Internet history 3453

In 1973, the U. S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated a

research program to investigate techniques and technologies for interlinking

packet networks of various kinds. The objective was to develop communication

protocols which would allow networked computers to communicate transparently

across multiple, linked packet networks. This was called the Internetting

project and the system of networks which emerged from the research was known as

the ” Internet.” The system of protocols which was developed over the

course of this research effort became known as the TCP/IP Protocol Suite, after

the two initial protocols developed: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and

Internet Protocol (IP). In 1986, the U. S. National Science Foundation (NSF)

initiated the development of the NSFNET which, today, provides a major backbone

communication service for the Internet. With its 45 megabit per second

facilities, the NSFNET carries on the order of 12 billion packets per month

between the networks it links. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration

(NASA) and the U. S. Department of Energy contributed additional backbone

facilities in the form of the NSINET and ESNET respectively. In Europe, major

international backbones such as NORDUNET and others provide connectivity to over

one hundred thousand computers on a large number of networks. Commercial network

providers in the U. S. and Europe are beginning to offer Internet backbone and

access support on a competitive basis to any interested parties.

” Regional” support for the Internet is provided by various consortium

networks and ” local” support is provided through each of the research

and educational institutions. Within the United States, much of this support has

come from the federal and state governments, but a considerable contribution has

been made by industry. In Europe and elsewhere, support arises from cooperative

international efforts and through national research organizations. During the

course of its evolution, particularly after 1989, the Internet system began to

integrate support for other protocol suites into its basic networking fabric.

The present emphasis in the system is on multiprotocol interworking, and in

particular, with the integration of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI)

protocols into the architecture. Both public domain and commercial

implementations of the roughly 100 protocols of TCP/IP protocol suite became

available in the 1980’s. During the early 1990’s, OSI protocol implementations

also became available and, by the end of 1991, the Internet has grown to include

some 5, 000 networks in over three dozen countries, serving over 700, 000 host

computers used by over 4, 000, 000 people. A great deal of support for the

Internet community has come from the U. S. Federal Government, since the Internet

was originally part of a federally-funded research program and, subsequently,

has become a major part of the U. S. research infrastructure. During the late

1980’s, however, the population of Internet users and network constituents

expanded internationally and began to include commercial facilities. Indeed, the

bulk of the system today is made up of private networking facilities in

educational and research institutions, businesses and in government

organizations across the globe. The Coordinating Committee for Intercontinental

Networks (CCIRN), which was organized by the U. S. Federal Networking Council (FNC)

and the European Reseaux Associees pour la Recherche Europeenne (RARE), plays an

important role in the coordination of plans for government- sponsored research

networking. CCIRN efforts have been a stimulus for the support of international

cooperation in the Internet environment. Over its fifteen year history, the

Internet has functioned as a collaboration among cooperating parties. Certain

key functions have been critical for its operation, not the least of which is

the specification of the protocols by which the components of the system

operate. These were originally developed in the DARPA research program mentioned

above, but in the last five or six years, this work has been undertaken on a

wider basis with support from Government agencies in many countries, industry

and the academic community. The Internet Activities Board (IAB) was created in

1983 to guide the evolution of the TCP/IP Protocol Suite and to provide research

advice to the Internet community. During the course of its existence, the IAB

has reorganized several times. It now has two primary components: the Internet

Engineering Task Force and the Internet Research Task Force. The former has

primary responsibility for further evolution of the TCP/IP protocol suite, its

standardization with the concurrence of the IAB, and the integration of other

protocols into Internet operation (e. g. the Open Systems Interconnection

protocols). The Internet Research Task Force continues to organize and explore

advanced concepts in networking under the guidance of the Internet Activities

Board and with support from various government agencies. A secretariat has been

created to manage the day-to-day function of the Internet Activities Board and

Internet Engineering Task Force. IETF meets three times a year in plenary and

its approximately 50 working groups convene at intermediate times by electronic

mail, teleconferencing and at face-to-face meetings. The IAB meets quarterly

face-to-face or by videoconference and at intervening times by telephone,

electronic mail and computer-mediated conferences. Two other functions are

critical to IAB operation: publication of documents describing the Internet and

the assignment and recording of various identifiers needed for protocol

operation. Throughout the development of the Internet, its protocols and other

aspects of its operation have been documented first in a series of documents

called Internet Experiment Notes and, later, in a series of documents called

Requests for Comment (RFCs). The latter were used initially to document the

protocols of the first packet switching network developed by DARPA, the ARPANET,

beginning in 1969, and have become the principal archive of information about

the Internet. At present, the publication function is provided by an RFC editor.

The recording of identifiers is provided by the Internet Assigned Numbers

Authority (IANA) who has delegated one part of this responsibility to an

Internet Registry which acts as a central repository for Internet information

and which provides central allocation of network and autonomous system

identifiers, in some cases to subsidiary registries located in various

countries. The Internet Registry (IR) also provides central maintenance of the

Domain Name System (DNS) root database which points to subsidiary distributed

DNS servers replicated throughout the Internet. The DNS distributed database is

used, inter alia, to associate host and network names with their Internet

addresses and is critical to the operation of the higher level TCP/IP protocols

including electronic mail. There are a number of Network Information Centers (NICs)

located throughout the Internet to serve its users with documentation, guidance,

advice and assistance. As the Internet continues to grow internationally, the

need for high quality NIC functions increases. Although the initial community of

users of the Internet were drawn from the ranks of computer science and

engineering, its users now comprise a wide range of disciplines in the sciences,

arts, letters, business, military and government administration.