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Updated. Xerox PARC’s engineers developed the Ethernet, the mouse, the laser printer and many other staples of everyday computing back in the 1970s. Forty years later, the lab is back at it: Teresa Lunt, VP and director of the computing science lab at PARC, showed off a new networking technology dubbed Content-Centric Networking (CCN) at GigaOM’s Structure conference in San Francisco today.
Networks used to be about getting messages from point A to point B, Lunt said. Today’s networks, on the other hand, are all about collaboration and sharing, be it with Dropbox or iCloud. Existing network technology wasn’t made for this purpose, and companies have come up with patchwork solutions to make these new kinds of services work.
PARC wants to replace all of this by putting the emphasis on the content, not points on the network it travels through. Content is automatically encrypted and cached all over the network, and queried by name and description. “Information is self-organizing, and you don’t have to search for it,” explained Lunt. Think of it like a giant, autonomous mesh network of data. “With today’s network, data moves explicitly,” Lunt said. “With CCN, the data just moves.”
The concept sounds a little puzzling at first, but Lunt said that the implications could be far-reaching, both for end users and enterprises. Users would be able to form autonomous social networks, something that Lunt called “a Facebook without Facebook.com,” with the benefit that the privacy options would be in their hands. Likewise, enterprises wouldn’t have to depend on third-party cloud solutions but could define their own fortune through data.
Sounds futuristic? Lunt believes that first commercial applications based on CCN could appear in the marketplace within 18 months. PARC has been busy making that happen, partnering with Samsung, releasing CCN open source code for Android and maintaining an open source community at CCNX.org. The company is also showcasing CCN at Meshin.com. You might want to take a look at it, if only to say that you have tried the next PARC innovation before it changed everything.
Update: A PARC spokesperson contacted us to clarify that Meshin isn’t actually based on CCN, but merely implementing similar ideas as the ones behind CCN.