[ Paper Review #4 ] Casting the Net into the Wider Ocean

A Paper Review for “Rethinking the design of the Internet: The end to end arguments vs. the brave new world” by David D. Clark

David D. Clark’s Rethinking the design of the Internet: The end to end arguments vs. the brave new world  looks at the internet’s evolution through the years which has gone from being a military tool to something that is now commercial and more consumer oriented. This evolution is vastly influenced by a growing user base with varying motivations and purposes in using the internet.

The desire of the rising third parties (i.e. government, ISPs, organizations, etc)  to be involved so as to manage and control the internet has also pulled the internet evolution into many different ways as well.

The end to end argument, one of the major design philosophies behind the original internet structure, was the paper’s main backbone in showing the reader how the internet has evolved and how it continues to evolve. The end to end argument states that the responsibility for additional features should be handled via the end hosts and only minimal extra work should be done by the network core though different needs and wants of the different sectors of the society today (i.e. need for protection – anonymity and accountability, need for accommodation of more advanced applications, need for ISP service differentiation, need and want of third-parties to get involved) gear the Internet away from the end to end argument and shift its development to a design where most of the work is done by the network core and less is done by the end-users.

Instances of the the internet’s misuse and abuse has also lead to users’ erosion of trust, the most fundamental change that is evident today. Many users are now more conscious of their security and privacy, desiring for anonymity but at the same time, also of accountability. Consumers have also been vigilant that it is not only the network that could be dangerous but also the hardware and software that they own.

The rise of third parties also had a great gravity on where the internet is heading. Governments wanting to track citizen activities for security, taxation, and surveillance purposes, organizations claiming their right for transmitted data (i.e. copyright, fee, collection, etc), and ISPs being our gateways and determinants of what kind and type of service is accessible just show the rich objectives of the society and the various, but sometimes contradicting, values they employ.

On a positive note, the use of third parties can also address the need for security by verifying the communication between two parties (i.e. with the use of public key certificates, etc). But with this solutions comes another dilemma, how could end users be sure that it is really the third party verifying the communication?

The effect and importance of laws for the cyberspace have also been thoroughly discussed as a possible major tool in protecting users of the internet (i.e. laws that impose strict compliance of data labelling rules) and as a driving force to lessen (if not fully eliminate) its misuse and abuse.

The paper concluded with an assessment of where we are right now and a suggestion that we don’t need to drift completely away from the end-to-end argument but instead we can build a set of principles that interoperate with the end-to-end argument as well as new principles to address the current situation and community the Int.

The paper has thoroughly discussed the current situation in the Internet today and was able to compare how it was before to how it performs now and if it still aligns with the basic guiding principles and design approaches of the initial creators. This comparison is helpful to the reader in seeing the different factors that shaped the Internet. Citing real life examples and scenarios was also helpful in helping the reader relate to the paper. 

Indeed, there exists a tug of war between the different key players in the Internet (users, government, ISP, organizations, investors, etc) in influencing one’s experience with the Internet. There are those who impose rules and there are those who evade them, there are those who want to be anonymous, and there are those who want accountability disclosed. With these driving forces, it is exciting to see where the Internet will be 10 years from now, scary to think of the possible abuses people can do with it, but also hopeful to think of the possible defences and benefits it could give its users in the future.

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