[ih] Keep the geeks in charge of the internet

the keyboard of geoff goodfellow geoff at iconia.com
Mon Jul 13 09:50:20 PDT 2020

*By enabling people and businesses to remain connected while under
lockdown, the Internet has helped to prevent the global economy from
collapsing entirely. And yet the engineer-led nonprofit organizations that
oversee the stable functioning of the global Internet are again under

The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly transformed the internet into the most
critical infrastructure on Earth.

By enabling people and businesses to remain connected while under lockdown,
the internet has helped to prevent the global economy from collapsing
entirely. Indeed, with fear and social distancing continuing to separate
many of us, it has become the connective tissue for much human interaction
and economic activity around the world.

But few appreciate how this critical global resource has remained stable
and resilient since its inception, even as its scope and scale have
undergone uninterrupted explosive growth. In an age of widening political,
economic, and social divisions, how has the “one internet” connecting the
entire world been sustained? And how can we best continue to protect it?

The answers to both questions start with understanding what makes the
Internet — which consists of tens of thousands of disparate networks — look
like and function as one network for all. These components, or unique
internet identifiers, include Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, which are
associated with every device connected to the internet, and internet domain
names (like ft.com, harvard.edu or apple.news), which we use to search for
and connect to computers easily.

These unique identifiers ensure that, no matter where you are or which
network you are connected to, you will always get in touch with the right
computer with the desired domain name, or reach the right target device
with an embedded IP number (such as a smart thermostat, for example). This
simple, elegant architecture reflects the genius of a handful of brilliant
engineers who created the internet a half-century ago. Since then, it has
never failed to help us locate the billions of devices that have been added
to the thousands of networks that make up today’s cyber economy. Should the
identifiers fail, we would experience immediate digital chaos.

Given the identifiers’ critical role, it is imperative that they not be
compromised or controlled by any authority that is not committed to
maintaining the internet as an open, global, common good. In the wrong
hands, they could be used to fragment the Internet and enable top-down
control of usage and users by governments with malign intentions. And such
fears are real, given authoritarian governments’ online meddling in
elections, national security networks and digital commercial transactions
in the last few years.

So, the key question is who should be entrusted today to maintain the
security and reliability of internet identifiers. The answer is simple:
geeks, not governments...



Geoff.Goodfellow at iconia.com
living as The Truth is True

More information about the Internet-history mailing list