Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Veto on innovation When I worked at Monitor, some consultants there were talking about why quality-of-service over IP would be a good thing. Strategy consultants are generally clueless about technology, and Monitor was no exception. The problem with differentiating between packets is that it encodes our current ideas about future uses of the network into the network itself. So if actual future uses (Napster, ICQ, Hotmail, eGroups, Amazon, open source) turn out to be different from imagined future uses (interactive TV, piped content, video conferencing) society is out of luck, the network will not allow innovation at the ends. The Internet's end-to-end principle enshrines the right to innovate, a fact which is utterly lost on legislators, but well understood by the cable cartel and record industry oligopoly.

Akamai, or any local caching service, is an interesting challenge to the above. Online, it does matter where packets come from because nearby packets come faster than far away packets. An AT&T researcher I spoke with disliked local caching because it violates packet transparency, but I think it's OK to have local networks where end-to-end is violated so long as this is not forced on every user. So the US government can build a secure private network if they want. The cable/telephone monopoly over domestic broadband means these providers should not be allowed to violate the end-to-end principle.

Have a good Thanksgiving! I may not be posting again until next week.


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