Avoid regulation by addressing Internet’s needs now, says IBM’s Patrick

Avoid regulation by addressing Internet’s needs now, says IBM’s Patrick

Thursday, July 15, 1999

By Dana Gardner
InfoWorld Electric

CHICAGO — We’re just taking the initial steps of the Internet’s long march, but such keys issues as security, content labeling, and privacy need to be addressed simply and quickly or an alphabet’s soup of government regulation may be forthcoming. That was the message from John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology at IBM, during a keynote speech here Wednesday at Internet World Summer ’98.

An unabashed trumpeter of the virtues of interconnected computing, Patrick outlined some of the promise and peril of the unfolding new medium. The public’s expectations of the Web are higher and escalating, he said, but a vacuum exists around what private interests are willing to do to foster the Internet’s maturation sans government intrusion.

“The private sector needs to get in and do this or government will regulate the Internet, and that’s like regulating the wind,” said Patrick, 53, who urges older techies such as himself to look to 14-year-olds for the proper perspective on where the Net is going.

“They don’t know it’s supposed to be hard,” Patrick said of high school students building compelling Web sites. “These kids totally get it. We have to get ready … We don’t have a lot of time to study this. We need to move fast. We’re just at the beginning of an incredibly bright future.”

The Internet is likely to change the way that individuals and corporations conduct themselves — and it is online conduct rather than technology that looms large as the major challenge of the day, Patrick said.

The challenges cited by Patrick included the following:

  • security, so that people can know who others online are, and that security must be “rock solid.” Also needed are tighter policies on inside security at corporations, such as who oversees the firewall, whether information is pilfered by disgruntled employees, and overall password diligence.
  • content labeling, so that parents and teachers “know the Internet is OK” for kids. Patrick suggests rating and labeling groups that act as proxies for children’s and parent’s interests rather than censorship.
  • privacy, so that people can develop trust in how the information they offer about themselves is traded. Users may be willing to give information if they get something in return, such as a discount. “Give people a choice about what happens to their information,” Patrick implored Web site hosts. “It’s still soon enough to act fast and create a privacy policy.”
  • governance, so that a global, private collaborative oversees the Internet. The U.S. government still holds the linchpins of Internet, “and they want out of it,” Patrick said, suggesting a non-government-based technical oversight.
  • infrastructure, so that consumers and business are confident the Web will grow and that worthy traffic prioritization will emerge.

The Internet2 concept is well under way, Patrick said, including a new center at Northwestern University here in Chicago, the Center for Advanced Internet Research, that is backed by IBM, Cisco, and Ameritech, among others.

Patrick also called business-to-business Internet commerce the biggest draw of the technology and called the next stage of its evolution a “business strategy, not a technology issue.”

“What are you trying to do, and what is your value proposition to your consumer?” Patrick asked businesses.
Among the examples of successful Internet commerce Patrick cited were a New York-based collaborative bank loan endeavor called IntraLinks. Some $60 billion in loans have been made online through a highly secure site that is available only to bank members, he said.

Patrick also pointed to Java as a seminal technology for the evolution of the Internet. He called it a “glue to enhance the speed of deployment and building the back end so … that databases and various communications protocols can be interconnected and go out to where the people are.”

On the horizon, Patrick said, the Internet will do the following:

  • help create an “ease of life,” because the scarcest commodity in computing won’t be bandwidth and disk space but end-users’ time. “Save people time and give them freedom of time,” Patrick suggested.
  • rely more on real-time collaboration, such as buddy lists and instant messaging, which, Patrick said, offers a “great enhancement to e-mail and will soon go to the video mode.”
  • allow insight as competitive advantage, so that companies can use data mining to examine relationships to know what’s actually going on in their markets and then target it. He called it “Deep Computing.”
  • create a “NaturalNet,” so that human activities — from composing music to full-featured human communication — become possible over networks.

Patrick also invited viewers to his home page for more details on his predictions and prescriptions of the budding Internet revolution at https://www.johnpatrick.com/

IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., can be reached at http://www.ibm.com/us/en/.