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Internet 2 works to reinvent the Web

From Kristie Lu Stout

Marc Andreessen launched Mosaic, the first browser to navigate the Web.
Marc Andreessen launched Mosaic, the first Web browser.

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HONG KONG, China -- Ten years after it began being embraced by the public, architects say the Internet is far from what it was destined to be, and they are working on a sequel.

In 1993 Marc Andreessen launched Mosaic, the first browser to navigate the Web. In this vintage cyberspace, gray pages and low-resolution graphics were rife.

"I remember downloading it and running it on x-windows when it was running, said Pindar Wong, from Packet Clearing House.

"So now it's really great to see parents and grandchildren and everyone using the Internet sort of through browser interfaces. It is a milestone. But I think the game is changing."

It is changing because these days, the Internet is a much bigger beast. The "critical infrastructure" that hosts governments, businesses and universities is far-reaching, but far from flawless.

With jerky video and hourglass icons, it's little wonder some call it the world wide wait. But one group is out to change that.

Internet 2

Internet2 is a consortium being led by 202 universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network technologies.

Enter "Internet 2" -- a U.S.-led effort to build cyberspace all over again, this time better.

"Well the current Internet is not designed for the next generation of applications," said Ted Hanss, Director of Internet 2.

"It's really focused on tens of millions of dial-up users. Not the applications that would really change how we do teaching, learning and education."

The Internet 2 backbone in the United States moves billions of bits of data per second, 300,000 times faster than the connection we have at home, said Hanss.

Moving with such speed, Internet 2 will be able to provide remote diagnosis for doctors, send detailed medical files in a flash, stage high-resolution videoconferences and download virtual reality applications.

Champions of the project say Internet 2 shows what the net will do three to five years from now.

'Wonderful experiment'

But even a souped-up cyberspace is susceptible to worms, viruses and just plain junk or spam.

And then there's the millions of mobile devices and appliances that are moving online, requiring more IP addresses.

Back at the Internet monitoring station, engineers are scrambling to surmount those challenges, taking heart from their recent achievement.

"I would view the last 10 years as a wonderful experiment," said Wong.

"Many of us were just kids, still young at heart now. We were trying all these different things. And we made our fair share of mistakes. The question is what can we learn from those mistakes?"

The challenge is to build a cyber-sequel that's not just a pipe dream.

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