The Top 5 Networking Stories of 2010

I'm sorry to say that regulation, instead of innovation, makes up a large part of my list.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

I'd much rather write about what was new and neat about networking in 2010, but the sad truth is I think the many of the most important networking stories in 2010 were about regulations rather than innovations.

That said, there was some "good news" about networking in 2010 as well. Number one with a bullet in my book was:

1. The Browser Wars Revived

Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari, take your pick, all the Web browsers got better in 2010. You can argue until you're blue in the face about which one is better. It's Chrome by the way.

Agree with me or not, though, the important point is that because of this competition all the Web browsers significantly improved during 2010. While Chrome and Firefox, the two big open-source browsers, made the most gains I have to say that Internet Explorer 9 looks pretty darn good. Now, if only IE 9 were available for XP and IE 6 would finally die. Die! Die! Die!

Ahem. Excuse me.

2. 100GigE Internet Backbones

The good news is that since the IEEE ratified IEEE 802.3ba, we'll soon see 40-Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) and 100GigE Ethernet becoming the new standard for Internet backbones. The bad news is we're going to need that speed and we'll be crying for Terabit Ethernet.

We'll be weeping because, thanks to the growing popularity of Apple TV, Netflix, Roku, and all the other video Internet services we're going to need all the bandwidth we can get. That wouldn't be so bad except, in 2011, we're going to face the painful question of who pays for all that new, high-speed bandwidth. The Internet providers? They're not making money from broadband. Someone will have to pay, and that means we run right into the sticky problems of....

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Net Neutrality, Regulations & WikiLeaks, and IPv6

3. Net Neutrality

The root of all evil, and the endless Net Neutrality fights, is money. Who pays for all that bandwidth we're using? Is it the content providers? The ISPs? Oh sure, you can argue about it being about freedom of speech, but really the way I see it, the players are all far more concerned about making the most money with the least amount of moo from the cows... ah paying customers.

In 2010, all we saw was the FCC try to take a stand, which as far as I can tell, no one likes. Not mind you that it matters, the incoming Congress, not the FCC, will decide who, if anyone, gets to call the Internet's regulatory shots.

4. Regulations, Laws, and WikiLeaks

There's a larger fight here than just net neutrality though: It's who really gets to control the Internet? How much privacy does your e-mail have? Does the government or businesses have the right to try to shut down WikiLeaks? Do individuals or groups have a right to shut down Websites with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks as a form of protest?

Once upon a time, we used the Internet. Now, we live on the Internet. All those complicated real-life questions of censorship and freedom of speech are being fought over every day on the Internet. 2011 will see more of the same.

5. We're running out of Internet Addresses

I wrote a lot about IPv4 and IPv6 in 2010. I'll be writing a lot more in 2011. The clock is running ever faster on the Internet running out of IPv4 addresses. Like it or lump it, we need to start switching to IPv6. Fortunately, more of the major ISPs, such as Verizon, are supporting IPv6. Unfortunately, we're still a long, long way from IPv6 being universally supported.

When I think about 2010 as a whole, I believe it was a year where we got a lot of neat stuff like all these new browsers and I use Internet video all the time now myself. At the same time, though the Internet's technical and regulatory foundation has gotten more rickety than ever. 2011 will be a critical year for the Internet. We're either going to fix some of its fundamental problems, or we're going to see sporadic wide-range system failures.

We all know something about power brown-outs, even if we haven't experienced one personally. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that we'll see Internet brown-outs in 2011. There will be too much demand for not enough bandwidth, there will be even more DDoS attacks, and some new sites won't be able to go up due to a lack of Internet addresses. This is not going to be fun.

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