Weaving a better Web

Experts offer their take on the future of the 'Net

From Vint Cerf to Tim O'Reilly to Johna Till Johnson, experts take a stab at how the Internet might look down the road.

Even though it came from the man who had co-developed the Internet in 1973 and was at that time a spokesman for MCI, the idea seemed far-fetched to many in the industry.

Almost a decade later, Cerf, who is now chief Internet evangelist at Google, has not wavered in his belief in the idea.

"By the end of this decade, we'll have a two-planet Internet in place. We'll have software on orbiters that allow new protocols to make the Internet work across the solar system.

"This is a very exciting prospect," Cerf says.

You need only look at the billions of dollars the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has spent in the past few years to explore Mars to see that Cerf's vision is creeping closer to reality.

"It's only been eight years for this interplanetary idea to evolve. When you think how long it took the Internet -- 10 years just to get the basics in place -- this is moving quickly," he says.

Cerf is just one of many luminaries placing bets on what the future holds for the Internet and the Web. And although other predictions are not as out of this world as Cerf's, they offer a glimpse into what we can expect from the Web in the next few years.

Cerf's up

Three predictions from the 'father of the Internet' for the future of the Web

1. DNS will be fortified. "The Domain Name System is vulnerable. There is currently no way to make sure data is from a real place or a diverted stream," Cerf says. He is backing the implementation of DNS Security, an IETF specification that provides for origin authentication of DNS data, data integrity and authenticated denial of existence. "In order for this to work, every domain name server should be digitally signing the entry you receive so that you can validate it hasn't been modified," he says. Sweden, with its .se extension, has implemented it and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has said it hopes to have the spec deployed in the next few years.

2. Operating-system writers and computer scientists will be pressured to be more secure. "We don't have operating-system security today. Holes have led to bot armies of millions of machines that let hackers in," Cerf says. He adds that as we become a broadband-connected, always-on society, computers are in more danger. "It's like keys in the car waiting for some kid to do a joy ride. We need better systems that aren't easily penetrated and therefore abused," he says.

3. Better use of broadcast IP. "We are very point-to-point oriented. What would be more attractive is to use a naturally broadband media such as radio [or] satellite to broadcast to many users," he says. Cerf says broadcast IP would be an efficient way to send out software and operating-system updates.

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