Internet Space, Near And Far

On the Internet, the world is as close as your mouse.

Vinton Cerf, Google’s vice president and chief Internet evangelist, gave a thought-provoking talk in Seoul today. He was talking about the version of the Internet that will be required as we journey in space. This would allow people an ability “to access information and to control experiments taking place far away” from Earth. Expanding into the solar system would bring new rules and regulations too.

He and other experts are working on a set of standards designed to guide space-era Internet communications. He and a team of engineers at the California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory will complete a key part of the project — establishing standards for space communications like those for Internet — in three years. New standards are needed because of the huge distances and time delays involved in communication across space.

He had some equally intriguing data about the Internet at ground level.

He marvelled at its explosive growth in the last decade, saying it was a trend that would continue. The number of Internet users has grown 20-fold in the past decade to about 1.2 billion people this year, with the number of computer servers rising from 22.5 million to 489 million.

One of the outstanding changes was the Internet’s huge growth in Asia, which now boasts 436 million users, well above the figures of 321 million in Europe and 233 million in North America, the birthplace of the web. So many users in Asia suggests the content of the Internet will eventually contain far more information in languages other than English than it does today.

Although this would all seem to be about faraway places, the other intriguing aspect is that any part of the Internet can be visited with a click of the mouse. The Internet is always present. My own journey across Canada from Montreal to become a resident of Langley B.C. illustrates this on a slightly smaller scale. The journey across Canada, some 4000 miles along the TransCanada Highway, is a great way to experience the incredible diversity and beauty of Canada. We traveled relatively rapidly and our seven-day trip left little time for exploration. British Columbia is a very different province from Québec and there will be many cultural changes involved. Physically there are many obvious differences.

However Internet access at either end of our trip provides an identical experience. It’s the same Internet space. The various SMM (Strategic Marketing Montreal) online properties will continue to function in exactly the same way. In each place, the view of the world is exactly the same. With the Internet there really is no distance between points, even though they may be physically separated by many miles. When Vint Cerf and his team bring outer space onto the Internet, then it also will still be accessible at the click of a mouse.