How We Ruined The Internet

Paper by Micah Beck and Terry Moore: “At the end of the 19th century the logician C.S. Peirce coined the term “fallibilism” for the “… the doctrine that our knowledge is never absolute but always swims, as it were, in a continuum of uncertainty and of indeterminacy”. In terms of scientific practice, this means we are obliged to reexamine the assumptions, the evidence, and the arguments for conclusions that subsequent experience has cast into doubt. In this paper we examine an assumption that underpinned the development of the Internet architecture, namely that a loosely synchronous point-to-point datagram delivery service could adequately meet the needs of all network applications, including those which deliver content and services to a mass audience at global scale. We examine how the inability of the Networking community to provide a public and affordable mechanism to support such asynchronous point-to-multipoint applications led to the development of private overlay infrastructure, namely CDNs and Cloud networks, whose architecture stands at odds with the Open Data Networking goals of the early Internet advocates. We argue that the contradiction between those initial goals and the monopolistic commercial imperatives of hypergiant overlay infrastructure operators is an important reason for the apparent contradiction posed by the negative impact of their most profitable applications (e.g., social media) and strategies (e.g., targeted advertisement). We propose that, following the prescription of Peirce, we can only resolve this contradiction by reconsidering some of our deeply held assumptions…(More)”.