Internet Society offered a wiki site to collect information and in 2010 a good amount of text was added. You can see the current version at:

In the years since 2010 a bit more text was added and some editing occurred, but quite honestly a great amount of the story is still left untold. A couple of us would now like to go in and capture some of this history before it gets lost. But to do so…


Some of us, such as myself, weren’t involved in the early days of DNSSEC and so we’re left to try to document the story based on what information we can find out there.  If you were involved, we’d love to have to you add in some text.  You can see the main page of the project where the information is being gathered.  We also split out the timeline into its own separate page:

Both of those pages need updates – and the main page needs, in my opinion, to be broken out into some more pages.

If you weren’t involved, but are interested in helping with the project, even just with the editing, we’d also love the assistance. The existing text could use some good editing, and this will continue to be a challenge as we add in more text from multiple people.  There are also any number of documents and events referenced in the main text for which links need to be found and inserted.  I’d also like to see the text cleaned up a bit to be more consistent across sections.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP, please send an email message to and we can get you set up with an account for editing the wiki pages. (We’d also ask you to please read the “About” page, too, to understand the project goals.)

The end goal is to chronicle the story of how DNSSEC came to be, in part so that the larger community can remember how it all came together, but also so that developers of future protocols can perhaps gain some insight into how best to develop their protocol from the story of DNSSEC.

Please do join with us and help complete the story!  (Thank you!)