SUNDAY TRIBUNE: 12 MAY 2002
Request for comment
The following RFC was released recently by Vint Cerf, co-developer of TCP/IP and also known as 'the father of the internet'. It provides a good insight into the main issues currently impacting on the internet and web. It has been edited for space reasons.
The internet is for everyone
How easy to say - how hard to achieve! How have we progressed towards this noble goal? The internet is in its 14th year of annual doubling since 1988. There are over 150m hosts on the net and an estimated 513m users world wide.
By 2006, the global internet is likely to exceed the size of the global telephone network, if it has not already become the telephone network by virtue of IP telephony.
Moreover, as many as 1.5bn internet-enabled appliances will have joined traditional servers, desk tops and laptops as part of the internet family. Pagers, cell phones and personal digital assistants may well have merged to become the new telecommunications tools of the next decade.
But even at the scale of the telephone system, it is sobering to realise that only half of the Earth's people has ever made a telephone call.
It is estimated that commerce on the network will reach somewhere between $1.8T and $3.2T by 2003. That is only two years from now (but a long career in internet years).
The number of users will likely reach over 1000m by the end of the year 2005, but that is only about 16% of the world's population. By 2047 the world's population may reach about 11bn. If only 25% of the then world's population is on the net, that will be nearly 3bn users.
As high bandwidth access becomes the norm through digital subscriber loops, cable modems and digital terrestrial and satellite radio links, the convergence of media available on the net will become obvious.
Television, radio, telephony and the traditional print media will find counterparts on the net - and will be changed in profound ways by the presence of software that transforms the one-way media into interactive resources, shareable by many.
The internet is proving to be one of the most powerful amplifiers of speech ever invented. It offers a global megaphone for voices that might otherwise be heard only feebly, if at all. It invites and facilitates multiple points of view and dialog in ways unimplementable by the traditional, one-way, mass media.
The internet can facilitate democratic practices in unexpected ways. Did you know that proxy voting for stock shareholders is now commonly supported on the net? Perhaps we can find more ways in which to simplify and expand the voting franchise in other domains, including the political, as access to the net increases.
The internet is becoming the repository of all we have accomplished as a society. It has become a kind of disorganised 'Boswell' of the human spirit. Be thoughtful in what you commit to email, newsgroups, and other net communication channels - it may well turn up in a web search some day. Thanks to online access to common repositories, shared databases on the net are acting to accelerate the pace of research progress.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if it isn't affordable by all that wish to partake of its services, so we must dedicate ourselves to making the net as affordable as other infrastructures so critical to our well-being.
While we follow Moore's Law to reduce the cost of net-enabling equipment, let us also seek to stimulate regulatory policies that take advantage of the power of competition to reduce costs.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if governments restrict access to it, so we must dedicate ourselves to keeping the network unrestricted, unfettered and unregulated. We must have the freedom to speak and the freedom to hear.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if it cannot keep up with the explosive demand for its services, so we must dedicate ourselves to continuing its technological evolution and development of the technical standards the lie at the heart of the internet revolution.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if it is too complex to be used easily by everyone. Let us dedicate ourselves to the task of simplifying the net's interfaces and to educating all that are interested in its use.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if legislation around the world creates a thicket of incompatible laws that hinder the growth of electronic commerce, stymie the protection of intellectual property, and stifle freedom of expression and the development of market economies. Let us dedicate ourselves to the creation of a global legal framework in which laws work across national boundaries to reinforce the upward spiral of value that the net is capable of creating.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if its users cannot protect their privacy and the confidentiality of transactions conducted on the network. Let us dedicate ourselves to the proposition that cryptographic technology sufficient to protect privacy from unauthorised disclosure should be freely available, applicable and exportable.
Moreover, as authenticity lies at the heart of trust in networked environments, let us dedicate ourselves to work towards the development of authentication methods and systems capable of supporting electronic commerce through the internet.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if parents and teachers cannot voluntarily create protected spaces for our young people for whom the full range of internet content still may be inappropriate. Let us dedicate ourselves to the development of technologies and practices that offer this protective flexibility to those who accept responsibility for providing it.
Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if we are not responsible in its use and mindful of the rights of others who share its wealth. Let us dedicate ourselves to the responsible use of this new medium and to the proposition that with the freedoms the net enables comes a commensurate responsibility to use these powerful enablers with care and consideration.
For those who choose to abuse these privileges, let us dedicate ourselves to developing the necessary tools to combat the abuse and punish the abuser.
I hope Internauts everywhere will join with the Internet Society and like-minded organisations to achieve this, easily stated but hard to attain goal. As we pass the milestone of the beginning of the third millennium, what better theme could we possibly ask for than making the internet the medium of this new millennium?
Internet IS for everyone - but it won't be unless WE make it so.
(C) The Internet Society (2002)
Full version of the above is HERE
All the Request for Comments in a searchable format. http://www.rfc-editor.org