2023: Summary of last 20 years of internet technology advances

September 24, 2023 - Reading time: 5 minutes

Many things have changed in last 20 years in our technology but our architects are still stuck in 70ties. This leas to undoing or ignorance of 90ties innovations and exposure of all us to harm.

The Internet

Industry has been hard at work in reversing the main design principles behind TCP/IP networking. Internet has evolved from telephone switched circuit networks where all the "intelligence" was in the network and client side was "dumb" (telephones). In internet the "intelligence" was supposed to be in the client (PCs) and network was "dumb". This allowed for the internet to grow as fast as it did and be service agnostic allowing for unprecedented innovation.

For the mainstream services, like web, the architecture looks more like AOL/Prodigy where clients are "dumb" and all intelligence is in private centralized mainframe like ("main-rack") services. Some companies (Google, Amazon etc.) even own their own networking backbone that ties theirs data centers and client networks in one big private network basically bypassing internet itself. Not to mention overlay networks like Cloudflare that are middle layer (decrypting all TLS traffic!) between internet connected clients and data center infrastructure.

Centralized moderation policies applied to masses effectively shaped by companies that buy advertisement on these "platforms" was also something that the design of internet was supposed to make impossible...

Luckily internet still exists outside of this private networks (although IPv6 is apparently partitioned) and we can still use the killer "app" e-mail (although heavily dominated by Google and Microsoft and woefully inadequate from cybersecurity point of view) and build our own distributed services like the Fediverse, IRC, BBS, XMPP and more.

In 2023 thanks to some very rich assholes we can see a trend in moving away from social networks all together back to e-mail and for good reasons!


In 2023 global project of implementing Plan9 on top of UNIX is going strong. Layers on top of layers of complex software tries to achieve seamless networking between multi "node" applications using HTTP as main integration protocol, statically compiled binaries (Go, Rust) are more popular, private process namespaces, layered filesystems and shipping OS with applications. All this creates very complicated architecture where at base you have hardware virtualization, UNIX where all applications are compatible with base OS and within these application run applications that ship OS that is compatible with them. Running a simple script now is done by exporting another OS file system (like Alpine or Ubuntu) to remote "runner" and running it in isolated namespace on another virtual machine.

If you know anything about Plan9 this all should sound familiar, just replace HTTP with 9P, Linux namespaces and unionfs with 9P filesystem binds, Docker with CPU server and 9P exports and UNIX sockets clustering with /net.

The good news is that we are almost there! The bad news is that it is shockingly complicated, expensive and unreliable!


In the last 20 years the industry has been slowly moving from ACL based access model to Object-capability model. Today short lived tokens (not yet tied to object context) are used, validated for each request and each message against centralized authority. Zero-trust networking is the new hype and snake oil vendors are going strong.

Again the complexity is mind blowing. Tokens and keys leak daily allowing for forging of identities. Miss configurations expose hundreds of TB of data every year. Multiple companies a day get encrypted with ransomware. Critical infrastructure is as vulnerable as ever.

Again we will get there at some stage. Currently tokens are shorter and shorter lived. They are started to be bound to context, like device and accessed resource ID, so they are not useful if leaked. Signing keys end up in hardware devices. Still long way to go before you can actually trust anything.


We have finished the project of connecting everything to few centralized entities. This allows for unprecedented level of spying and control of everything and everybody. Combining all the data in large collections that can be traversed by the "highest bidder" on dark market of selling humans to ad companies and governments.

Now all the data can be used to train massive machine learning models without anybody's consent. And the biggest spyware operators (Google, Amazon, Facebook...) are to benefit the most.

It becomes impassible to not to be a Luddite. Without expert knowledge and years of research to just get a phone setup that does not spy on you (probably). It is impossible to buy a new car or TV, do shopping or travel in a way that corporations don't collect data they have no right to. It has become impossible to live the "modern" life and to to give away our fundamental human right and freedoms away to the few corporations.

This mantra of "data is new oil" and more recently "no interactions, no data; no data no AI" will only lead further erosion of our freedoms and rights. This will also lead to effective death of democracy and rise of fascism.

This combined with cybersecurity still stuck in the 70ties, we are risking exposing ourselves to fraud, stalking, and leaking private information on every click.

There is little done about this, but not because of lack of initiatives and activism. Looks like masses got lulled into these centralized internet services. And only true experts can see through to these issues. Good initiatives like GDPR are generally ignored. Even if perpetrators come with some useful compromised (to be at least remotely compliant with laws) most people are unable to understand technology enough for anything good to happen.