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Internet: Quo Vadis (Where are you going?)

ArcadiaArticles, blogs, and meetings about the internet of the future are filled with happy, positive words like "global", "uniform", and "open".

The future internet is described in ways that seem as if taken from a late 1960’s Utopian sci-fi novel: the internet is seen as overcoming petty rivalries between countries, dissolving social rank, equalizing wealth, and bringing universal justice.

If that future is to be believed, the only obstacle standing between us and an Arcadian world of peace and harmony is that the internet does not yet reach everyone, or that network carriers are unfairly giving different treatment to different kinds of traffic, or that evil governments are erecting “Great Walls”, or that IPv6 is not yet everywhere, or that big companies are acquiring top level domains, or that encryption is not ubiquitous … The list goes on and on.

I do not agree.

I do not believe that the future internet will be a Utopia. Nor do I believe that the future internet will be like some beautiful angel, bringing peace, virtue, equality, and justice.

Big BrotherInstead I believe that there are strong, probably irresistible, forces working to lock-down and partition the internet.

I believe that the future internet will be composed of “islands'.

These islands will tend to coincide with countries, cultures, or companies.

There will be barriers between these islands. And to cross those barriers there will be explicit bridges between various islands.

Network traffic that moves over these bridges will be observed, monitored, regulated, limited, and taxed.

The future internet will be used as a tool for power, control, and wealth.

And to a large degree the users of this future internet will not care about this.

This paper describes this future - a future more likely than the halcyon world painted by others.