10 Forces That Threaten to Tear the Internet Apart – Metrocosm
“…the Internet is in some danger of splintering or breaking up into loosely coupled islands of connectivity. A number of potentially troubling trends driven by technological developments, government policies and commercial practices have been rippling across the Internet’s layers…”
The Internet is at a crossroads.Since its birth over 30 years ago, the Internet has generally adhered to its original vision: a decentralized and universally connected network. That is to say, any connect device is generally free to exchange information with any other device that is willing to receive it. However, the Internet of tomorrow faces a series of new challenges which, if allowed to accumulate unchecked, threaten to splinter the Internet across national, commercial, and technological boundaries.
In a World Economic Forum white paper published earlier this year, three leading experts, including Vinton Cerf, widely regarded as the “father of the Internet,” map out the Internet’s fragmentation landscape, concluding with a “top 10” list of forces to be watched.
These 10 forces are summarized in the chart below, each characterized by three key attributes:
- Form: the nature of the fragmentation (governmental, commercial, or technical)
- Character: whether the potential outcome is generally positive, negative, or neutral
- Impact: does the fragmentation impact a narrowly bounded set of processes or the Internet as a whole?
What are the motivations behind these forces? And after more than 30 years of a universally connected Internet, why are they appearing only now?
The three forms of fragmentation shown in the chart (governmental, commercial, and technical) are each driven by separate trends and forces, and threaten to impact the Internet at different levels. Below is a summary of each one, along with specific examples of the risks they pose.