The following text is copyright 1996 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

A lively death indeed.

It seems the mean time between death notices for the Internet is rapidly decreasing. In addition to the columnists' pontifications that I've been seeing for as long as there has been something identified as "the Internet". Now stories are showing up in what is called, for reasons unclear to me, the popular press. A year or two ago I'd see one such story every six months or so -- usually a pronouncement by someone who felt that the telephone companies would soon need to take over and then all would be well-- now the idea shows up in print (electronic or ink) multiple times a week. All too frequently it is someone who should know better.

Somehow a network designed to withstand adverse conditions (such as nuclear war) is about to collapse because it is being used-- seems a bit strange.

While there are quite a few of these prognosticators of doom scattered about and viewing the state of the net with alarm, there does not seem to be any sort of common assumption of a particular threat within the apoplectic community. There are almost as many reasons that the net will die as there are people who are claiming that it will, It seems that the net is about to die due to clogging of the backbone combinations arteries, to overload on the servers, to local Internet service providers (ISPs) overcommitting their infrastructure, to the aggressive cluelessness of many of the companies trying to bring the Internet to you, to the lack of real-time support, to lack of an inter-vendor settlements procedure, to the perceived absence of security, or to all of the above.

Given that all the above are true (as they are to one level or another) the Internet must be a hurting puppy. It is a wonder that anyone uses it on account of the fact that it is so popular.

But aren't these pundits holding the Internet to a higher standard than other technologies? Do these same people claim that the international phone system is broken because it is hard to get a dial tone in Chad? Should I pronounce U.S. telephone service dead because all too often I could not get a long distance line out of Boston on my old long distance carrier? Is the highway system broken because of a traffic jam in Chicago?

Why should the Internet and its various types of service providers not be subject to the same cyclical guess, try, and respond process that just about all non-regulated industry is? For example some people have complained that MCI's backbone was getting rather over full and, as a result, some points in the backbone were losing excessive packets. Lets see how this works -- MCI bid for some of the inter-regional connections at the end of the NSFnet era and had its own projections about how successful it was going to be in selling Internet connections. MCI built a network to meet those projections. Traffic growth, both from the regional networks that took MCI up on their bid and from MCI's own customers grew faster than the projections (by quite a bit). So after a while, MCI figures out a new set of projections and builds a backbone to meet those projections. This same sort of estimate, build, refine, expand process is what I would expect to see throughout the Internet.

The Internet is far from being about to die, or if it does it will be, as Elliott Norse said about another type of system, "a lively death indeed."

disclaimer: With hundreds of years of history, Harvard always estimates correctly the first time, so they would not be familiar with the above concepts.