Thursday, October 14, 2010

Computer networks like social networks–part 2

In my previous blob posting, I just threw out the question, “what if the internet was organized like a social network, what would it look like?” I spent a little time throwing out some initial ideas that came to me. A commenter wanted to understand my vision of this concept a little better—do I see this relating to conventional wired networks or to the more free-form wireless mesh networks? I thought that I would pontificate a little more on the subject. Social networks are well connected networks. To lay the wire infrastructure to mimic that on a per-user basis would be prohibitively expensive and not scalable. At an ISP level, we might already see some limited social network behaviors as those who are paying customers might be considered an ISP’s “friend,” however, this is a unidirectional relationship seeing as how an ISP would never route internet traffic over its customers’ networks.

Wireless mesh networks or ad hoc networks, at a distance, seem to fit this model much better. In an ad hoc network, peers are connected to lots of other peers and each acts as sort of a smaller router. To get information from one peer to another, you rely on your other peers to route it appropriately. The relations you have with your peers can change as you move. So, applying social networks to ad hoc networks, we can come up with some interesting things. If you find that you communicate with a friend of a friend more efficiently directly than through your mutual friend, you could connect directly thus making the network more connected. Social networks also have an interesting reputation dynamic as multiple people probably have multiple mutual friends. Reputation in a social network can have a positive or negative effect. It can award you additional friend connections or it can make so that nobody wants to communicate with you. You could forward broadcasts to your friends if you yourself find them interesting. There are lots of ways in which a social network like structure could apply to ad hoc networks.

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