Is the Future Tense?


      Here in the underground, we occasionally wonder, "What's the future going to be like?" Will we be pretty, will we be rich and will the underlying protocols of the Internet remain at the current standards or be updated to allow for greater user capacity? We decided to find out. In this special report, IU takes a look at three important areas of the Internet: the technical backbone, the manner in which commercial entities will manifest their presence and even help pay for the Web, and the impact the Internet will have on society.





The Future is Unclear
                                                by Simson L. Garfinkel


       The good news is that everything is going to change. The bad news is that everything is going to stay the same.
       That's the word from the gods who run the Internet, the technical- standard setters who sit on the Internet Engineering Task Force. The Internet is growing at such a phenomenal rate, and security breaches are becoming so widespread, that fundamental changes need to be made in the underlying infrastructure of the network before it is too late. A new Internet protocol, IPv6, is supposed to fix things -- the current protocol running inside your computer is IPv4. But even though the Powers-That-Be want you to upgrade your software, they can't force you to do it.
       "Clearly, it would be irresponsible to the nth degree to say that the installed applications on 20 million IP hosts would be useless in the future, so we are not going to do that," says Scott Bradner, the Internet Society's vice-president for standards.
       Simply put, even the Internet's gods can't upgrade 20 million computers at the same time and expect the 'net to keep working without skipping a beat. After all, they tried that before, on Jan. 1, 1983. It was on that day that the Arpanet, as it was then called, officially stopped using the older Network Control Protocol (NCP) and started using TCP and IPv4 exclusively.
       The reason for the switch was growth: By design, the NCP could only handle 255 computers on the network; by August 1981, there were already 213. You can read all about the plans for the switch in Jon Postel's RFC 801, "NCP/TCP Transition Plan," widely available at hundreds of FTP sites. But despite two years of planning, things did not go smoothly. By the end of February, nearly half of the computers on the Arpanet still couldn't speak the new TCP/IP protocol. Imagine if that happened today: You might upgrade your computer, then discover that you could not send any of your friends e-mail because they hadn't upgraded their own.
       This time around, the new network protocols will take the middle ground. People who use IPv6 will get the new features, but only when they are communicating with other computers on the network that have been similarly upgraded. In order to maintain backward compatibility, every IPv6 implementation will have to include a complete copy of IPv4. And every computer running the new protocol will have two Internet addresses: a 32-bit address for IPv4 and a 128-bit address for IPv6.
       But this need to maintain both forward and backward compatibility could cause problems of its own, says John Curran, chief technical officer at Beranek and Newman, the company that invented the Internet: "If IPv6 doesn't give us anything over IPv4, why will anybody switch?"


Security: IPv6 vs. IPsec

       For your average Internet user, the most important feature that's coming with IPv6 is transparent security...sort of.
       IPv4 was never designed to be secure. The designers' idea was that the packet switch network should simply get data from place to place; if programmers wanted particular applications to protect their data from eavesdropping, let them encrypt it. If they wanted protection from spoofing attacks, let them design their own authentication systems.
       But while those arguments sounded good in 1981, few programmers ever took the time to build security into their applications. Today there are large numbers of Internet services, such as the Domain Name System, which put undue trust in protocols that are fundamentally untrustworthy. The result is widespread break-ins.
       IPv6 solves this problem by making the underlying network secure, says Bradner. There's just one problem: There's already a patch for IPv4, called IPsec, that does nearly the same thing. "There are roughly a dozen implementations/products that contain IPsec, many of which are encrypting firewall products," says Ran Atkinson, who is overseeing the IPsec effort. Last year, a group of security gurus from the Naval Research Laboratory demonstrated their IPsec implementation at a meeting of the Task Force. There are even versions of IPsec that can be freely downloaded. You'll find them at ftp.c2.org in the U.S. and at ftp.ripe.net in Europe.



Address and Configuration

       Two other new features in IPv6 are dramatically larger Internet addresses and the ability for computers on the 'net to configure themselves automatically. IPv4 uses 32-bits for each host address, which in theory allows 4 billion different computers to be on the Internet at the same time. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way in practice. Many companies have been assigned large blocks of Internet addresses that they have not completely filled. Other companies, meanwhile, want their own blocks of addresses so they can add new computers to their network without hassle.
       "At some point it is going to be impossible to assign new blocks to organizations connecting to the Internet," says Curran. Big companies will be hit first, because they need larger blocks.
       With 128-bits for each IPv6 address, the new protocol solves the problem. Theoretically, IPv6 allows 340,282,366,921 billion different addresses; even if we were building a billion computers every second, that's still enough addresses to last until the end of the universe.
       Existing IPv4 computers communicate with these new IPv6 machines using a technique called address translation. Basically, address translation allows a large company to have thousands of computers appear to be sitting on a single IPv4 address. The only problem with this approach, says Curran, is that it works too well. With address translation, new companies that are moving to the Internet don't need to get a huge block of IPv4 addresses; they just need one.
       IPv6 also brings automatic configuration to Internet users. "You have a Macintosh, you plug in two [Macs into a network], and it works," says Curran, "We are hoping for that with IP." But once again, an auto-configuration system is already in the works for IPv4 called DHCP.



No Protocol is an Island

       IPv6 isn't the only new protocol that's likely to be coming down the pipe in the coming years. IETF is developing protocols for commerce, managing real-time traffic and even secure e-mail. "There are dozens in the works," says Bradner, who notes that there are more than 80 mailing lists discussing the Internet's technical future.
       All of these protocols will deeply affect the Internet's future. Consider a new protocol being developed for resource reservation. This protocol will allow people setting up a video tele- conference between Berlin, Boston and Bellevue to reserve the necessary bandwidth so that the picture doesn't drop out. But it's highly unlikely that network companies will let people reserve space on their routers and network backbones without paying for it -- which will require yet another set of protocols.
       Ultimately, most Internet users probably won't consciously decide to upgrade from IPv4 to IPv6. They'll just buy the next version of their operating system, and discover that the new protocol is already there. And if the Internet gods do their job right, they won't even know that.


For more information, check out:
Internet Engineering Task Force Home Page
     http://www.ietf.org/

IPsec specifications:
     ftp://ds.internic.net/rfc/rfc1825.txt
                              ~rfc1826.txt
                              ~rfc1827.txt

IPv6 specifications can be found at:
     http://playground.sun.com/ipng






Beyond Zima
                        by Kathleen Flinn


        "Don't click here." So read a recent banner ad on c/net. The creators probably thought it would offer a clever tease. But for most surfers, isn't that what most ad banners mean, literally?
        All right, maybe that's a bit unfair. But consider that in the dark ages of Internet advertising (circa 1994), banners for the much-lauded Zima site on HotWired received a 40 percent click-through rate...or so HotWired told the agency that created the site. That meant nearly half of all the people who saw the Zima banner hit it.
        Now, just two years later, advertisers are lucky if banners receive a 5 percent click-through rate. Why the change? Advertising on the 'net is no longer a novelty; it has become part of the landscape. That, it seems, may be part of the problem. At the same time, it might be part of the solution.
        "In the future, the lines of advertising and services may blur. What we've been saying (in my company) for a while is that advertising should be so good that people confuse it with the product and service," says G.M. O'Connell, the founder of Modem Media and co-creator of the once lauded Zima site. Future Web advertising might work much in the same way that product placement advertising works in film. For instance, you may be reading about car maintenance at Autosite, not realizing all along that you're being sold to by Saturn through images of the product.
        But does it really matter so long as the "advertisement" provides useful information? After all, that's the whole point of the Internet. Making information available. Sure, John Cameron Swayze gratuitously sucked on a cigarette when he delivered the news back in the 1950s, but people didn't seem to mind. They wanted their TV news. And Camel gave it to them.
        The current explosion of advertising on the 'net could be compared to the boom that took place at the inception of network television broadcasting. Advertising Age at http://www.adage.com/Features/TV/, provides an excellent history of broadcast advertising and in it, points out that circa 1948, during just the second full year of broadcasting, TVad revenues jumped more than 515 percent.
        Since then, advertising has developed into something of an art, buoyed by the pseudoscience of marketing demographics. Media buyers work on formulas, targeting markets in cost per customer. But the Internet doesn't fit into any easy formula; it's an unmeasured, untested frontier with no real figures, no threshold of reasonable expectations. Users can virtually tune out the ads by turning off the graphics on their browsers. Forget any figures you've seen; no one is really sure how much money is being spent on advertising on the Internet. Most industry experts agree that it's probably a large sum of money, but likely dollars misspent.
        "We are at the very dawn of this kind of marketing. Right now, it's very crude," says Andrew Jaffe, executive editor of the ADWEEK magazine group. "People are buying billboards on a highway where it's difficult to see the board." Much of modern advertising, particularly that by large corporations, focuses on creating brand image. Computers simply don't work as a great environment for that kind of advertising, Jaffe says. "That you see Saturn by itself on HotWired doesn't blow you away. If, when you click through and you can develop a relationship with Saturn, maybe join a car owners group, that's another thing. These banners are like invitations to 'come into my shop,' with varying levels of what they do with you when you do go in. Sure, there's a lot of potential to build relationships or conduct direct marketing here," Jaffe continues. "It's the best targeted marketing ever devised. But marketers are going to have to rethink the whole equation."
        Several experts agree the Internet will likely develop along the lines of the cable TV standard. Chris Clark, vice president of the GCI Group in New York, thinks so. His firm puts together Web sites for major companies, most notably Vivarin. While cable TV channels grew exponentially, the Internet, Clark says, "is like cable TV with a thyroid problem."
        "With cable TV, you pay for access, but then part of the cost is offset by ads. The online services are enriched services, so you pay more for those. The model should or could work, except for one thing -- advertisers are trying to provide the content rather than just paying for it. I think that's a huge mistake."
        Clark doesn't believe that any advertiser should expect more attention from Internet users than they expect from TV viewers or magazine readers. Vivarin, for example, puts together small, two-page Web sites that focus on subjects of interest to their primary demographic of college students.
        "A site about spring break is closer to their hearts than one about taking caffeine in a pill form," Clark says. He admits that he doesn't expect students to sit around looking at a site that starts out "Welcome to Vivarin.Com!" Especially when it's so simple for users to hyperlink elsewhere.
        O'Connell believes that the days of creating a hot site such as Zima.Com are quickly fading away. "They can't continue to create their own content, it's going to implode on itself. I don't think that it's going to work."
        Companies that have put large sums of money into Web sites are now trying to figure out whether or not those sites have paid off. But that's not something that can really be quantified, says Larry Chase, president and founder of the Online Ad Agency. When Alexander Graham Bell's radical invention hit the mass market, Chase says there were a lot of newsletters sporting titles such as How to Make Money on the Telephone.
        "So maybe someone installed a telephone. Back then, it was probably harder to configure than PPP is now. Then, at the end of the year, they thought, 'Hey, we didn't make any money on it,'" Chase says. "But, on the other hand, that person considers, 'Well, I got to speak to a client in Chicago I didn't know about that gave me an account I'll service for years.' So, what's that worth? That's what companies need to understand."
        There's one last thing that remains vastly different in terms of how advertising on the 'net will evolve as compared to other mediums: Namely, two-way communication. Input from users will likely be a dramatic influence on the shaping of future campaigns, methods and even the entire advertising paradigm. Internet advertising doesn't have to be an ugly concept. Let advertisers know you appreciate it when they give you content that you want, in an interface that works. Fire back with bile to those companies that clutter up newsgroups with spam or load your mailbox with junk. After all, Burger King pulled its horrible Herb campaign years ago when people let them know they didn't like it. As their old campaign used to suggest, "have it your way."






Digital Culture
                         by Kathleen Flinn


      There's one thing you can be sure about with the future of any thing. Namely, that no one really knows what it's going to be.
       That's especially true about the impact that the Internet will have on society at large.
       Some futurists might have you believe that the world will radically change in the next few years thanks to online solutions. IU wasn't as certain, so we decided to poll experts from a variety of fields, from technology to marketing to sociology to help with this prediction. What did we discover? The general opinion was that this information-inspired revolution will be quick and thorough, yet gentle on the consumer.
       When will you have to get wired, if you aren't already? Well, probably never. It's the same way you really don't have to own a TV or a telephone.
       The again, contemplate this futuristic vision of a day at the office. Instead of the morning paper with the cup of joe, you go online and flip through NewsPage, and online versions of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Instead of going through the mail, you check your e-mail. The phone is relatively quiet; most of your correspondence comes through Eudora Pro, filtered by subject.
       Next you order some flowers for your mother via the Internet and check the whereabouts of a package at the FedEx site. The doctor just prescribed some drug you never heard of, so you go online and look for it, then post to a newsgroup querying about the side effects. You sign up for an upcoming charity event and look at the resumes of interested jobseekers. Then, you spend the afternoon editing work of employees and sending it to their home offices, scattered over four different states. Before heading home, you flip to a Web site to see how the traffic is moving, compiled by computerized sensors along the highway.
       Sound like the future? What I just described was pretty much a typical day for me. As William Gibson once said, the future is already here; it's just unevenly distributed.
       "Most of what's being predicted or touted about the Internet is an exaggeration," says Dinty Moore, author of the The Emperor's Virtual Clothes. "It's neither as wonderful as its proponents claim nor as horrifying as its critics believe. What I've found is that the Internet is not going to change who we are, change the way we think and the way we learn, or change the essential way that we communicate, much less transform our culture, alter the political process or rearrange the balance of world power. What the Internet is doing is making it faster and easier for people with similar interests to find each other and talk to each other, no matter where in the world they live."
       Oh sure, the Internet could also turn you into a hermit. You might choose to avoid going out of your house altogether, order your groceries through Peapod, purchase clothes through an online mall and get your sexual needs satiated (well, sort of), via chat. But while we may take care of rudimentary tasks and gather information online, most of society will still desire interaction. "After sitting at a computer all day, people actually might be more likely to want to go out," notes Neal Goldsmith, president of Tribeca Research Inc., a technology strategy consulting firm and Internet think tank.
       For Luddites who completely reject online technology, the truth is, the Internet can never fully be dismissed. It will still affect their daily lives, if at least from collaborative medical research efforts being conducted online.
       The government keeps archives of records and documents that might also affect Internet naysayers, says Dr. Ogden Forbes, Ph.D., a researcher at Pepperdine University who completed his dissertation on the history of the Internet.
       "In many ways, colleges are the models for how the Internet will eventually weave into our lives." Even on a large campus, the Internet can bring students together with a greater sense of intimacy and level of efficiency. You can find people on a campus of 20,000 with the Internet that you might never have discovered otherwise, he notes.
       Those who currently spend a lot of time online may already be taking the vast amount of information available to them for granted. When one IU staffer realized she wouldn't be able to see the Hyakutake comet in March, she immediately responded, "Well, I can look it up on the Web. I'm sure someone will have something on it." Television is a different beast; sure you can tape a show, but what if you forget? It's gone.
       Also consider that an estimated one-half of all schools in the United States are now wired for the Internet. In a few years, that number will likely rise to near 100 percent. And most college students already have some access to the 'net.
       When this entire group of young people finally come online and have advancements such as high quality real-time audio and video available to them, the world is sure to change forever. In the entertainment industry, the music "play list" and standard music marketing paradigms are already being reconsidered because of the 'net user's ability to download songs in real-time without having to pay for them. Television-computers and video-on-demand, both expected in the near future, are sure to change Blockbuster's rental strategies.
       Eventually, more rudimentary elements of citizenship will be handled through the 'net. Register to vote, heck, even cast your vote online. Pay your taxes, renew your car registration or driver's license. Our IU pundits think it's unlikely that shopping malls will go by the wayside however; even Home Shopping Network and its $4 billion in sales at its heyday didn't kill strip malls. Internet phones will probably not knock out telephones. "There will always be people who prefer faxes, because it's tactile. It has the immediacy of e-mail, but it is something you can feel. So you won't see things go away," says Judy Tashbook, a spokesperson for America Online.
       What will be a notable change in the next few years will be the integration of media into the Internet. Newspapers will likely continue on the declining path on which they started some years ago. Combined with the soaring cost of paper, most media companies have already sought refuge on the Web. "The media will all simply integrate, the lines will be blurred," Goldsmith says.
       Technology is neutral, like a blank canvas. What we do with it is a factor of human nature. The image of the Internet as a vehicle of threat is likely to increase, Forbes says. Having a whole world connected to an admittedly unsteady network allows for the potential danger of technical terrorism. "Right now it's new and we're still exploring its possibilities. It's like the patent medicine of the 19th century -- it's good for all that ails you," Goldsmith says. "But like the patent medicines, they weren't good for all that ails you. In fact, some of it wasn't good for you at all."


Senior Editor Kathleen Flinn was previously editor of International Advertising & Media and a staffer at ADWEEK magazines.


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