Roger Needham lecture 2007

Evolving the internet: challenges, opportunities and consequences

Speaker: Prof Mark Handley, University College London.

Mark Handley discusses the challenges faced by networking researchers in getting ideas out of the lab and into the core of the internet, and examines the consequences that the world faces if growing technical problems underlying the internet remain unaddressed while the demands placed on the internet continue to grow.

Fast-moving developments are sometimes said to move on "internet time"; new applications continue to appear almost daily, with the press blaming the internet on a regular basis for some new social ill while simultaneously rushing to be king of the online media. But, if we peek at the networking protocols on which the internet is based, we discover a completely different story.

Despite rapid change, of both the underlying network hardware and the applications supported by the internet, the core network architecture has not changed significantly since the early 1990s.

In some ways, this indicates that the founding fathers of the internet did an excellent job; although they could not have foreseen BitTorrent, MySpace or YouTube, their design still supports such diverse applications rather well. However, unnoticed by most users, cracks are beginning to show in the foundations.