Slobodan Stojanović is thinking about the not so distant future. With plans to colonise Mars, the human race will face a unique set problems. One of them will be interplanetary communication, specifically the internet. Before speaking at Voxxed Days Bristol on the 2nd of March, we asked Slobodan about these challenges.
In the future, when the colonies of Mars are surfing the Earth internet, do you think they will use asynchronous client/server communication, or something like WebSockets?
Actually, people on Mars will not be able to surf the Earth internet. The idea of an interplanetary internet is completely different, it’s more like a network of internets, not an internet the way we know it on Earth.
The distance between the planets causes huge latency in communication. In perfect conditions, we will need between 7 and 44 minutes for the round-trip. So anything real-time, like WebSockets, will not work directly. Asynchronous communication is the only way.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be?
Huh, we’ll have a lot of them. If we assume that the communication and infrastructure issues will be handled by someone else (i.e. NASA), one of the biggest problems we will face is the synchronization of the data and moving everything we can on the client-side.
There will be some servers on Mars, for sure, but the capacity will be very limited in the beginning. Most of the communication between the planets will be used for more important tasks than watching YouTube clips.
Do you think people will still be using browsers?
Well, people are not that good at changing old habits. The keyboard we use today is more than 75 years old. We still use cars as a main transportation system, and there are many other examples. Are those concepts the best we can do today? No, of course not, but change is hard.
Browsers are probably not the best tool we can build for surfing and communication, but we use them every day and everything would be completely different without them. It’s a love-hate relationship.
Do you think that by imagining these challenges, we can improve the web down on Earth?
The idea of a colony on Mars exists, but we don’t know how far it is from today. However even thinking about that problem can vastly improve the web here, on Earth.
The Internet, in the form most of us are using, is already in quite good shape. Both our networks and our devices are even faster and strong every day. The experience is more pleasant than ever before. But does the internet work like that for everyone on this planet?
I am pretty sure you wouldn’t be that happy with the experience in South-East Asia, parts of Africa, or even in some isolated places in your own country. Solving the problem of interplanetary applications that can work in very special conditions will force us to start building much better applications, that will work for everyone on this planet first.
For more interplanetary adventures, catch Slobodan Stojanović‘s talk at Voxxed Days Bristol.