Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Multicasting into the Millennium

TR: What technologies do you think will change the way the Internet works?
CERF: One key development is something called multicasting, which vastly improves the ability to send real-time audio and video signals through the Net. The way things work now, a Web server has to send a new copy of the audio or video data to each individual who requests it. With today’s technology, a high-end personal computer “unicasting” on the Internet serves a maximum of several hundred people simultaneously.

TR: What does multicasting do differently?
CERF: Imagine you’d like to share today’s Dilbert strip with some of your colleagues working in a different building. You would not fax 10 separate copies-instead, you might fax one and ask a friend to make copies. Multicasting works along a similar model. A server sends only one copy of information, which can then be reproduced and distributed throughout the network.

TR: How might this be beneficial?
CERF: First, it reduces the unnecessary repetition of traffic on the network for material that needs to get to a large number of recipients at the same time. This applies, for example, to large-scale software distribution, database updates, and securities transactions information.

TR: How close is this notion to a reality?
CERF: Multicasting is already here. A number of Internet service providers, including uunet, are offering multicast services. Last August, MCI and Real Networks announced the establishment of the Real Broadcast Network-an architecture that pushes information content to the periphery of the network and thus multiplies the potential audience dramatically. Before, a live concert that was broadcast on the Internet could reach an audience of only about 10,000 simultaneous users. The Real Broadcast Network makes it possible to fill a much larger “virtual stadium.”

TR: Multicasting seems like a way to turn the Internet from a “many-to-many” network into a broadcast system. Won’t that change the Net’s character?
CERF: Yes and no. While we’ll begin to see many broadcasting applications ported to the Net, we’re not going to lose the many-to-many character that you and so many others appreciate. Also, it’s not as if the Internet has never changed radically before. For many years, the Internet was almost entirely a text-based medium. The Web has certainly altered the character of the Net, but I’m not sure you hear much complaining-although we do need to pay a lot more attention to the presentation of Web content to people with limited sight and hearing.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Web

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me