Named Data Networking, shifts the focus from the numbered locations of data—IP addresses like 174.16.254.1—to the very names of data—something like motherboard/stories/NDN/photo1. Under this system, for example, when your computer makes a packet request for a new Netflix release, you could retrieve the video from the nearest computer that has it, rather than wait to get it from Netflix’s heavily-trafficked centralized servers.

“As far as the network is concerned,” the project’s website says, “the name in an NDN packet can be anything: an endpoint, a chunk of movie or book, a command to turn on some lights, etc.” An internet not of numbers, but, if you will, of things.

What that means, in practice, could be big. An internet focused on the what, not the where, could be a more flexible internet, less likely to get clogged up as a steady stream of new devices join the party. An internet that no longer relies on the aging architecture known as TCP/IP could also be an internet with fewer of the middlemen that currently throttle speeds, gather our data, or control what can and can’t be seen.

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