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Eight-hundred-and-nine columns down, none to go


'Net Insider By Scott Bradner, Network World

June 10, 2013 06:03 PM ET


My first column in this series for Network World debuted in December 1992. Due to the changing nature of publishing in this Internet-impacted world, this is about the 809th and last column.  

Last week, fellow columnist Mark Gibbs, who has a slightly shorter tenure at Network World than I do, wrote about the changes he has seen since he started writing for the publication. Had he not written that column I might be writing about the same thing. But, since he did, I will build on one of his points and will try to take a somewhat different look at the last fifth of a century based on pointers to a somewhat random selection of old columns.


Gibbs noted that the Internet had changed the world -- well, yeah!  In December 1992, there were about 1.6 million Internet hosts, and that seemed like a lot at the time. But by mid last year, there were over 900 million. The number of web sites has risen from under 200 to over 670 million. The number of users has grown from a few million to over 2.4 billion, about a third of the Earth's population.  


The growth in scale and impact of the Internet has been a constant theme throughout the writing of this column. It has not been the only topic, but it is one that I came back to again and again because of the change that the Internet has made.  Change to society, to the telephone business and the telco's response, to the news business, to privacy and, to business in general, and to warfare.


The Internet started small but moved the world to run over the Internet Protocol. It is polluted by spam and has destroyed privacy. Protecting privacy has a cost.  


If I were not writing this end-of-session column, I would likely be writing about the eavesdropping revelations of the last few days.  Our elected officials cannot understand the Internet,  but we do need to figure out how to govern it.


Politicians do rant a lot about the impact of the Internet, usually using "protecting children" as the reason to try to change it.  But the courts have sometimes stepped in to retrain the politicians' blundering. The death of the Internet has been predicted -- and avoided -- but
network security continues to be a real issue.  The original end-to-end architecture of the Internet is still relevant but not without concerns.


We made it to where we are by flailing around. And where we are is where things do not exist unless they are online, and not being online is not an option.  It is clear that the Internet, like the printing press, is a parent revolution, impacting all parts of how we live on this planet.


In all these years the column that took the least time to write, while being the hardest to write, was the one on the death of Jon Postel. The Internet has not yet reached middle age (in human terms), but the many people that defined and refined it are now passing from the scene at an increasing rate.

I will now pass from the Network World scene but expect to be active in many other Internet-related scenes, hopefully for a long time.  In addition, I hope to spend more time on photography and ship models.  


Finally, I would like to thank you readers for your comments, both positive and not, these past two decades, and your encouragement to continue. If I don't see you again, have a good life.


Disclaimer: Harvard has been a major part of the environment in which I have existed and the interaction with the people at Harvard has kept my brain active. Harvard has also provided me with the time and support to be involved in this Internet Thing from its birth to the present day, and for that I am grateful. But, as I've said hundreds of times and in hundreds of ways at the ends of my columns, the opinions in these columns have been my own and not something that the university should take credit for, or get blamed for.


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