Half the world’s oil shipments move through the Strait of Malacca, framed by the coasts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. If terrorists were to launch coordinated attacks on the tankers there, the shock to the commodities markets might just push a shaky world economy into a recession. It is therefore understandable that the countries lining the straits—and a lot of others, too—want to head off the threat by building a marine electronic highway.

The proposed highway would use electronic navigational charts, display and information systems, and differential global positioning technology to track all ships to within 5 meters and automatically broadcast the identities of vessels above a certain size. It would help ships to share information with each other and with shore facilities, lessening the chances that they might collide, run aground, or wander into inclement weather. Finally, it would allow authorities to respond more quickly to hijackings and to incidents, such as oil spills, that could endanger marine life.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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