CloudFlare Internet Summit As internet engineer jokes go, Google's Ilya Grigorik came up with a good one. On stage to answer the question "what can we expect from the internet in 2020?", he offered:
As far as I can tell, by 2020, we will have flying cars, singularity... and IPv6.
It's an amusing but pointed stab at the fundamental internet protocol that was created 20 years ago and still stubbornly refuses to be adopted. Something to do with the geniuses at the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) deciding not to make it backwards compatible with IPv4.
But, despite the long, long delay, Google and Grigorik are starting to get optimistic about IPv6. "In the last three years, we have seen its use double every year," noted Google's web performance engineer, swiftly getting ahead of the obvious retort, "yes, from 0.1 per cent to 0.2 per cent to 0.4."
But in truth, we are now seeing over 50 per cent use of IPv6 over mobile networks, and Google sees it used in 10 per cent of cases across the whole internet. That should bring with it a whole new class of apps, Grigorik enthused.
But what he really wanted to talk about was Google's replacement for another veteran internet protocol: TCP. TCP and its brother IP are the reason billions of us get to enjoy the internet we do today, but it is also old and, in Grigorik's words, "ossified."
Google's answer is QUIC – its version of UDP and standing for Quick UDP Internet Connection. Google started pushing QUIC last year and in that time, Grigorik said, it has been able to create "20 to 30 iterations of it – which allows us to innovate." TCP? Not so much.
QUIC's big advantage is in real-time apps, and it's faster and more reliable than TCP because it's not dependent on the operating system.
And while talking about replacing and updating the old protocols that we have built the internet on, Grigorik is also keen on HTTP/2. It has been out there for over a year (RFC 7540) and can boast significant improvement on the protocol we have all come to know (and love?).
"HTTP/2 addresses the limitations of the previous protocol that was design to fetch documents," Grigorik noted. "Today, the internet delivers applications and that means lots of connections and handshakes [over HTTP] that are unnecessary."
Google has seen significant improvements using HTTP/2 – not something that users will necessary notice but which internet infrastructure companies definitely do. "We've seen improvements of up to 30 to 50 per cent," he said.
As for the everyday internet in 2020, Grigorik predicts more bandwidth, and latency down "a little." Uncontroversially, he expects there to be billions of new users online and he expects them to enjoy the sort of speeds that those of us in the developed world enjoy currently, but with the developed world leaping ever ahead – faster and faster. The digital gap is going nowhere, it's just that everyone will be better off.
As for CloudFlare's CTO John Graham-Cumming, he thinks the big change by 2020 will be in encryption. "I think we'll find that unencrypted protocols will be pariahs," he predicted. ®