I demonstrate how one can utilize the World Wide Web to solve problems that may otherwise be insoluble. The demonstration consists of a distributed computing application run on a collection of Web servers using the HTTP protocol for communication. A problem that seems ideally suited for this demonstration is the directed Hamiltonian path problem (a restricted form of the traveling salesperson problem), one of the class of combinatorially hard problems. A Hamiltonian path of a connected graph is a path that includes every node exactly once. It is possible to encode a graph onto a small network of Web servers. Messages passed between them via HTTP requests will accumulate a list of visited nodes along the path. Each server then analyzes the path contained in received messages, and when one finds a completed Hamiltonian path, it will send a message to the destination server.
4/12/98 Web as a Brain Hypothesis
In a previous essay I argued that the Internet can and should be thought of as an organism. What organism, or part of an organism, does the Internet best resemble? At first glance, the Internet, and more specifically the Web, resembles the human brain. It is a surprisingly robust metaphor, that could benefit the way we treat and use the Web. The idea that the Internet can be thought of as a brain, was first proposed a number of years ago when the Web was still in its infancy. The dramatic explosion in the size and complexity of the Internet in the intervening years, driven primarily by the growth of the Web, motivated me to reexamine the premise and to see what evidence might support it. I present quantitative study of the response of the Web to external stimuli and discuss similarities with brain's behavior.