The Internet will get support for IPv6, a more secure domain name system and international characters, during the next couple of years, according to Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google.
"This year and the next year are probably the most significant years for Internet's evolution that I can remember," said Cerf, who is often credited with being the father of the internet after he co-designed the TCP/IP protocol with Robert E. Kahn.
The biggest change is the move to IPv6, which will give the internet a much larger address space and ensure future growth, said Cerf, one of the keynote speakers at the Internetdagarna (The Internet Days) conference in Stockholm. The current estimate is that the number of IPv4 addresses that can be allocated will be exhausted around the middle of 2010, according to Cerf.
"It's slowly entering into the network, but people haven't felt very much pressure up until now to implement it," said Cerf.
But the deadline is coming closer, and it's becoming more apparent to many people that it's time to start implementing IPv6 in parallel with IPv4, according to Cerf.
Besides its 128-bit address space, IPv6 has other benefits. "One of them is that if the other side says I need to go into encrypted mode you are supposed to comply with that, it's optional in IPv4," said Cerf.
There are also some problems, the network management tools are for example not yet as mature the ones for IPv4, according to Cerf.
He says the current lack of addresses, and the IPv4 32-bit address space, is his fault. "My only defense is that decision was made in 1977, at a time when it was uncertain if the Internet would work," said Cerf, and adding that a 128-bit address space seemed excessive back then.
But IPv6 isn't the only project that will keep the industry busy. The implementation of domain name system security using DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) has also gotten off the ground.
"The idea here is to improve the assurance that when you do a domain name hookup you get back the IP address that was intended, as opposed to something that was modified by a hacker," said Cerf.
If the DNSSEC is supposed to improve security on the Internet, the addition of internationalized domain names (the support for non-Latin character sets) is supposed to make it a more global place. Languages like Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and so on, will all become a part of the domain name systems vocabulary, according to Cerf.
"This is a big change, because for the last 30 years the only thing you could use was Latin characters, and just the letters A though Z, digits 0 to 9 and a hyphen," said Cerf.
There is still a lot to be done to make the Internet more useful than it is today. Broadcast and support for multihoming, which can make it convenient for users to have more than one ISP, are two areas where there is room for improvement, according to Cerf.
"So we have lots of potential, new designs to add to the Internet to make it more functional and effective than it is today," said Cerf.
In other news, Business Week reported that Cerf is shortlisted to be the first chief technology officer for the US, should Barack Obama win the US election. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Amazon chief Jeffrey Bezos are also reportedly on the short list.
Siobhan Chapman contributed to this article