MBONE: Multicasting Tomorrow's Internet

Chapter 3: The MBONE and Multicasting


In this chapter, we take a closer look at the MBONE and multicasting: what they are, how they work and what people are doing with them. Since we want this book to be interesting to people other than network engineers (although we have nothing against network engineers), we don't want to frighten you off. So although we endeavor to explain the concepts and background involved, we don't delve into the nitty-gritty details of multicast encapsulation, the pros and cons of reliable and unreliable datagram multicasting or the specifics of how tunneling works. If you want to know about these scary details, you can find information about them on the Internet.

Today, the MBONE is a critical piece of the technology that's needed to make multiple-person data, voice, and video conferencing on the Internet -- in fact, sharing any digital information -- cheap and convenient.

Internet researcher John December says, "MBONE is truly the start of mass-communication that may supplant television. Used well, it could become an important component of mass communication."

How so? December thinks that a number of scenarios are possible: The culture of the MBONE may develop like the e-zine (electronic magazine) culture, eventually giving rise to hundreds of "channels" of programming. Some channels would be professionally produced; others would be quirky homebrew channels.

Another possibility is that organizations will adopt MBONE as a low-cost way to conduct meetings without all the expenses of telecom-equipped conference rooms. Smaller, informal organizations could use MBONE as well as large companies, because MBONE would be controlled personally, not commercially. Certainly, both of these MBONE scenarios, and others, could co-exist.

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