Researchers at the University of Cambridge are looking to make the Internet more efficient by eliminating servers as bottlenecks and possible points of failure.
A prototype has been developed as part of a European Union funded project called Pursuit.In the Pursuit Internet, users would be able to obtain information without needing direct access to the servers where content is stored.
Instead, individual computers would be able to copy and republish content on receipt, providing other users with the option to access data, or fragments of data, from a wide range of locations rather than the source itself.
It's an extension of the peer-to-peer model used by services such as BitTorrent to distribute content ranging from pirated copies of the latest movies to legitimate open source software distributions. Similarly, projects such as Folding@Home and SETI@home attempt to solve computationally intensive scientific problems by spreading the compute load over ordinary PCs and mobile devices all over the world.
Today's Internet and the peer-to-peer Pursuit Internet could exist side-by-side. (Source: University of Cambridge.)
The idea behind Pursuit Internet isn't new. I first heard it soon after BitTorrent launched -- and started fighting a shady reputation -- in 2001. But accomplishing the idea would be a powerful change for the better, going a step beyond cloud computing.
The Internet would be faster, more efficient, and more capable of withstanding surging global user demand (in other words no more Fail Whale. Information would be nearly immune to server crashes, and users would be able to better control private information online, researchers say.
Dr Dirk Trossen, a senior researcher at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab, and the technical manager for Pursuit, said: "The current internet architecture is based on the idea that one computer calls another, with packets of information moving between them, from end to end. As users, however, we aren't interested in the storage location or connecting the endpoints. What we want is the stuff that lives there."
"Our system focuses on the way in which society itself uses the internet to get hold of that content. It puts information first. One colleague asked me how, using this architecture, you would get to the server. The answer is: you don't. The only reason we care about web addresses and servers now is because the people who designed the network tell us that we need to. What we are really after is content and information."
The researchers' goals go beyond making the Internet more resilient, though. They want to make the Internet structure more reflective of the way society is structured, rather than the way engineers think information should be structured when an application is designed. For example, this video illustrates how Pursuit Internet can help people secure personal health information:
The new system allows complete or limited admittance to content. "Individual computers would be able to copy and republish content on receipt, providing other users with the preference to access data, or fragments of data, from a wide range of locations to a certain extent than the source itself. In actual fact, the model would enable all online content to be shared in a manner try to be like the 'peer-to-peer' approach taken by some file-sharing sites, but on an unmatched internet-wide scale. Nevertheless, a peer-to-peer model might allow faster access to information published on the Internet, there are limitations. If data is stored on a computer – whether it is medical information, a website or other content – it is subject to that person's computer being on and operational.
The funny thing is, the Internet or rather TCP/IP works this way anyhow!
Even though you request a web page from a single server, the data is broken up into packets, which are then "switched" through networks of servers, using store and forward, and then reassembled into your request.
So, yes, if that data were to permeate the enter web itself, then your requests would go packet grabbing like a bittorrent to see who has what.
But maybe these guys are saying something more, like there wouldn't be "portals" that are the be all and end all of certain types of knowldge would be more localized, just the way in the Old Days when say, each professor at a a University, although he may share similar knowledge of a subject, would have his own spin, his own bent, as to how that subject is presented, ordered, experimented with, and so on...
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