On Internet Symmetry and its Impact on Society

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Stephen s Wolff, Internet 2, Washington, DC, United States
The end-to-end principle, enunciated by Clark and Saltzer in 1981 enabled an Internet implementation in which there was a symmetry among the network nodes in the sense that no node was architecturally distinguished. Each interface to the network had a unique and accessible address and could communicate on equal terms with any other interface or collection of interfaces. In this egalitarian implementation there was in consequence no architectural distinction between providers and consumers of content - any network node could play either role. As the Internet spread to university campuses, incoming students found 10 megabit Ethernet in the dorm - while their parents at home were still stuck with 56 kilobit dialup. In the two decades bisected by the millenium, this combination of speed and symmetry on campus and beyond led to a panoply of transformational Internet applications such as Internet video conferencing and billion dollar industries like Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook. This talk places early Internet history in a social context, elaborates on the social and economic outcomes, defines“middlebox friction”, discusses its erosive consequences, and suggests a solution to restore symmetry to the Internet-at-large.