Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vinton Cerf spoke to an enthusiastic crowd overflowing into the halls of the University of New South Wales this morning, promising to unfold the future of the Internet.

A founder of the Internet, winner of the Turing award and Presidential Medal of Freedom, Cerf spoke of writing the software to get the first server onto the fledgling ARPANET at UCLA and emphasised just how far the net has come since 1969. He described his current evangelical position as involving travelling the globe for Google and convincing people to “build more Internet”, perhaps a bit redundant in a room fill of computer scientists.

Aside from the usual crystal ball routine, his prediction that we can expect an increase in Internet aware devices hardly drew gasps from the gallery. He spoke on how the end to end nature of Internet protocols is challenging content regulation: “Our whole regulatory theory should change” he said. Traditional media regulation is vertical, radio, broadcast television, cable television, voice over twisted pair — all considered different by regulators, but on the Internet everything is horizontal, packets can be video, audio, anything and none of the underlying hardware knows or cares. Cerf pointed to VoIP and Bit-torrent as technologies that illustrate this change.

Another prediction: a great increase in the demand for symmetric broadband, usually only popular among businesses here in Australia, as more and more people start running home servers to share their user created content. He didn’t comment on how this might impact Google services competing for this role, such as Picasa and YouTube.

Last but not least the presentation turned to the interplanetary Internet, and why you can’t just use TCP/IP when talking to Mars. Cerf has been working on drawing up a set of protocols in conjunction with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for transmission in areas where delay tolerance is a necessity.

A round trip at light speed to Mars can take anywhere up to forty minutes and transmission is by no means reliable — for instance, traditional networking concepts like flow control are not much use any more.

The interplanetary Internet is more like an e-mail network, Cerf said, a system of slow, stately, requests and replies: request a Web page and come back after lunch, for example.
So no luck for a Martian YouTube then, which is a pity, I was looking forward to seeing what bored fifteen year old Martian girls do with their spare time.

Posted By Nick Gibson