The Net’s Mid-Life Crisis

Friday, March 13, 2009


The basic architecture of the Internet hasn't changed since it was conceived 40 years ago. But what was once the playground of wonks is now the main staging area for the global economy and open to an array of security vulnerabilities. Brooke talks with Internet experts who ponder a vexing conundrum: adjustments that increase security simultaneously hamper innovation.


    Music Playlist
  • Let's Go
    Artist: Build Buildings

Comments [17]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

I like the well-informed comments on the difference between security problems inherent with computers, operating systems and the Internet (people outside the business still do call it the Net, often).

All I know is that your segment on social networking sites becoming more popular than pornography on the Internet turned prophetic for me. I've been so engaged by old friends and family from around the country and across the world that I neglected my own guilty pleasure last week, posting to the OTM website!

Mar. 20 2009 02:49 AM

Great commentary Brooke!

Mar. 19 2009 10:38 PM
Mike White from Westland, MI

Yes, of all the tools that need to be standardized on the web, browsers have had the most attempts at regulation via the W3C but, yet, still prove the most irksome. Likewise, they exemplify the problems that OTM focuses on - they're outmoded (IE6 still proves to be a major player though it's not two versions behind) and they open up users to Trojans and other malware via their poor coding (again, IE6). I wonder if OTM requires some kind of metaphor to make this point clear. For me, I describe the difference in web browsers as if looking out four windows and seeing four completely different versions of the same view. (though others have more colorful methods of describing this troublesome topic).

Mar. 19 2009 12:17 PM
Mark from VT

The article is right on target with where the WWW is in regard to IPv6 and security. Where to go from here is anyone’s' guess, I guess those writing the IPv6 Protocols will have most of the say and what is left will be decided by law makers. I'm wondering how much of the general publics' influence will be incorporated into the Alpha Net. The idea of an OS dash board is awesome as well. Innovations, R & D are the key components in whatever turns the Alpha Net takes.

Mar. 19 2009 08:39 AM

all that and lives died by net!cool . passage is too long, but some words referred are very fun.

Mar. 19 2009 03:54 AM

PLEASE stop referring to the internet as "the net". No one in the industry refers to it as such.

Mar. 17 2009 02:22 AM
Ralph Santos from Alameda, CA, USA

My compliments on covering and illuminating a broad and complex subject. However, I would like to offer one subtle but important correction to your comments about Mr. Clay Sherkey's interview. The issue Mr. Sherkey addresses with digital signatures is not anonymity but authentication.

There are important situations where the difference is critical. Voting is perhaps the most important. It is important to keep votes anonymous to minimize the potential for influence, intimidation or retribution against the voter. But not knowing who cast a vote does not eliminate the need to be sure that the vote cast is genuine.

Much of the dark side of the Internet is actually supported not by anonymity but rather the ability to present a false identity. Messages from nameless strangers offering you millions of dollars in exchange for your personal information will be rejected out-of-hand. Those who run email and phishing scams succeed because they manage to convince their marks that they are someone else--like the widow of a Nigerian president or a representative of their own bank.

Mr. Sherkey's discussion of digital signatures is really talking about authentication, not identity. You can use it to verify a sender's identity, as Sherkey describes in his interview, but you could also use it to verify the authenticity of a message without revealing the identity of a sender--as a journalist might need to do when working with a whistleblower.

Mar. 16 2009 09:01 PM

This piece was too long. Too long because it became sensational and bordered on fear mongering. The comparison with Apple App Store is misleading. It's not the only game in town and it goes to Apples long history innovating beyond everyone else and then slowly evolving their product over time. I used the word product because that is what the App Store is. It is not like the internet.

I personally don't care if people get viruses. It's not that I'm mean, but it's because people refuse to treat their computers like they treat their cars. Get a oil change once it a while. Flush the transmission fluid. Rotate and balance or buy new tires.

The highway will always be there (thanks to wifi). But you need a vehicle to enjoy it. Take responsibility for your computer.

Mar. 16 2009 04:24 PM
Peter from New York

Gerri (#4), it sounds like the virus you encountered exploited a vulnerability of ClarisWorks, not Mac OS itself. Macs are certainly not immune to viruses, but in your case it appears that it was just a case of bad software running on top of a basically sound operating system. In particular, it doesn't sound like the virus caused any damage outside of ClarisWorks.

Mary (#8), it's true that much of the initial funding came from DARPA, but some of the first computers on ARPANET were at UCLA, UCSB, and Stanford Research Institute. You can be pretty sure that hippie geeks were involved.

Mar. 15 2009 11:22 PM
Mary from San Diego

"Hippie Geeks" - it was the military, not hippies that started the internet.

Mar. 15 2009 08:55 PM
mary noble from wisconsin

I loved the soundtrack! Build Buildings...very cool. Thanks for that and of course...all the other good stuff.

Mar. 15 2009 07:58 PM
Garnet from Michigan

I agree completely with Brooke's assessment at the end of the program - the Net's value as a free marketplace of ideas does have pitfalls, but also has incredible potential to help humans connect on new levels. It can even the playing field for everyone and help us progress towards a more unified society through discussion and compromise. Any attempt to develop new technologies that will fundamentally change the underpinnings of this new universe should keep in mind what made the internet so special: freedom.

Mar. 15 2009 05:10 PM
Peter from New York

The segment conflates two separate issues, design problems of the internet (such as the lack of built-in encryption) and security flaws of Microsoft Windows. Even if a brand new and totally redesigned internet were deployed tomorrow, Windows machines would still be vulnerable because of design flaws that have nothing to do with the internet.

Peg (#3) is right --- Macs (as well as other Unix-like systems) are not nearly as susceptible to viruses as Windows systems. Nobody is immune (the Morris worm that was mentioned in the segment exploited security flaws in a few old versions of Unix), but viruses and worms for non-Windows systems are extremely rare.

The media routinely make the mistake of reporting problems of Windows as problems of computers in general. Let's hope that OTM will avoid this mistake in the future.

Mar. 15 2009 12:40 PM
Gerri Gribi

It is not true that Macs never get viruses. While rare, as I know from personal experience, it can happen. I have never owned anything but a Mac since 1982, and one time I got a virus from a floppy disc my husband brought home from his PC at work to run using our "Office for Mac." The symptom was that henceforth, random phrases of text were migrating from one Clarisworks document to others and I couldn't delete them. Eventually I bought an antivirus application, which found and deleted the virus. I don't remember the name of the virus was probably or 8 years ago!

Mar. 15 2009 12:08 PM
Peg Roberts from Mt. Tabor, NJ

Perhaps I missed part of the broadcast, but I didn't hear any mention of Mac computers. They do not get viruses. Never! I know several groups and schools who have switched over, and never have had to deal with viruses again!

Mar. 15 2009 11:21 AM
andrew hennessy from DC

Kohut and Pew do suspect things with numbers. Why does OTM still take him seriously?

Here is an old Pew poll: (

Andrew Kohut, from Pew, says the margin or error is +-3 ..., and Kohut says that "Obama has not brought more people to his side while McCain has been able to achieve this." He ignores his margin of error in order to make that statement. 87% +-3= 84% to 91%, and 83% +- 3 = 86% to 91%. The confidence intervals cross: the Democratic and the Republican percentages of support for their respective parties is not statistically different. Further, what does he mean by "not brought more people?" He is talking about percentages, but the number of Democrats and Republicans in the population is not equal?

The headline and Kohut's point was that Obama was lossing ground. Kohut said the results were "quite different" than June 2008 when 48% were for Obama and 40% were for McCain. In the newer poll (Aug 13, 2008) it was 46% for Obama 43% for McCain. The confidence intervals on the time-series cross. The change is not statistically significant.

Mar. 15 2009 09:08 AM
Joseph Tomczyk from Black Mountain, NC

Were you casting doubt on Wikipedia?

Mar. 14 2009 10:17 PM

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