[iDC] The internet that is not one

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Sun Jul 12 06:45:43 UTC 2009

Hi Jodi,

Definitely many many!

Technology can be used to build as many physical networks as one wants - 
a cross-over RJ45 cable between two computers is considered a network 
with two nodes. Sensitive networks which are not connected to the 
http:// internet exist (military, etc.) - the question is really if they 
are completely disconnected and should be considered a separate network, 
since a single "bridge" which routes packets between two physically 
disconnected networks would make them a partially connected, thus a 
singular (in the widest sense) network. Even the OLPC's "Sneakernet" 
project is such a bridge. But practically there are surely many networks 
which are not reachable from your PC.

Today's net - the one we use for emails like this one - is defined by 
its IPv4 or 4x1byte or 32bits address space used in identifying its 
communication participants, servers, clients, hosts, nodes, .... This is 
a logical construction which overlays the physical network and makes it 
usable through "addressability". While this could be called unique, it 
isn't since there is already a larger addressing scheme on the horizon 
which is IPv6. It is not commonly used yet since the global 
infrastructure (routers etc.) has not been sufficiently upgraded to 
support it, but again bridges between distinct IPv6 networks that use 
the IPv4 infrastructure (tunnels) exist.

At yet another layer of abstraction - since we seldom use the internet 
using numeric addresses (have you ever used Google using ?) - a third form of the internet above wires and 
numbers exists. It is formed by the namespaces created through the 
Domain Name System (or DNS). We generally use the ICANN root nameservers 
for DNS, making it appear there is only  a single internet. But there 
are alternate namespace systems in operation, just check out 

On top of all of this abstraction, there are additional "networks" 
created by protocols and server/client systems. Skype for example 
operates a form of network for the audio and video data streams between 
users which cannot be tapped into by outsiders - it is a private 
protocol mediated by proprietary servers. Many similar systems are in 
operation designed to create "overlay networks" that are invisible to 
the outsider (invisible in a sense of useful data, one can still detect 
traffic) - the business user would call them VPNs the filesharer Darknets.

Sorry for all the techno blabber - but at that level there are 
definitely a multiplicity of "Internets" definable, although for most of 
our interactions we use only "the one".


Dean, Jodi wrote:
> A question for the list (this is a real question that comes out of conversations I've had in the last few months):
> Is there one internet?
> Is the internet singular, a unity?
> Are there multiple internets?
> thanks,
> Jodi
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