Redoing Software May Ease Traffic on World Wide Web

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- The World Wide Wait may be coming to an end.

The explosive growth of the World Wide Web in the last five years has created increasing computer traffic jams as the number of users has continued to outstrip the hardware and data-network resources on which the Internet is based.

But now a group of researchers has demonstrated that not all of the congestion results from the sheer weight of the millions of new users trying to squeeze onto the Internet. They suggest that a significant part of the delay has been created by the design of the software underlying the Web. A study published by the group, based at the World Wide Web Consortium in Cambridge, Mass., an industry- sponsored group that sets standards, also shows that a redesign of that software would improve basic performance on the Web. The authors of the report were able to demonstrate data retrieval speeds twice to eight times as fast as the speed using current World Wide Web software. Individual users are expected to see improvements like faster times to download information, and the collective benefit could be still greater because the basic set of conventions, or protocol, for Internet operation would be used more efficiently. Later this year, browsers that support the new protocol are to be available, though current browsers will continue to work with the new software. "This will be good for the whole Internet," John Klensin, a network designer at MCI Communications, said. The World Wide Web software works in conjunction with the basic software of the Internet, known as TCP/IP, to permit users to retrieve data without worrying about where it is on the global Internet. The Internet consists of a growing collection of software protocols, and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- the "http" at the beginning of many electronic addresses -- has been the basis of the World Wide Web since 1990. "Everyone has known about the problems involving congestion on the Internet," said Jim Gettys, a Digital Equipment Corporation software designer who is a visiting scientist at the consortium and is one of the authors of the study. "What is less well known is that the World Wide Web protocol has been defeating the congestion control mechanisms in the Internet's underlying protocols." Gettys said that the interaction between Web software and the basic Internet routing software became an issue as Web use proliferated in recent times. …