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Internet Author Ponders Future Trends

May 19, 2010

One of the Internet's founding fathers spoke about its future on Wednesday morning. Keynote speaker Dr. Vinton Cerf, Google's vice president and chief Internet evangelist, discussed the evolution of network-based capabilities in defense. But by extension, his conversation also covered the future of the wider Internet. Cerf, who wrote several of the key protocols underlaying the Internet, noted that by mid-to-late 2011, all of the Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPV4) addresses will be used up. He added that while the U.S. Defense Department may have the same number of IP addresses, its allies may not and the department will have to maintain addresses in both IPV4 and IPV6. "You don't know who your allies will be in five or six years," he observed. When the Internet was originally created for Defense Department use, Cerf says that it was not designed to perform any particular operation besides moving bits from point to point. Because the requirements were so broad, it allowed the system to be tremendously flexible and scalable. "What is amazing is that the protocols have actually scaled [over the last 40 years]," he shared. This scalability has allowed a large number of applications to be developed. These various tools inclue the search and chat capabilities that Defense Department and civilian users are familiar with. Other applications include Skype and online audio and video streaming tools, Twitter, and map services such as Google Maps. Mobile devices represent a growing capability that was not considered when the Internet was developed. Handheld devices are more than telephones, Cerf explained, they are programmable devices with a range of applications. "Your information window is on your hip or in your purse," he said. A variety of new applications are now available for both mobile and desktop systems that are useful for both civilian and government users. These tools include speech recognition software that allows users to conduct Internet searches by voice commands, automatic captioning of videos and real time speech to text translation. Cerf closed by observing that considerable room for improvement remains in the Internet model. He noted that security issues continue to plague online activities. Challenges include weak operating systems, faulty browser design and improper configuration of host and client computers. To counter these issues, he noted that strong security capabilities such as two-factor authentication should be introduced.

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