Monthly Archives: March 2019

The World Wide Web Turns 30. Where Does It Go From Here?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989.- Tristan Gregory/Redux

By Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web – Opinion – 03.11.19  05:00 PM for Wired


Today, 30 years on from my original proposal for an information management system, half the world is online. It’s a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go.

The web has become a public square, a library, a doctor’s office, a shop, a school, a design studio, an office, a cinema, a bank, and so much more. Of course with every new feature, every new website, the divide between those who are online and those who are not increases, making it all the more imperative to make the web available for everyone.

And while the web has created opportunity, given marginalized groups a voice, and made our daily lives easier, it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.

Against the backdrop of news stories about how the web is misused, it’s understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the web is really a force for good. But given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for the better in the next 30. If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.

To tackle any problem, we must clearly outline and understand it. I broadly see three sources of dysfunction affecting today’s web:

  • Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behavior, and online harassment.
  • System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.
  • Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarized tone and quality of online discourse.

While the first category is impossible to eradicate completely, we can create both laws and code to minimize this behavior, just as we have always done offline. The second category requires us to redesign systems in a way that changes incentives. And the final category calls for research to understand existing systems and model possible new ones or tweak those we already have.

You can’t just blame one government, one social network, or the human spirit. Simplistic narratives risk exhausting our energy as we chase the symptoms of these problems instead of focusing on their root causes. To get this right, we will need to come together as a global web community.

At pivotal moments, generations before us have stepped up to work together for a better future. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, diverse groups of people have been able to agree on essential principles. With the Law of Sea and the Outer Space Treaty, we have preserved new frontiers for the common good. Now too, as the web reshapes our world, we have a responsibility to make sure it is recognized as a human right and built for the public good. This is why the Web Foundation is working with governments, companies, and citizens to build a new Contract for the Web.

This contract was launched in Lisbon at Web Summit, bringing together a group of people who agree we need to establish clear norms, laws, and standards that underpin the web. Those who support it endorse its starting principles and together are working out the specific commitments in each area. No one group should do this alone, and all input will be appreciated. Governments, companies, and citizens are all contributing, and we aim to have a result later this year.

Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age. They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative, and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people’s rights and freedoms online. We need open web champions within government—civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open web.

Companies must do more to ensure that their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact, or public safety. Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity, and security in mind. This year, we’ve seen a number of tech employees stand up and demand better business practices. We need to encourage that spirit.

And most important of all, citizens must hold companies and governments accountable for the commitments they make, and demand that both respect the web as a global community with citizens at its heart. If we don’t elect politicians who defend a free and open web, if we don’t do our part to foster constructive, healthy conversations online, if we continue to click consent without demanding our data rights be respected, we walk away from our responsibility to put these issues on the priority agenda of our governments.

The fight for the web is one of the most important causes of our time. Today, half of the world is online. It is more urgent than ever to ensure that the other half is not left behind offline, and that everyone contributes to a web that drives equality, opportunity, and creativity.

The Contract for the Web must be not a list of quick fixes but a process that signals a shift in how we understand our relationship with our online community. It must be clear enough to act as a guiding star for the way forward but flexible enough to adapt to the rapid pace of change in technology. It’s our journey from digital adolescence to a more mature, responsible, and inclusive future.

The web is for everyone, and collectively we hold the power to change it. It won’t be easy. But if we dream a little and work a lot, we can get the web we want.

This story was co-published with the World Wide Web Foundation.

The Future of the Network: Get More or Get Smart

When planning for the future of the network, we can do what we have always done or we can “Get Smart.”



By Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group | Oct 29, 2018 for ITPro Today


I recently did a presentation for an FCC advisory committee that’s looking into how the increasing volume of computing at the edge of the Internet is driving demand for network bandwidth. I opened my talk with a chart from the Cisco Visual Networking Index, an online document that forecasts network bandwidth demands over the next few years. So, let me cut to the chase: Cisco sees aggregate annual global bandwidth demand on the order of 292 exabytes in 2019. That’s 292 times the IP traffic volume–combined fixed and still-rapidly growing mobile–of 2000, with demand still growing and mostly driven by streaming video. The immediate conclusion is that we need to get started on adding bulk to the Internet–and our own organizational networks–to handle this load.

As it turns out, there are two key schools of thought on how to approach the network-capacity challenge. I call them Get More and Get Smart. Let’s look at each.

Get More

Get More is the obvious direction for dealing with the growing capacity challenge, and it’s really what we’ve been doing with networks all along to enhance capacity–more of the same, but faster, better and cheaper.

Get More has historically been a very reliable strategy, based on the benefits that accrue from improvements in basic technologies (primarily chips and protocols) that regularly and reliably appear at lower prices or at least with constantly improving price/performance ratios. This is the faster/better/cheaper noted above.

All we need to do, then, is simply add more of the components we already know, love and understand–like Wi-Fi access points, Ethernet switches and WAN capacity–as required, either to address growing demand or to take advantage of those newer technologies or, really, both. This path, then, really is easy: Buy what you need; add more as you need more; realize better value without much (if any) effort beyond writing a check and installing the gear (including new software, like management and analytics); and overprovision, as we must always to assure the headroom required for day-to-day growth and time-bounded traffic, as well as end user productivity. Indeed, what could be easier?

Get Smart

To be fair, the alternate strategy, Get Smart, really isn’t easier today. However, it might be much easier, and cheaper, over the long run, as the technologies involved mature. Get Smart is based on taking advantage of new technologies that present themselves in the form of paradigm shifts–getting the same job (networking) done, but in new and more productive ways.

Here are the leading Get Smart directions today:

  • SDN, SD-WAN and SD-LAN: Software-defined networking enables networks to adapt intelligently to changes in traffic patterns, security challenges and overall growth. Think “softer networks”–both wireless and wired–coupled with improved management.
  • NFV: Network Functions Virtualization moves many networking functions into high-performance but otherwise traditional computers, substituting the flexibility of software for the specialized hardware that, again, needs to be replaced via upgrades from time to time. NFV is analogous to that more familiar form of virtualization, virtual machines, that makes better use of computer power that might otherwise go to waste. You’ll frequently see SDN and NFV mentioned–and, increasingly, implemented–together, as software is at the core of each.
  • Extreme Virtualization: Indeed, the only real hardware required in most networks in the future will be Wi-Fi access points, Ethernet switches to interconnect and power those APs and what few wired elements remain, and a WAN interface device (which will almost certainly be implemented using SDN and NFV) that is analogous to today’s router but much more configurable and flexible. Everything else–most notably, management, analytics and other operational support, but also traffic management, controllers and even security–is virtualized, along with computing and storage, into the cloud.
  • Desktop Virtualization: We will likely also move much end user processing and data to the server side of the link, and again into the cloud, and thus minimize the amount of traffic we’ll need to move in the first place. Lightweight protocols implementing the remoting of screen and other user I/O, like RDP and VDI, are much more efficient, in most cases, than simply implementing client/server in the cloud. Some processing will of course be done on mobile devices, but the essentially shared and collaborative nature of today’s IT solutions minimizes the amount of computing power really required in handsets, tablets and notebooks–many of which will be thin clients, like Chromebooks.
  • AI and ML: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to yield far-reaching benefits across all of IT and applications in general, but in networks we’ll see much more powerful and proactive analytics engaged via a feedback link between multi-tenant cloud-based analytics and management consoles. All of this will enable most problems to be resolved automatically, even before operations pros are aware of them. Network operations will center on policy specification, rather than the low-level tweaking of router settings via a CLI.

So, how can IT management decide which of these two strategies–Get More and Get Smart–will be the best alternative in their own individual cases? Begin with the information central to operations, and how and thus where this data is most efficiently and productively stored and processed. Then think about how the creation, distribution and management of this information will evolve over time and how IT can best carry out this mission.

It’s also important to conduct a financial analysis of the two options.

Ideally, Get Smart will improve the productivity of network operations staffs, whose associated costs are a huge chunk of operating expense (OpEx). And, unlike the capital expense (CapEx) at the heart of Get More that improves over time in the form of enhanced price/performance, OpEx only grows as people get more expensive (but not necessarily more productive) over time.

This is why Get Smart is so interesting and why, we believe, this strategy will become the dominant of the two choices. Add in improved performance, reliability, security and availability, and Get Smart can’t lose–over the long run, anyway.

The right tools and techniques for any given case derive from a complete consideration of the above elements. In many cases, just more of the same will work fine. After all, that’s what most end user organizations have always done, and, as long as end users are happy with network performance and budgets remain bounded, all really is well.

But, in an increasing number of situations, adding intelligence and not just bulk will yield, we believe, far greater returns over time–in the form of improved reliability, availability, costs, capacity and productivity–especially that of end users–included in the bargain. Smart, after all, always triumphs over brute force. It just takes a while.