David D. Clark

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A Brief History of Predicting the Future of the Internet: Looking Back and Looking Forward
Abstract: For three years now, the U.S. National Science Foundation has supported a research program called Future Internet Design, or FIND. The research challenge is to envision what an Internet of 15 years from now should be. Current network research is sometimes a bit incremental — it seeks to make the current Internet a bit better. but it does not set a long-range goal, a preferred outcome for what our future network should be. The FIND program demands that the research community think long-term, not incrementally. Programs similar to FIND are underway in a number of other countries, and the challenge to think longer-term has caught the attention of both technologists and policy-makers.

It is perhaps difficult to envision a network that is "not the Internet" — the network is so successful that it requires a stretch of the imagination to think how it might be different, or how it might have come out differently today if we had taken some different forks in the road over the last 30 years.

This talk will be in two parts: a look back and a look forward. It is both fun and sometimes surprising to look back at what visionaries said about the future of networking, before the Internet existed. After a brief historical review, I will try to look forward and speculate on how a future Internet might not be the network of today, but something rather different. 

Biography: Since the mid '70s, Dr. Clark has been leading the development of the Internet; from 1981-1989 he acted as Chief Protocol Architect in this development, and chaired the Internet Activities Board. Recent activities include extensions to the Internet to support real-time traffic, explicit allocation of service, pricing and related economic issues, and policy issues surrounding local loop employment. New activities focus on the architecture of the Internet in the post-PC era. He is chairman of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council.

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