Is It Even Possible to Have Two Internets?

For decades, most people were so used to using one single type of internet that they have all called it “The Internet.” In Spanish, it’s “la Internet;” in Romanian, “Internetul;” in German, “das Internet.” But what if one day, we would have to use the word “internets” to describe what we’re connecting to? Is that even possible? Can we live in a world in which two world wide webs operate completely parallel to each other? To find out, we first have to understand a little bit of background.

The one internet we have is composed of a series of cables and wireless signals all interconnected into a massive network with other massive networks connected to each other. The simplest way to describe it is as a “network of networks,” or “fractal of networks.” Your computer sends a signal to a router, which sends a signal to another router, and so on,and so forth, until that signal reaches its destination. Don’t believe me? See the route one of my packets takes to Facebook’s server below.

multinet-tracert

Fascinating, isn’t it? This is one packet’s trip around the world. If you want to replicate this, open your command prompt and type tracert followed by a domain name (facebook.com, for example).

We already know how two internets work. Take a look at your home network. If you have multiple computers connected to one router, you already have your own internet. Disconnect that router from “the” Internet, and you have a completely parallel internet that no one else can connect to unless their device connects physically to your router. Now, imagine millions of computers connected to that particular router sharing information with each other. It would be a completely separate internet, but it would be functional (although you’d better have an awesome router if you don’t want an extreme level of latency).

A new internet would function like this. It would run on the same TCP/IP protocol as the current internet, but it would be disconnected from it, forming its own isolated chamber. The moment a computer manages to bridge the two together, though, we return to the world of “one unified internet” all over again.

This is kind of what makes it difficult to make multiple internets in the first place. Eventually, and inevitably, you’ll have one router that will bridge both networks and you’re back at square one.

The one surefire way to resolve an eventual bridging issue is to use a different way to identify connected nodes and hardwire a router to work with that new protocol. Our current internet — the one you’re currently using — is based on TCP/IP, which means that your computer is identified by four unsigned bytes (numbers from 0 to 255) or (as of the IPv6 revision) one 128-bit “string.” All you have to do is add a new convention for identification (like making the string length 192 bits instead of 128 in IPv6) without telling anyone, and you’ve basically made your new internet for now. All you have to do is make sure that every router and networking module you use acknowledges IP strings that long, or simply create an entirely new protocol from scratch that is extremely difficult to replicate.

What do you think? Would it be beneficial to have another internet running parallel to the one we’re using now? Tell us what you think in a comment below!

7 comments

    • If you’re talking about locking out the outside world, we already have that with isolated intranets. Many banks do this, and government offices with sensitive material put themselves into a closed LAN. But would it be necessary to introduce an entirely new protocol for a parallel “second” internet? I have in mind a multimillion-node project that would exist alongside the billions of nodes we currently have, in a network that never touches the TCP/IP ecosystem we’re currently speaking to each other in.

      • Well, maybe a balkanization of the internet as we know it will occur. In post-Snowden era, a parallel internet would be welcomed for the privacy minded.

        I think a less centralized internet is desirable. Currently, the big boys are controlling it more every day. I’d like an internet closer to the roots of the present one, where all users are equal and anonimity is granted.

        • The thing is that such a parallel infrastructure is destined to be bridged, even with what I suggested as a possible solution. Having non-tangential packet-based protocols will not stop an effort to bridge the two, as you can simply manufacture hardware that can perform in both circumstances (TCP/IP + whatever else). They already do that with the IPv4 and IPv6, UDP and TCP. It’s difficult by any stretch of the imagination to think about an internet that cannot eventually be infiltrated.

        • However…. The reason having a parallel internet might work is because (if it is small), most ISPs will not want to bridge. They won’t spend resources in upgrading their router infrastructure simply to accommodate a protocol used by a few million people. This new internet, at least for a brief period, would be out of the control of any ISP or any government authority. It would lie in its own isolated dimension.

  1. first of all I want to point out that that second internet already existed in some places and has been abandonned for some reasons of financial kind. This netword was based on the ATM protocal (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) that support the use of TCP/IP over it. This was a completely sepearated network running over black fiber.

    And ever heard of the Black Internet? Not? You should have!

    I wonder what Ronin means with a “Centralized” Internet? In this article I do not find anything about the world wide web. The WWW deswcribes the use of the internet very clearly.
    If you try to connect to a server but can reach it via a known route then the routers will try other routes (that’s way they are called routers) to reach the destination.
    Look att the internet as a bunch of real live spider webs itertwined. You will always find a route to your destination.
    There is no “Centalized” internet. Governments try to block certain types of content but most of the time they fail in the end as someone will find a way around the blocking servers. This can be seena s an attempt to create an internet in the Internet.

    Concerning the comment about the critical infrastructure you MUST build a complete separate physical network down to the PC’s connected to it as hackers are very well able to make your PC a bridge to that network.

    • ATM protocol, like almost everything else, was able to accept the TCP/IP layer by which most of us communicate (https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc976967.aspx). That can be problematic if you’re trying to create an internet that will never be touched by the more “popular” version. But as I have said in previous comments, a bridging of new protocols into the TCP/IP ecosystem is inevitable.

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