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2011's Five Most Important Networking Stories

Networking and the Internet are shifting under our feet and so is our world.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Internet cirrca 2004. It s orders of magnitudes bigger now.

The Internet circa 2004. It's orders of magnitudes bigger now.

At first I thought I'd write a little nothing of a story about the five most popular networking stories of 2011. Then, I looked at the list:

Five Reasons not to "Upgrade" to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

Chrome 10: Close to a perfect Web Browser 10

Chrome 10 vs. Internet Explorer 9 Reconsidered

Internet BitTorrent Spies

Installing 32-bit IE 9 on 64-bit Windows

Eh, they're all decent stories, but they're also already dated. I mean, we're already up to Chrome 16! While people are always interested in what's the best browser-Chrome right now--let's face it: that changes every few months. So, I asked myself: "What are the most significant networking stories of 2011," and this, from least to most important, is what I came up with.

5. 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet Arrives

IEEE 802.3ab which sets down the technical guidelines for 40 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) and 100GigE Ethernet, is going mainstream. Today, data-centers are moving to it for their backbones. Tomorrow, Internet backbones will be moving to it.

4. The Shift to IPv6

It's invisible to most of you, but we're continuing to use up the last of our IPv4 Internet addresses. So, have our ISPs been moving heaven and earth to get up to IPv6? Nah. IPv6 adoption is still going no-where fast. Businesses and ISPs are going to shift away from IPv4 until the day comes when they call up to get some more addresses for a new branch and... the cupboard will be bare.

3. The Need for High-Speed Internet increases

We need, oh boy do we need, faster Internet backbones and last mile connections. Verizon's 3G and 4G data network kept collapsing; our ISPs, mobile and landline, keep putting caps on our bandwidth; and at the same time we need more and more bandwidth for our cloud applications and to watch Netflix videos. You did know right that steaming Netflix movies is the single largest consumer of Internet bandwidth today right? And, that was before everyone started using their new Apple TV, Roku, Internet-connected Blu-Ray DVD player etc., etc.

At the same time, according to Akamai's Q2 2011 State of the Internet report, "looking at connection speeds, the global average connection speed was 2.6Mbps [Megabits per second], and the global average peak connection speed was 11.4Mbps. At a country/region level, South Korea had the highest average connection speed, at 13.8Mbps, and Hong Kong had the highest average peak connection speed, at 44.4Mbps." The U.S.? At 5.8Mbps average connection speed and an average peak connection of 22.1, we came in at 35th place. This is not where you want to be if you're supposed to be a technology leader... or you just want to watch a movie over the Internet.

2. The Internet Wars

The Arab Spring came and with its revolutions we saw government after government, starting with the Egyptian regime, trying to quell the rebellions by turning the Internet off. These efforts failed in stopping the protesters, but they were largely successful in stopping the Internet. We can only expect to see more of this in the future.

At the same time, we're seeing attacks from foreign countries on our Web sites and Internet resources. So far, most of them have been made to steal information. But, they're already being made to attack sites as well. I hereby make a cheap prediction that sometime in 2012 we'll see a major U.S. Web site brought down thanks to an Internet attack sponsored by a foreign government. Then, maybe we'll start paying attention to this growing threat.

1. The Censoring of the Internet

In China, we can already see a "parallel" Internet. It looks like our Internet, but it's constantly censored by the government. Don't get too smug thinking it couldn't happen here.

The camel of censorship is trying to get its nose into our tent of Internet freedom as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) under the guise of preventing piracy. This won't be the first or last attempt to censor the Internet for our own good. We must be perpetually wary of such efforts to take away our Internet freedom or we too will see a world through an Internet under Big Brother's watchful gaze.

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