Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 5/7/2004A quiet day -- the US is having a party to celebrate beating the Brits -- but not without its mystery. From China comes news of "IPV9", a strange new Internet Protocol that defies description but has already been "tested and popularised" according to reports in the People's Daily.

Monday 5/7/2004
A quiet day -- the US is having a party to celebrate beating the Brits -- but not without its mystery. From China comes news of "IPV9", a strange new Internet Protocol that defies description but has already been "tested and popularised" according to reports in the People's Daily. No further technical information was forthcoming, and across the Western world the air was loud with the sounds of heads being scratched.

Could this be a repeat of the Chinese WAPI incident, where the country declared that all wireless networks would have to conform to a new government standard -- details of which were not forthcoming? Once again, the effect was confusion and uncertainty on the part of the Western suppliers -- with Intel notably giving out two different responses to the problem in one Developer Forum session. In the end, Intel and others said that they couldn't supply equipment under those conditions, WAPI got made part of some very high level trade talks and in the end it was quietly dropped. I still don't think anyone ever found out exactly what it was.

Not the case this time. After a lot of digging, it transpired that IPV9 was the brainchild of one person, who had been promoting it without too much official support. It wasn't a complete Internet protocol, though, just some tweaks to addressing and DNS that let the Chinese address Web sites through phone numbers (a similar project, called ENUM, is already going through the approval process at the IETF). So stand down, chaps, it doesn't look too serious.

Nonetheless, nobody should ever assume the Chinese will play the game according to Western rules. The place is very keen on local standards for local people; it has its own cellphone systems (one called Little Demon isn't even compatible between cities) and video CD formats, and is certainly not adverse to keeping the outside world at a disadvantage by tweaking things. If you think open versus closed has been a pitched battle so far, the best is yet to come.

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