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<nettime> Welcome to the Internet - if you've missed the past 17 years
patrice on Mon, 26 Oct 2015 16:24:11 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Welcome to the Internet - if you've missed the past 17 years

Bwo of a totally anonymous 'source' ...

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Hi, time traveller! Welcome to the future!

I'm sure you're excited and eager to discover what has changed over the
past 17 years. You probably find today's Internet a confusing place,
much different from the one you left behind. From your e-mail, I deduct
that you are completely puzzled by the current top-down approach to
Internet governance and find yourself wishing to return to the
grass-root pseudo-anarchy of yesteryear with which you're familiar.

The evolution of the Internet may seem puzzling to you at first.
Regulated, accountable, available universally and provided in some
countries to all citizens as a basic human right, this always-on global
network became an integral part of the world's economy. It is relied
upon by billions for both personal and professional use, communication
and entertainment, commerce and dating.

To ease your transition, here are a few highlights of what has taken
place in the time you skipped:

CPU speeds have grown by a factor of x50; while your desktop is quite
likely powered by an AMD K6-2 CPU running at 266Mhz, by 2003 a desktop
CPU model ran at speeds of up to 2400Mhz, and today, it would not be
uncommon to own a desktop CPU which runs at upwards of 3000Mhz and
offers up to 4 computation cores, such as Intel's 6th generation i7 CPU.
For simplicity, you can think of it as a 12000Mhz CPU available in both
desktops and laptops (you may know them as

If you stop by an electronics retailer and pick up a new computer,
however, you're probably going to find yourself somewhat disappointed.
It will not feel considerably faster than the one you've left behind.
This is because we've also increased the amount of abstraction on which
we rely quite considerably.  We no longer write any assembly, and rarely
write C or C++. Instead, we rely on interpreted computer languages, or
languages which are just-in-time bytecode compiled to be executed by a
virtual machine. This may sound a little wasteful, but you'll learn to
love it. It also makes optimization someone else's problem, and
*everyone* loves that!

You'll be happy to hear that this computational excess unleashed a
flurry of new programming languages which made programming easier than
ever.  Programming no longer requires any understanding of the
underlying hardware architecture on which the program will be executed,
and more people are writing software now than ever before!

By the way, you remember JavaScript? You may have used it to play a
sound or make an image move when a mouse was hovered over a specific
section of that GeoCities homepage you've built with Netscape Navigator
Gold? It's grown quite a bit in popularity, and today it's used to write
most software, large and small.  From demanding and scalable server
software to games, there's hardly a problem node.js isn't an ideal tool
for solving!

Storage costs have decreased and capacity has increased by more than
x1000 as well! You probably own a 6.4GB drive for which you've paid
about 330$.  Today, that kind of money would buy you a 6TB drive,
easily! You'll still be constantly running out of space, though. High
definition video became commonplace, photography has been replaced with
digital photography and stills are now taken with digital camera sensors
capable of capturing tens of millions of pixels.

Internet connectivity speeds have really boomed, increasing by as much
as x2000!  While you're probably used to a 56Kbps dial-up modem, today,
for the same money you paid for your dial-up account, you can get
100Mbps+ service on DOCSIS 3.0 over a coaxial cable plant operated by a
cable TV provider. Cable TV, by the way, isn't so hot any more.

Now, all of these exciting changes bring us back to the subject of
Internet governance. The RIPE NCC of your days operated not much
different than, say, a wedding gift registry. It was a convenient
arrangement that helped you avoid embarrassing yourself by showing up to
the party with the exact same waffle iron someone else has already
bought for the lucky couple. Adding and removing things to and from the
registry was quite easy, and generally, everyone was quite happy if the
registry was consulted at all.

As the number of people and devices connected to the Internet increased,
and most of these people and devices remained connected all the time, it
became apparent that IPv4 addresses will soon run out. Initially, the
reaction was that of total disbelief. Surely, 4 billion is a very large
number that's almost indistinguishable from infinity? This layman
argument resulted in the Internet community spending about a decade
between 2000 and 2010 pretending that the problem does not, in fact,

In the meanwhile, a few people worked to introduce a new protocol known
as IPv6, which aimed to both solve a wide range of problems and expand
the number of addresses available. They spent about a decade being
largely ignored and laughed at, and were repeatedly told by the Internet
community that their new protocol changes too many things which work,
and is too different from the IPv4 protocol to understand or implement.

After they have, in despair, removed most of these features and made
IPv6 look and work almost exactly like IPv4, the same Internet community
that previously told them that IPv6 changed too many things began
complaining that the IPv6 protocol is insufficiently revolutionary and
does not address some of the core challenges which would justify the
large expense of a transition.  Unfortunately, by that time IPv4
addresses largely ran out and a transition was necessary anyway.

In 2007, an Irishman introduced a RIPE policy proposal that became known
as policy 2007-01, it granted RIPE NCC a wide range of powers which
turned it from a beloved wedding cake registry to something akin to a
regulator. RIPE NCC was bestowed with considerable new powers, which it
proceeded to consolidate by aggressively reaching out to all resource
holders of IPv4 addresses and AS numbers, binding them contractually
directly under its control. The RIPE community then passed emergency
measures to prevent the complete exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, and
emphasized accountability and conservation on all fronts, as well as the
need to transition to IPv6.

As I write this, the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 isn't nearly complete.
The IPv4 address pool is almost completely depleted. New solutions keep
being proposed that range from the delusional to the discriminatory.
Welcome to the future!

On, and by the way, the ASCII ribbon campaign officially ended in June,
2013. We lost. Apparently, plain text e-mail just lacked enough

Best regards and success on your journey,

David Monosov

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