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Internet Standards Observatory: Selected Research Projects on Internet standards and fragmentation announced

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In the ever-evolving landscape of the Internet, discussions are continuously underway within standards development organisations (SDOs) about how the Internet will adapt to meet the demands of future networks and emerging technologies.

To address these concerns and foster a non-fragmented, global Internet, the DNS Research Federation (DNSRF) launched The Internet Standards Observatory, with the generous financial support of the Internet Society Foundation and RIPE NCC. The Internet Standards Observatory aims to facilitate multi stakeholder standards engagement and identify proposals that might deepen fragmentation while promoting community engagement to address these issues.

 As part of this initiative, the DNSRF announced a call for papers, inviting researchers from around the world to explore how Internet standards can contribute to preventing fragmentation and what cooperation strategies may be required to protect the interoperable, Internet.

Today, we are excited to announce that seven exceptional research projects have been selected for funding under this call for papers.

The DNSRF received a substantial amount of fantastic applications to promote the conversations crucial for shaping the digital world. The organization selected seven projects that together provide relevant background and evidence-based analysis to understand Internet fragmentation through the lense of standards and explore how to facilitate multi stakeholder participation in standards.

We are delighted to introduce a short summary of each of the selected research projects and researchers:

“QUIC, or the battle that never was: a case of re-infrastructuring control over Internet traffic.”Clement Peranaud & Francesca Musiani, Free University of Brussels (VUB) & French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)

This research project will investigate the development and deployment process of Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC), a new Internet standard, adopted by the IETF in June 2021. The standardisation of QUIC offers an opportunity to examine power dynamics between key actors currently shaping the future of the Internet. Using this standard as a case study, the research will test narratives about how the future of the Internet is being designed and the capabilities of companies and states alike to reshape communications and networks.

“Opening Internet standardisation to political interventions.” Roxana Radu, University of Oxford - Blavatnik School of Government

This research project will look at the impact of geopolitics on standardisation. As powerful states and regional groups engage more visibly in standards, new standardisation strategies are emerging that will impact the future of our modern communications systems.  Using text analysis and qualitative methods, this research project proposes to conduct a systematic analysis of those evolving strategies. The aim of this article is to compare domestic and regional priorities towards technical standardisation, newly set-up bodies and their potentially transformative effects in the Internet standards ecosystem.

“Enhancing Digital Governance in Africa: The Crucial Role of Standards Organizations in Shaping the Internet Landscape.” Wale Bakare, Webfala Digital Skills for All Initiative

This research project will examine the crucial role of standards organisations in shaping the internet landscape within Africa’s continued digital transformation journey. Leveraging standards development is fundamental to ensure robust, inclusive, and effective Internet governance frameworks that align with the region’s unique challenges and opportunities. This study will shed light on the multifaceted impact of standards organisations on African internet governance, emphasising the importance of standards organisations in facilitating technological innovation while ensuring interoperability, data privacy, and cybersecurity in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

"Understanding Internet Standardisation Processes through Longitudinal Data-driven Analysis." Ignacio Castro - Queen Mary University of London. The success of the Internet has been driven by the coordination of several and –often competing– stakeholders that cooperate to develop interoperable standards. This research project will take a deep dive into those coordination strategies, with a focus on IETF and W3C. Through a comprehensive data-driven analysis of the evolution of the standards, the paper will study the complex ecosystem of stakeholders that compose the Internet, their strategies, interests in different technologies, and how these have evolved over time. The research will provide data-based analysis of current trends in the Internet standardisation space, providing essential context to ongoing debates on the subject. The project will produce open source code and data that other interested parties will be able to use to further investigate standardisation processes.

“Corporate influence in Standards Bodies.” Nick Merrill - University of California, Berkeley

This research project will explore corporate influence within standards bodies. The role of corporations has been somewhat obscured by the way SDOs track affiliations of standards proponents. This research project will produce a dataset that maps the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Working group participants to affiliations to help understand which corporations fund which kinds of proposals and what incentives shape corporate behaviour in standards bodies. The working hypothesis is that the relative dominance of large American, European, and Chinese corporations over time will correlate with contemporary geopolitical and economic events. Research findings seek to shed light on the difficulties of multi-stakeholderism in an industry-led model and promote an Internet that is more transparent, fair, and resistant to fragmentation and corporate monopolisation.

“Internet Standards: Measuring the Impact of SDO Policies and Working Practices” Stephen McQuistin - University of St Andrews, UK

The aim of this research is to identify those policies that encourage wide engagement in the standardisation process and reduce the likelihood that proposals which deepen fragmentation gain traction. This paper will compare and contrast the policies and working practices of two standards developing organisations: the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).The research will study how different policies and practices across SDOs impact participation and engagement with proposals that may result in fragmentation. This research will consider  the visibility of discussion (i.e., how much decision making happens in publicly available forums), the modalities of participation, and the extent to which individuals and organisations alter how they participate, depending on the policies and practices of the SDO. 

“Role of Epistemic Communities in Setting Standards for Quantum Technologies.” Yug Desai - South Asian University.

This research project will examine the role of expert communities in setting standards for emerging ICTs in the case of quantum technologies. This paper will study how SDOs become sites of political contestation in the process of standardisation of quantum technologies with emphasis on the formation and internal dynamics of epistemic communities in this space. It will also investigate their role in framing controversies and setting the agenda for the evolution of quantum technologies, and their interactions with other actors in the standardisation ecosystems such as states, private sector and civil society.

The DNSRF congratulates the selected authors and research teams and expresses gratitude to the Internet Society Foundation and RIPE NCC for their support in making this initiative possible. Stay tuned for updates as these research projects progress and contribute to the evolution of the Internet as we know it. 

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#Research #Standards #Internet Fragmentation

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