A New World
By the time the new millennium came, the Internet had truly transformed the world. Hundreds of millions of people had come online and the private sector had laid millions of miles of high-speed fiber optic cables across the globe. Although the "dot.com" crash in the early part of the decade eliminated many Internet-related start-up companies, the end result was a vastly improved network infrastructure, a skilled Internet workforce, and high public expectations for what the Internet could do to make life better. These factors have led to continued improvements in both how the Internet works and how we use it. The Internet is now increasingly faster, mobile and ubiquitous. But despite all this progress, many exciting challenges–and possibilities–await the next generation of Internet pioneers.
Web 2.0 – Interactive and in Our Lives
The World Wide Web has become truly interactive in the past five years or so, creating a phenomenon some call Web 2.0. Since the turn of the century, the number of homes and businesses with broadband Internet connections has grown exponentially. This new level of connectivity allows users to be more active participants online. Around the world, millions of people are now sending video emails or 'vmails' posting photos and comments to blog sites, and using social networking sites to build virtual communities of people who share common interests. Companies now invite consumers to create and post their own ads for products. Political candidates use similar tactics to interact with voters. These activities are opening up new avenues of scientific inquiry as researchers observe our interactions online to gain insight into human behavior. All of this shows that we are just beginning to tap the Internet's potential to transform our lives.
Internet2 – Back to the Lab
The Internet was created by scientists and researchers who wanted to share information and harness supercomputers in far-off locations. But eventually it grew beyond laboratories and universities and into broader society. Now, the scientific and research communities are trying to create a next-generation network to empower their work that could improve the broader Internet in time.
Supported by NSF, the Internet2 project is similar in many ways to the original NSFNET project. NSF is helping major research laboratories and universities build a dedicated very high-speed network that will allow them to share astonishing amounts of data. This connection allows researchers to work on important scientific challenges, such as finding new treatments for disease and developing new sources of energy.
So, in twenty short years, the Internet has gone from a few networked labs and universities to a multi-layered network connecting hundreds of millions of people. What will the next twenty years hold?
NSF is sponsoring research into building a stronger and faster Internet, as well as faster computers. Research into quantum computing and the tantalizing possibilities of all-optical computing suggest that we may have computers in our homes, cars, and offices that are faster than today's supercomputers in the not so-distant future. When so many of us have access to such computers, what will use them for online? What will the Internet look like in 2027?
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.