I ran across this article last week in the Arizona Republic regarding redesign of the Internet. This was very much in line with one of the recurring topics that seemed to be discussed in the halls at Caesars Palace during Black Hat: how might we change the Internet if we were to start from a clean slate? There are clearly many motivating factors to do so, from the fragility and dependency issues of the Internet on DNS as discussed by Kaminisky , email spam , DDOS, use of a basically insecure connectionless protocol for the vast majority of transactions, to encrypting all Internet traffic to keep government and other entities from spying on us, and the list goes on and on.

I have not been following the organizations history all that closely nor am I aware of any published research at this time. I will admit to viewing the GENI effort with a bit of skepticism. While the web site FAQ states ‘It is not a replacement for the Internet (or any other communications technology). Rather the purpose of GENI to test and mature a wide range of research ideas in data communications and distributed systems’. Not sure if the intent with the statement is to underscore the intention to build something entirely new, or if this is hyperbole, but it is clearly at odds with the way the project is being marketed as “A massive project to redesign and rebuild the Internet”, which is why it makes news and why US National Sciences Foundation would consider $12 million in funding. This dichotomy makes me worried right off the mark.

I always assumed the success of the Internet was because it was a cheaper and faster way to do things. Simple to understand, easy to use, freedom to say what you want, and almost free to participate. Yes, low cost helps, but the organic growth IMO is really about simplicity and freedom. And the more people who participate, the more information available, and more value.

A ‘clean slate’ redesign of the Internet will certainly have design goals of greater reliability, accountability and security. These points are on the agenda’s of every Internet redesign discussion I have seen, and they will come with greater control, expense and monitoring of personal activity. The more I think about it, the more I believe what we need is not a new Internet, but one that sits parallel to the one we have today. The Internet we have today works great for sharing information, which is largely what it was indented to do. It was not designed to be secure, keep data private or conduct commerce. If the intention of the GENI project is to provide a secure medium for commerce in parallel, I am all for it. I am not eager to give up what I like about the Internet to solve the security issues at hand.