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The Internet’s Reinventions

PlanetLab aims to transform today’s dumb, simple Internet communications system into a smarter and much more flexible network that can ward off worms, store huge amounts of data with perfect security, and deliver content instantly. Here’s how it fits into a long tradition of academic and government research projects that developed fundamental networking, transmission, and distributed-computing technologies.

1969ARPANET
The first major attempt to use computers for communication, and the testing ground for the standards that would come to define the Internet. Built by universities and technology firms with funding from the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (now DARPA).
1973-1983The Internet
A network of smaller networks in which computers exchange packets of data formatted and addressed according to, respectively, the Transport Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which were conceived in 1973 and officially replaced the ARPANET’s protocols in January 1983.
1992MBone
The Multicast Backbone: a system that allows many people to view the same real-time information, such as video broadcasts, over the Internet. Created by members of the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1992 to overcome the limitations of standard Internet protocols, which can route a given data packet to only one destination.
1996Internet2
A consortium of more than 200 universities that has created Abilene, a network of high-performance routers and fiber-optic links. Abilene is able to transmit an entire DVD movie in about 36 seconds, as much as 3,500 times faster than a typical home DSL or cable connection.

The Grid
A collection of public and private organizations and projects that use software developed at the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Southern California to link scattered supercomputers, scientific instruments, and data storage facilities into a “grid” that can take on tough computational problems-like screening for new drug molecules.
2000ABone
The Active Network Backbone: a network built to test the efficiency of “active networking,” in which the network is stripped of nearly all intelligence-even the basic message-passing software that runs on today’s Internet-and packets of data contain all the software and instructions needed to deliver themselves to their destinations. Funded by DARPA and created by SRI International, a private research institute in Menlo Park, CA, and the University of Southern California.
2002PlanetLab
An effort by academic and corporate networking researchers to augment, and eventually replace, today’s “dumb” Internet with a much smarter network able to monitor itself for worms and viruses, relieve bottlenecks automatically, and make personal-computing environments portable to any terminal on earth.

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