Reed's views, was [e2e] Cannara's views

John Day day at
Mon Apr 16 10:26:33 PDT 2001

At 12:31 -0400 4/16/01, Craig Partridge wrote:
>In message <v04220804b700a4b12128@[]>, John Day writes:
>  >And when it really comes down to it, do we really think that our
>  >brilliant technical insights had anything to do with the success of
>  >TCP/IP?  Or did it really have more to do with economics and politics
>  >and timing?  A hard look at the events would seem to indicate that
>  >things outside the technical had more to do with the current success
>  >of the Internet than our technical solutions.
>I think it is hard to overstate the importance of TCP/IP's deployment.
>It was there, and while there were always worries about how long it
>would keep working, you at least knew it had worked so far (often a
>concern with the trailing technology, namely OSI) and it was cheap (always
>good with the academics who got the ball rolling).
>The full impact hit me in the very late 1980s, when basically both
>NSFNET and more important, the European research networks, announced
>they were using TCP/IP because it was there, known to work, and easy
>to get and that they'd transition to OSI when it was ready (which given
>their decision, effectively was going to be never).
>So in terms economics, politics and timing, I'd say timing was the
>big win, economics came second, and the politics third (which isn't
>to say there weren't some unpleasant politics, but actually, as things
>go, there was rather little).

But again, it had nothing to do with the solutions that TCP had 
chosen.  If we had picked delta-t  or XNS, had a large base of 
academic users of that network, and made it available for free.  We 
would be using that protocol and patting ourselves on the back about 
how good it was and pointing to the differences between THAT protocol 
and TCP and saying what decisions those were.  But even more than it 
being free, I think the ability to slip the Internet out of ARPA and 
allow it to become commercial without having to re-create a 
commercial version was the thing that really made it take off.  The 
fact that the user base that had built up through the 80's basically 
saw no change in the 'Net as it became public was really the thing 
that allowed it to leverage its success.

On a similar vein:   I have often bemoaned the fact that ARPA stopped 
all development of application protocols in 74.  There was an effort 
just getting underway then that was quite excited about making the 
Net really the distributed resource sharing network that was always 
mentioned in the papers.  There were a lot of good ideas floating 
around and a lot of things that never got acted on and we could have 
been where we are today much sooner.  Recently, I had a reason to 
look at RFC 101 minutes of a 1971 NWG meeting.  It happened to 
mention that the SRI group was putting NLS on an IMLAC, which I 
translated as primitive precursor of "PC with a mouse using the Web."

But recently, I have started wondering whether that is in fact that 
is the way it would have worked out.  Even with our attempt to be 
general, but limited by our view of systems at the time, would we 
have produced something that was a commercial dead-end or useful only 
in a much more technical environment than the consumer market, OR 
would we have actually worked things out to such a degree that 
connecting to the net was much more turnkey with less concern about 
security, naming, directories, etc.  I think most of realized that 
computers would become PCs even when we working on mainframes and 
minis, but would we have expected it to take the form it did?  Would 
we have ended up with something that was much more constraining and 
less easy for "e-commerce" to spring up?

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