The following text is copyright 1998 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

An Internet management with clues?

By Scott Bradner

Its been five and a half years since I started writing this column. In the first two years I used many of the columns to defend the Internet as real and claimed that it would grow in importance in the future. In one of those columns I wrote "In the universe where I live, the Internet is the future. The Internet is growing into the ubiquitous connectivity service. In this universe we are building the future rather than waiting for someone else to hand us something they think might be what we want. (Generally determined without the process of asking.)" This is not meant to be an 'I told you so' column but one of amazement and more than a little bit of trepidation.

I just got back from Geneva where I attended the Internet Society's annual meeting ( and one day of the "International Forum on the White Paper" which followed. ( The forum is working towards a consensus on how to deal with the US government's intention to withdraw from funding some of the basic infrastructure operations for the Internet as announced in a white paper. (

The forum meeting had people from around the world discussing the implications of a potential power vacuum left behind as the US government withdraws from the scene. The results of the meeting are still intermediate since this was one of a series of meetings with the last one in Singapore in the middle of August. But what was the most impressive about this meeting was the fact that it was not just a room full of Internet geeks. Speakers included a top advisor to President Clinton and a minister for the European Commission and participants were from all areas of business, education, and government. If anything the Internet geek community was under represented.

I've looked back on the columns I've written in these past five years and have thought back to the many conversations I've had during the same time period. It is clear that one area where the Internet technical community, which I like to think myself part of, missed the boat was in really understanding, deep down, how much of the control of this network was going to slip out of our hands. Most of our predictions about the inevitable success of the Internet in the face of governmental regulations requiring the use of other technologies such as OSI have come true. We knew we where going to be successful but failed to adequately appreciate how much the result would look like honey to the regulatory bears and ants.

It is not going to get easier in the future to minimize the effect of governmental "help." The Internet now plays a role in the economic health of the industrialized world that few observers could have imagined even a few years ago. The outcome of this series of meetings will help determine if there will be a role for the technically cluefull in Internet management, as the white paper recommends or not, as some of the businessmen and politicians would rather. Wish us well.

disclaimer: Harvard has no position on Internet governance (its too new) even though some Harvard people do.