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Internet Evolution


The recorded version of our panel on Internet Evolution at IETF 81 is now available. Listen now…

The Internet is evolving. The majority of end-users perceive this evolution in the form of changes and updates to the software and networked applications that they are familiar with, or with the arrival of entirely new applications that change the way they communicate, do business, entertain themselves, and so on. Evolution is a constant feature throughout the network ‘stack’ (see figure 1):

  • Fundamental discoveries in optical networking that allow ever more bandwidth to be obtained from deployed fibre-optic cables,
  • New standards for wired and wireless link technologies (such as 100 gigabit Ethernet and LTE)
  • New congestion control algorithms, improved security infrastructures: these are all examples of the kind of evolution that most users don’t see.

Figure 1: The network "stack"

As the Internet becomes an ever more pervasive and critical infrastructure underpinning society and commerce around the globe, so understanding the ways in which the Internet is changing grows in importance for technologists and policymakers alike. Reflecting on what those changes mean for the likely future trajectory of the Internet is critical.

Expert Observations

Can we think about the Internet as a whole evolving? What form would such evolution take, and where could we look for data that offers insight into changes at the macro scale?

In an effort to stimulate some answers to these questions and to provoke thought and further consideration among a wider audience, the Internet Society invited a range of experts to reflect on some recent data-driven observations about the ways in which the Internet is changing on a global scale.

We present the data here, along with some of the key findings that we sought reflections on, and then we let the contributors speak in their own voices about how they view the Internet evolving.

We have not sought to drive consensus or to weight the responses we received in any way. Rather we have tried to present a range of views about some of the most clearly discernible trends in how the Internet is changing, backed up by hard data, in the hope that this will cause the reader to think more about what this means for them and for the Internet as a whole.