Internet and Innovation

Last year I worked within a small group of people on an article called “Internet Architecture for Innovation“. The work was lead by Isidro Laso from the European Commission.

You may also note the small note on the first page:

This paper has been written jointly by their authors but it does not imply an agreement of all authors on all sections of the paper.


When you read through the paper you will notice that there are quite different views about how the Internet architecture should look like to support innovation for different parties. It should not be a surprise to you that there are different views on that topic!

You will also note another remark:

The main message is that the Internet Architecture is a new policy tool (no longer only a matter of techies). It could be used by policy makers to shape the future EU economy by favoring some industry sector while perhaps hindering others.

This statement is also not shared by all the authors but rather a view how policy makers would like to see it.

In any case, there are various reasons for the success of the Internet and previous IAB publications provide valuable insight into the history and many of the statements are still very much applicable today.

RFC 1958 says: “The Internet and its architecture have grown in evolutionary fashion from modest beginnings, rather than from a Grand Plan.” “A good analogy for the development of the Internet is that of constantly renewing the individual streets and buildings of a city, rather than razing the city and rebuilding it.” It is difficult to resist the temptation to re-design everything from scratch and not to worry about incremental deployability. We see the attempt for re-design in many places; sometimes only at the marketing level but often also in ignorance of what had been developed in the past.


RFC 1958 also states that “… the community believes that the goal is connectivity, the tool is the Internet Protocol, and the intelligence is end to end rather than hidden in the network.” This statement is challenged more than ever with the perceived need to develop clever intermediaries interacting with dump end devices but we have to keep in mind what RFC 3724 has to say about this crucial aspect: “One desirable consequence of the end-to-end principle is protection of innovation. Requiring modification in the network in order to deploy new services is still typically more difficult than modifying end nodes.” RFC 4924 adds that a network that does not filter or transform the data that it carries may be said to be “transparent” or “oblivious” to the content of packets. Networks that provide oblivious transport enable the deployment of new services without requiring changes to the core. It is this flexibility that is perhaps both the Internet’s most essential characteristic as well as one of the most important contributors to its success.

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