David Weinberger has been thinking about the Internet, and the webheads and greedheads. He’s especially fascinated by a 20-year-old paper on network design:
I’ve been thinking about the end of the Internet. No, not its collapse, but as in the”End-to-End” (E2E) argument, put definitively by David P. Reed, J.H. Saltzer, and D.D. Clark in their seminal article, End-to-End Arguments in System Design. The concept is simple: whenever possible, services should not be built into a network but should be allowed to arise at the network’s ends.
Let me prick this bubble, if I may: the Internet was not designed correctly. This is especially true from the standpoint of real-time services, such as streaming audio and video. The fundamental problem is that the end-to-end model only works when timed delivery is not important, because it’s not able to manage the system-to-system, network-to-network, and router-to-router links that have to be managed for bandwidth to be reserved and used efficiently by real-time services. The Internet runs on telephony-based services such as ATM and SONET that provide for real-time delivery, quality of service selection, and bandwidth sensitive billing, but the Internet protocols, especially IPv4, mask access to the controls that run these links and make real-time at best a matter of faith and prayer and massively over-built datalinks.
If the connection-oriented, end-to-end services provided by TCP had been implemented at the network layer instead of at the transport layer, the Internet would be poised to gracefully carry the next generation of services. But it wasn’t, so it’s not, and IPv6 doesn’t fully remedy the deficiencies. Don’t hold up any engineering exercise done twenty-five and thirty years ago as state-of-the-art, and don’t try and build a model of human morality on it – it’s a losing proposition.