The body that oversees how the net works, grows and evolves says it has coped well with its growth in the last 10 years, but it is just the start.
“In a sense, we have hardly started in reaching the whole population,” the new chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Brian Carpenter, says.
The IETF ensures the smooth running and organisation of the net’s architecture.
With broadband take-up growing, services like voice and TV will open up interesting challenges for the net.
“I think VoIP (Voice-over Internet Protocol, allowing phone calls to be made over the Net) is very important – it challenges all the old cost models of telecoms,” says Dr Carpenter.
“Second, it challenges more deeply the business model that you have to be a service provider with a lot of infrastructure. With VoIP, you need very little infrastructure.”
A distinguished IBM engineer, Dr Carpenter spent 20 years at Cern, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics.
As the new chair of the IETF, his next big challenge is overseeing IPv6, the next generation standard for information transfer and routing across the web.
At Cern, Dr Carpenter helped pioneer advanced net applications during the development of the world wide web, so he is well-placed to take on such a task.
The net’s growth and evolution depend on standards and protocols, and ensuring the architecture works and talks to other standards is a crucial job of the IETF.
The top priority is to ensure that the standards that make the net work, are open and free for anyone to use and work with.
The net is built on a protocol called TCP/IP, which means transmission control protocol, and internet protocol.
When computers communicate with the net, a unique IP address is used to send and receive information.
The IETF is a large international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers working on the evolution of the net’s architecture and the way this information is sent and received.
They make sure it all knits together leaving no gaps.