Essay, Research Paper: Internet History


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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.
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