Dirk Kutscher

Personal web page

ACM SIGCOMM CCR: Report of 2021 DINRG Workshop on Centralization in the Internet

without comments

ACM SIGCOMM CCR just published the report of our 2021 DINRG meeting on Centralization in the Internet.

Executive Summary

There is a consensus within the networking community that the Internet consolidation and centralization trend has progressed rapidly over recent years, as measured by the structural changes to the data delivery infrastructure, the control power over system platforms, application development and deployment, and even in the standard development efforts. This trend has brought impactful technical, societal, and economical consequences.

When the Internet was first conceived as a decentralized system 40+ years back, few people, if any, could have foreseen how it looks today. How has the Internet evolved from there to here? What have been the driving forces for the observed consolidation? From a retrospective view, was there anything that might have been done differently to influence the course the Internet has taken? And most importantly, what should and can be done now to mitigate the trend of centralization? Although there are significant interests in these topics, there has not been much structured discussion on how to answer these important questions.

The IRTF Research Group on Decentralizing the Internet (DINRG) organized a workshop on “Centralization in the Internet” on June 3, 2021, with the objective of starting an organized open discussion on the above questions. Although there seems to be an urgent need for effective countermeasures to the centralization problem, this workshop took a step back: before jumping into solution development to steer the Internet away from centralization, we wanted to discuss how the Internet has evolved and changed, and what have been the driving forces and enablers for those changes. The organizers and part of the community believe that a sound and evidence-based understanding is the key towards devising effective remedy and action plans. In particular, we would like to deepen our understanding of the relationship between the architectural properties and economic developments.

This workshop consisted of two panels, each panel started with an opening presentation, followed by panel discussions, then open-floor discussions. There was also an all-hand discussion at the end. Three hours of the workshop presentations and discussions showed that this Internet centralization problem space is highly complex and filled with intrinsic interplays between technical and economic factors.

This report aims to summarize the workshop outcome with a broad-brush picture of the problem space. We hope that this big picture view could help the research group, as well as the broader IETF community, to reach a clearer and shared high-level understanding of the problem, and from there to identify what actions are needed, which of them require technical solutions, and which of them are regulatory issues which require technical community to provide inputs to regulatory sectors to develop effective regulation policies.

You can find the report in the ACM Digital Library. We also have a pre-print version.

Written by dkutscher

July 27th, 2023 at 4:35 pm