[ih] Lessons to be learnt from Internet history

Scott Brim scott.brim at gmail.com
Thu Feb 21 04:27:11 PST 2013

I would add in that many times those with technical knowledge feel
helpless (or don't even think of trying) to change the business
strategy, so they work within self-imposed constraints.

On Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 12:28 PM, Noel Chiappa <jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu> wrote:
>     > From: John Curran <jcurran at istaff.org>
>     >> Many of the problems we see now were understood when the Internet was
>     >> first developed, but we didn't have practical solutions to them.
>     > our challenge has not been in facing problems beyond solving, but rather
>     > the tendency to skimp on fully defining problems before moving on to
>     > solution phase...
>     > ... in many cases the problems we face in the Internet have and will
>     > continue to include economic or political aspects which dominate the
>     > available solution space.
> My sense is that the picture is more complicted.
> In some cases, our understanding of the issues is indeed now a lot more
> complete than it was in the early days of the Internet - we didn't do better
> then because we couldn't. Examples of this include congestion (pre-Van), and
> routing. More recently, the evolution of HTML is another case where we had to
> learn as we went.
> In some of these places, we managed to include enough generality that we could
> deploy better stuff as our understanding increased - e.g. re-transmission and
> congestion. I'm not sure we had an _explicit_ goal of being able to deploy
> better algorithsm, but given that we were trying different stuff then, I think
> it just naturally happened that the thing we deployed had that flexibility.
> In other places, we did have knowledge, but we deliberately chose to not do
> things: some examples are security, separation of location and identity, and
> addressing in general.
> Admittedly, security is a complex situation, because we have had some new
> tools become available (e.g. public keys) over time. And also I think security
> suffered from some of what you allude to with disparate external factors -
> e.g. early work on secure email proposed a model that aligned well with one
> group of users (military/government), but not the 'ordinary' users, leading to
> poor uptake. But we surely could have done better than we did (I speak of
> security overall, not just email).
>     > forever is a long-time and not likely something to serve as a useful
>     > planning horizon. However, planning for "the foreseeable future", i.e.
>     > for as long and as well as we can imagine, _is_ quite reasonable.
> Yes, but a lot of the time I think it's pure luck whether we get something
> with a good lifetime or not. (I think a big part of that luck is the person
> who winds up doing the design for a particular newly-needed piece, to be
> frank. Some are much better than others.) And the choices are often driven by
> short-term considerations, and trying to put out fires.
> Take DNS for example. We were lucky there - the design had a lot of room to
> grow. But it could easily not have.
> The recent discussion of the origins of BGP shows all these factors at work.
> We didn't have great knowledge of routing, but we had some. Nonetheless, we
> didn't do something that was on the outer limits of what we could do - for
> reasons I won't take time to analyze in detail (basically, it was 'Pogoitis' -
> "We have met the enemy", etc). I suspect the BGP designers probably wouldn't
> have guessed that it would successfully function as well as it does for a
> system of this size. And later on we did have a fair amount of work go into
> more advanced routing architectures, but they were left to the side (again,
> for complex reasons I won't analyze here).
> Balancing 'getting it running with the resouces available' and 'doing
> something with a long lifetime' is still a struggle. I was recently driven to
> desperation by the unwillingness of a key LISP protagonist to adopt a packet
> format (aka interface semantics) which had more flexibility and adaptability.
> The reason? 'It was easier/quicker to do the kludgy hack.'
> But I guess all human works are like this - a combination of varying levels of
> luck, skill, chance, people and circumstances.
>         Noel

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