Internet’s technical success factors revealed

By on 8 Dec 2021

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Earlier this year, APNIC partnered with LACNIC to produce a report about the Internet’s technical success factors. The study has been completed by Analysys Mason (after an evaluation process of 14 proposals) and is available here and here.

This study was presented at a TownHall session during the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2021, on Wednesday, 8 December 2021. The video of the session is now available.

Background

Over the years, there have been critiques of the Internet by users, vendors, standards organizations, and governments: Is it currently fit for purpose? Is the Internet secure? Can the Internet continue to evolve, or will it need to renew?

Even the original designers of the Internet have asked these questions and have expressed frustration about how much the Internet of today deviates from its early ideals. As cybersecurity threats have become more serious and the geopolitics of the Internet more divided, these critiques have intensified. Some stakeholders have sought to answer critics by justifying alternative proposals for new protocols and networking standards. However, these proposed new standards can compromise factors considered important for the Internet to continue to be successful.

This is the context in which APNIC and LACNIC decided to partner in a project to study the Internet’s technical success factors, based on a strong belief that an assessment of such factors should be objective and not idealistic.

The study

The study provides an innovative framework based on four ‘dimensions of success’:

  1. Scalability to support the growth of the Internet.
  2. Flexibility in network technologies.
  3. Adaptability to new applications.
  4. Resilience to shocks and changes.

By describing the actual state of the Internet, according to its technical implementation in different geographies, economies, and societies, the study explains the evolution of Internet standards and protocols, as well as its architecture design and system structures, in relation to these four dimensions of success. 

This framework is preferred because it describes the Internet as it is, not as it should be. APNIC and LACNIC looked for a study about the Internet’s actual implementation by seeking objective assessments about the Internet’s success from selected industry players and other actors, without the influence of geopolitics. APNIC and LACNIC believe Analysys Mason has delivered in this regard, explaining the Internet’s success using technical measures rather than subjective arguments or opinions regarding the Internet’s functioning. The study also offers a prospective outlook of the technical factors that have proven successful over the years, and risks affecting their continuity or threats to their stability.

As Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), APNIC and LACNIC serve a diverse community of network operators — those who build and run the Internet in the respective regions. The success of the Internet belongs to them (and those in the rest of the world, of course). While that success is undeniable, we should not take it for granted. By shedding light on it, we can all better understand the complex reasons for that success.

Particular thanks goes to the Internet pioneers that accepted to be interviewed as part of the study and offered their views about the Internet’s technical success factors.

Next steps

APNIC and LACNIC hope Members and the community find value in this study. This study brings fresh considerations about why the Internet has been technically successful and how to evolve it without compromising its scalability, flexibility, adaptability, or resilience.

Any comment or reaction to this study is welcome, particularly on how to share its findings. As the study becomes public, please help the project by supporting its dissemination.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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