The following text is copyright 1994 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

Is It Soup Yet?

By: Scott Bradner

The missing pieces of the future Internet are beginning to show up.

At Networld+Interop, O'Reilly & Associates were finally showing off Internet In a Box. It should be on sale by now. It seems like this package was first talked about years ago but finally appears to be here. It consists of a packaged set of Internet tools: Mosaic, a news reader, support for email, telnet (supports remote terminal emulation) and FTP. It also includes instructions on how and where to get Internet access.

A good deal at $149 list. Unfortunately for some, it only comes for a Windows 3.1 environment. I was told that the initial run is limited to 20,000 copies because it is not definite that there are an extra 20,000 Internet spigots currently available. So it looks like bits for the masses is on the way.

On the enabling technologies front, take a look at the 1st page of the second section of the Wall Street Journal for September 13th. There is a story about new venture called CyberCash which is designed to "make the Internet safe for commerce." You will soon be able to safely purchase things through the Internet and charge them to a credit card or pay for them with an automatic funds transfer out of your bank account. CyberCash brings together expertise and experience from the banking (William Melton), electronic funds transfer (Bruce Wilson), Internet (Interop's Dan Lynch) and Security (Jim Bidzos and Steve Crocker) areas.

Since they come with built-in credibility in the banks and business sectors where the idea of using the Internet for real work might be most questioned, there may be much less of a problem getting people to accept that the Internet is part of the real Information Superhighway. (Or is that the information superhypeway?)

The IPng draft recommendation was just published. After much discussion within the IESG and the IPng directorate, it was decided to make support for authentication and encryption required parts of all IPng implementations. This has the potential of providing a secure infrastructure for a wide variety of Internet applications. An Internet key distribution structure must be created before much of the potential can be realized and work is just starting in this area.

From the "dog that did not bark" department: the death of the federal telecommunications legislation is a mixed blessing. The bill would have increased competition in telecommunications services which might have led to lower costs and a wider variety of products, but it also would have come at some quite high costs. For example, making Internet service providers responsible for the content of what users could retrieve over the connection, independent of the source of the material, is a bit like making VCR manufactures responsible for the content of the video tape that is played on them. On balance, the lack of this bill is a plus for the Internet.

In my youth, well a while ago anyway, there were a series of TV adds that consisted mostly of people, kids & adult males, calling out "Is it soup yet?" to dutiful mom in the kitchen. Dutiful mom was dutifully stirring a pot of semi-instant soup and the apparent highlight of the day was when the soup was done. As I remember it, the idea was to buy a package of soup pieces, dump them into water and heat until the concoction turned magically into soup.

We seem to be well on our way to collecting the box of Internet pieces but a few are still lacking. Anyone reading com-priv can see that there is plenty of stirring going on. So it should be soup almost any day now.

The IPng draft recommendation is availiable on in pub/ipng/recommendation.lp for anonymous FTP and gopher access.

disclaimer: Over the summer Harvard spent multiple millions of dollars on a new kitchen to make its own soup. All of this must be mine.