RealTime IT News

40 Years Later, Internet's Co-Creator Still Pushing

Lawrence Roberts
Internet pioneer Lawrence Roberts
Source: Anagran
UCLA will be hosting today in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Internet, but one of its key creators won't be there.

Lawrence Roberts said he'd love to attend, as he has with similar events -- but he admits that he's too busy to take a break from his new company and the work he continues to do to improve the Internet.

That's right. Forty years later, he's still at it.

On Oct. 29, 1969, two distant ARPANET computers exchanged a message for the first time, laying the groundwork for what we today call the Internet.

Today, Roberts' company, Anagran is focused on improving network communication, specifically bandwidth management. It's not far at all from the pioneering work he did in the late 1960s alongside colleagues Leonard Kleinrock, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf in developing the government-funded ARPANET, the world's first major computer packet network.

Roberts said that back then, he could see the inevitable development of e-mail and expected the Internet could be used for voice traffic.

"But I estimated it would take twenty years because the telephone system is slow to change," he said. "I never guessed that early we'd have TV broadcasts, because we had much lower capacity back then."

In a wide-ranging interview with InternetNews.com, Roberts discussed changes he wished had been made back at the start of the Internet and where he sees things headed.

"Looking back, I wished we had done more about security earlier," he said. "At first, it was about finding out what we could do, and bad things was one of them. We should have paid more attention -- the government should have. Now security is a huge problem."

Roberts thinks government needs to do the lion's share of the work -- or at least the funding -- in security because there isn't enough incentive for commercial developers without such support. When it comes to technology purchasing, he feels most companies place a higher priority on features and systems that help them with sales or improve their bottom line, while investing in security is more of a luxury.

He said it's in the government's best interest, from an economic and military perspective, to keep the Internet secure, and he expects continued investment in partnership with commercial enterprises.

"One of things I'm most concerned about is that most security solutions are aimed at the end computer instead of the network, and we're not winning the battle -- we're losing," Roberts said. "It's really a hopeless approach when you look at the amount of violations that keep rising."

Roberts said network management solutions from his company and others are a better approach to security and heading off things like DDoS attacks that in recent years have crippled Web sites large and small.

"We can do a tremendous amount in the network," he said. "Authentication will help a lot in terms of knowing who is calling and either not accepting that traffic or at least making an arrest after the fact. "

"Today, it's impossible because no one is keeping track. You have these hackers and criminals creating bots, infecting millions of computers."

Fairness, P2P and Net neutrality

Issues of trust and authentication aren't the only places where Roberts sees the Internet needing room for improvement. There's also issues of bandwidth management that have serious implications for one of the most controversial topics facing the Internet today: network neutrality.

Next page: Net neutrality and the future of the Internet