Alex Payne, who manages Twitter's API, posted a thumbsucking essay on Tuesday titled The Internet's on Shaky Ground. Payne seems to have reverse-engineered blowhard New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's formula for a big-picture think piece: Take a self-contradictory slogan like "Worse Is Better." Lay out your case: The glorious past, the beautiful future, the crummy now. Don't advocate a specific solution, though. Say that a question remains. Ask that question. (Payne: "The question remains: What will it take to push us forward?") Then kick back and wait for Vint Cerf to show up and supply the actual details from memory. Did someone say the Internet was built on shaky ground? Cerf rolls his eyes in exasperation, but only two or three times max:
Well, to be honest, I suppose we should have picked either variable length IP addresses or 128 bit but we didn’t. And we bound the TCP/UDP endpoint identifiers very strongly to the IP address which resulted in less flexibility for multi-homing and mobility. Nor did we make better (generalized) use of broadcast media with protocols that take advantage of such media to deliver the same transmission to multiple recipients (multicast is a weaker, less efficient alternative). On the other hand, the system has scaled by about 6 orders of magnitude over the last 25 years and I think that’s not a bad record.
What we've actually learned from this: Google keeps Vint Cerf so underemployed as chief guy-who-invented-the-Internet officer that he has time to respond to Twitter engineers.