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Levy, Steven. The Internet crash scare: yes, the Net is overloaded and
     slow;  but even a global gigalapse won't stop the
     revolution.(Column). In Newsweek Sept 16 1996, v128, n12, p96(1).


Yes, the Net is overloaded and slow. But even a global gigalapse      
won't stop the revolution.                                            
                                                                      
BEFORE TALKING TO BOB Metcalfe, the self-appointed Cassandra who      
predicts an Internet collapse, I hopped on the World Wide Web to bone 
up on his writings. Finding them was easy; downloading them was a     
pain. I clicked on the proper link and nothing happened. I tried      
again, and it took what seemed like an eternity before they appeared. 
I guess by some standards I was experiencing an Internet brownout, a  
digital cousin to a voltage drop in the power grid. Such annoyances   
are commonplace on the Net these days, but to Bob Metcalfe,           
networking pioneer turned cyberalarmist, they are evidence of         
impending disaster. In his thinking, the Net is a fish already        
hooked; those routine brownouts are but the first few twinges at its  
mouth. Soon the fish will find itself reeled in, and we will witness  
the pathetic spectacle of the once mighty Internet, the darling of    
our economy and the object of our millennial dreams, flopping         
aimlessly like snagged red snapper on a boat deck. Web sites will     
become cobweb sites. E-mail will be dead-lettered. Stock prices will  
fall to Earth.                                                        
                                                                      
"Maybe the Internet has already collapsed," Metcalfe says to me later 
that day, in a lecture that lasts the dinner hour. "Everyone          
complains about brownouts every day. But it's going to get worse.     
Worse] Worse] Worse]" The inventor of the Ethernet networking system  
and founder of the SCorn corporation has risked his considerable      
reputation by publicly predicting a "gigalapse"-in which a billion    
hours of access time are lost-by the end of the year. This would far  
eclipse the recent dead spells at America Online and Netcorn, one of  
the biggest Internet service providers. More important, the collapse  
could also east doubts on the reliability of cyberspace itself. Since 
the consensus is that just about everything from movies to marl is    
eventually going to move to the Internet, this is serious stuff.      
                                                                      
The problem, as Metcalfe sees it, is that the Net is incapable of     
handling the millions of immigrants washing up on its virtual shores. 
There is neither the physical capacity to shuttle all of those bits   
of information its users generate nor the organizational capacity to  
address the problem. Some people rhapsodize about the fact that the   
Internet has no president, no police and no blueprints for organized  
growth; new standards are arrived at by consensus, and it's up to     
companies like Sprint and MCI to beef up the "backbone" that handles  
the bulk of the information flow. To Metealfe this is more travesty   
than rhapsody. He rails against the destructive "ideology" that       
celebrates the decentralized, semi-anarchic structure of the          
Internet. In Metcalfe's thinking, it's time for engineers in sandals  
to step aside and let professionals in suits run the show. "My        
mission is to accelerate the fixing of the Internet," he says, and by 
spinning doom, he's grabbed our attention.                            
                                                                      
But is the Internet really broken? In some ways, this is an issue     
that can be argued only by ultrawireheads familiar with stuff like    
routing tables and digital switching. And these folks disagree. John  
Curran, the chief technical officer of the Internet-centric company   
BBN Corp., says that while an Internet collapse is possible, "it's    
not likely to happen-about the chances of a meteor striking." John    
Quarterman, head of MIDS, a company that attempts to measure traffic  
on the Net, says that there are no data to support Metcalfe's claims. 
"I've been hearing about an Internet collapse since 1977," he says.   
                                                                      
Even those who do concede that a breakdown may occur don't            
necessarily think that a restructuring is necessary. `The Internet    
has collapsed many times and probably will collapse several more      
times," says Robert Berger, head of InterNex, a sophisticated         
Internet service provider. "But at the same time a new Internet is    
rising from the ashes. Pieces of a new, more robust network are being 
built." In other words, yeah, things may be a bit screwed up now, but 
the cavalry is on its way, as companies invest billions of dollars    
into new technologies that will move more information more            
efficiently. (MCI, for instance, increased its part of the backbone   
almost fifteenfold this year.) Maybe these entities won't move fast   
enough to satisfy the insatiable demand that comes from millions of   
new users playing with data-gobbling toys like videoconferencing,     
telephony and cross-continental shoot' em-ups. But it may well be     
sufficient to keep this remarkable engine of change moving along,     
albeit with the occasional brownout.                                  
                                                                      
When you get down to it, even if Bob Metcalfe's rough beast of a      
gigalapse does arrive, it really doesn't portend doom for the         
Internet. Nor should we panic at the chronic annoyances caused by     
slow response times or reluctantly loading Web pages. (After all,     
that delay I suffered in getting Metcalfe's clips only seemed         
eternal-- it actually took less than two minutes.) For all its        
slowdowns, the Internet has been handling unprecedented,              
mind-boggling growth; for more than a decade it has doubled its size  
every year. It's worked its way into our culture and our heads faster 
than the telephone, the car or the boob tube. Bob Metcalfe may        
believe that a more structured approach is appropriate from here on   
in, but decentralization, anarchy or whatever you want to call it has 
done a remarkable job thus far, not only in a technological sense but 
in a cultural one. And all of this has come from a little experiment  
designed to link together a few computer centers] In light of that    
truly amazing legacy, so what if cyberspace undergoes a temporary     
breakdown, sort of an Information Infastructure equivalent of a       
quickie retreat to the Betty Ford clinic? After that collapse, flit   
does occur, we can pick ourselves up, coolly assess what further      
improvements might be needed and continue the process of a            
communications revolution.                                            
                                                                      
BY STEVEN LEVY                                                        
                                                                      
COPYRIGHT 1996 Newsweek Inc.                                          



Levy, Steven. The Internet crash scare: yes, the Net is overloaded and
     slow;  but even a global gigalapse won't stop the
     revolution.(Column). In Newsweek Sept 16 1996, v128, n12, p96(1).


Yes, the Net is overloaded and slow. But even a global gigalapse      
won't stop the revolution.                                            
                                                                      
BEFORE TALKING TO BOB Metcalfe, the self-appointed Cassandra who      
predicts an Internet collapse, I hopped on the World Wide Web to bone 
up on his writings. Finding them was easy; downloading them was a     
pain. I clicked on the proper link and nothing happened. I tried      
again, and it took what seemed like an eternity before they appeared. 
I guess by some standards I was experiencing an Internet brownout, a  
digital cousin to a voltage drop in the power grid. Such annoyances   
are commonplace on the Net these days, but to Bob Metcalfe,           
networking pioneer turned cyberalarmist, they are evidence of         
impending disaster. In his thinking, the Net is a fish already        
hooked; those routine brownouts are but the first few twinges at its  
mouth. Soon the fish will find itself reeled in, and we will witness  
the pathetic spectacle of the once mighty Internet, the darling of    
our economy and the object of our millennial dreams, flopping         
aimlessly like snagged red snapper on a boat deck. Web sites will     
become cobweb sites. E-mail will be dead-lettered. Stock prices will  
fall to Earth.                                                        
                                                                      
"Maybe the Internet has already collapsed," Metcalfe says to me later 
that day, in a lecture that lasts the dinner hour. "Everyone          
complains about brownouts every day. But it's going to get worse.     
Worse] Worse] Worse]" The inventor of the Ethernet networking system  
and founder of the SCorn corporation has risked his considerable      
reputation by publicly predicting a "gigalapse"-in which a billion    
hours of access time are lost-by the end of the year. This would far  
eclipse the recent dead spells at America Online and Netcorn, one of  
the biggest Internet service providers. More important, the collapse  
could also east doubts on the reliability of cyberspace itself. Since 
the consensus is that just about everything from movies to marl is    
eventually going to move to the Internet, this is serious stuff.      
                                                                      
The problem, as Metcalfe sees it, is that the Net is incapable of     
handling the millions of immigrants washing up on its virtual shores. 
There is neither the physical capacity to shuttle all of those bits   
of information its users generate nor the organizational capacity to  
address the problem. Some people rhapsodize about the fact that the   
Internet has no president, no police and no blueprints for organized  
growth; new standards are arrived at by consensus, and it's up to     
companies like Sprint and MCI to beef up the "backbone" that handles  
the bulk of the information flow. To Metealfe this is more travesty   
than rhapsody. He rails against the destructive "ideology" that       
celebrates the decentralized, semi-anarchic structure of the          
Internet. In Metcalfe's thinking, it's time for engineers in sandals  
to step aside and let professionals in suits run the show. "My        
mission is to accelerate the fixing of the Internet," he says, and by 
spinning doom, he's grabbed our attention.                            
                                                                      
But is the Internet really broken? In some ways, this is an issue     
that can be argued only by ultrawireheads familiar with stuff like    
routing tables and digital switching. And these folks disagree. John  
Curran, the chief technical officer of the Internet-centric company   
BBN Corp., says that while an Internet collapse is possible, "it's    
not likely to happen-about the chances of a meteor striking." John    
Quarterman, head of MIDS, a company that attempts to measure traffic  
on the Net, says that there are no data to support Metcalfe's claims. 
"I've been hearing about an Internet collapse since 1977," he says.   
                                                                      
Even those who do concede that a breakdown may occur don't            
necessarily think that a restructuring is necessary. `The Internet    
has collapsed many times and probably will collapse several more      
times," says Robert Berger, head of InterNex, a sophisticated         
Internet service provider. "But at the same time a new Internet is    
rising from the ashes. Pieces of a new, more robust network are being 
built." In other words, yeah, things may be a bit screwed up now, but 
the cavalry is on its way, as companies invest billions of dollars    
into new technologies that will move more information more            
efficiently. (MCI, for instance, increased its part of the backbone   
almost fifteenfold this year.) Maybe these entities won't move fast   
enough to satisfy the insatiable demand that comes from millions of   
new users playing with data-gobbling toys like videoconferencing,     
telephony and cross-continental shoot' em-ups. But it may well be     
sufficient to keep this remarkable engine of change moving along,     
albeit with the occasional brownout.                                  
                                                                      
When you get down to it, even if Bob Metcalfe's rough beast of a      
gigalapse does arrive, it really doesn't portend doom for the         
Internet. Nor should we panic at the chronic annoyances caused by     
slow response times or reluctantly loading Web pages. (After all,     
that delay I suffered in getting Metcalfe's clips only seemed         
eternal-- it actually took less than two minutes.) For all its        
slowdowns, the Internet has been handling unprecedented,              
mind-boggling growth; for more than a decade it has doubled its size  
every year. It's worked its way into our culture and our heads faster 
than the telephone, the car or the boob tube. Bob Metcalfe may        
believe that a more structured approach is appropriate from here on   
in, but decentralization, anarchy or whatever you want to call it has 
done a remarkable job thus far, not only in a technological sense but 
in a cultural one. And all of this has come from a little experiment  
designed to link together a few computer centers] In light of that    
truly amazing legacy, so what if cyberspace undergoes a temporary     
breakdown, sort of an Information Infastructure equivalent of a       
quickie retreat to the Betty Ford clinic? After that collapse, flit   
does occur, we can pick ourselves up, coolly assess what further      
improvements might be needed and continue the process of a            
communications revolution.                                            
                                                                      
BY STEVEN LEVY                                                        
                                                                      
COPYRIGHT 1996 Newsweek Inc.