MBONE: Multicasting Tomorrow's Internet


The key to the MBONE's existence is convergence. Communications concepts and technologies are added to broadcast concepts and technologies, and then are mixed with multimedia concepts and technologies, with the final result being nothing less than an interdependent joining of all three. Unfortunately, like most media convergences, the result often receives less credit than it should, because it seems like such a natural idea in the first place. The MBONE, a technology that is remarkable for existing at all, will almost certainly become a technology that Internet users -- especially those who join during the next few years -- will take entirely for granted.

But then, that's what happens to all successful technologies. Ask most 20-year olds if they're in awe of television's ability to bring live video and audio signals into their house from somewhere half-way around the globe, and you're likely to be greeted with stares of incomprehension. For that matter, try to explain to them how truly wonderful it is that your PC plays the video introduction to Wing Commander III without burping even once; the incomprehension continues. Then turn around and wax eloquently about how amazing it feels to be talking on the phone with someone three time zones away, or that you're listening to a baseball game in another city, or that you turn the key in your ignition and the car seems to start by itself.

If the MBONE works well, it will quickly be taken for granted. Indeed, its name might even disappear. You'll walk into a room and ask, "How's the MBONE performing today?" and someone at the table will say, "MBONE? No idea. Let's just get on with the videoconference." It's only a matter of time.

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