Internet/Zittrain: The future unfolding right now is verypast. The future is not one of generative PCs attached to a generative network. It is instead one of sterile appliances tethered to a network of control.
The first part of the book traces the battle between the centralized proprietary networks and the Internet, and a corresponding fight between specialized information appliances like smart typewriters and the general-purpose PC, highlighting the qualities that allowed the Internet and PC to win.
Internet/Zittrain: the Internet’s founding is pegged to a message sent on October 29, 1969. It was transmitted from UCLA to Stanford by computers hooked up to prototype “Interface Message Processors” (IMPs). (1) A variety of otherwise-incompatible computer systems existed at the time—just as they do now—and the IMP was conceived as a way to connect them. (2) (The UCLA programmers typed “log” to begin logging in to the Stanford computer. The Stanford computer crashed after the second letter, making “Lo” the first Internet message.) From its start, the Internet was oriented differently from the proprietary networks and their ethos of bundling and control. Its goals were in some ways more modest. The point of building the network was not to offer a particular set of information or services like news or weather to customers, for which the network was necessary but incidental. Rather, it was to connect anyone on the network to anyone else. It was up to the people connected to figure out why they wanted to be in touch in the first place;
I have termed this quality of the Internet and of traditional PC architecture “generativity.” Generativity is a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences. Terms like “openness” and “free” and “commons” evoke elements of it, but they do not fully capture its meaning, and they sometimes obscure it.
In a development reminiscent of the old days of AOL and CompuServe, it is increasingly possible to use a PC as a mere dumb terminal to access Web sites with interactivity but with little room for tinkering. (“Web 2.0” is a new buzzword that celebrates this migration of applications traditionally found on the PC onto the Internet. Confusingly the term also refers to the separate phenomenon of increased user-generated content and indices on the Web—such as relying on user-provided tags to label photographs.) New information appliances that are tethered to their makers, including PCs and Web sites refashioned in this mold, are tempting solutions for frustrated consumers and businesses. None of these solutions, standing alone, is bad, but the aggregate loss will be enormous if their emergence represents a wholesale shift of our information ecosystem away from generativity. ((s) For generativity see Terminology/Zittrain.)
1. See ARPANET—The First Internet, http://livinginternet.com/i/ii_arpanet.htm (last visited June 1, 2007); IMP—Interface Message Processor, http://livinginternet.com/i/ii_imp.htm (last visited June 1, 2007).
2. See IMP—Interface Message Processor, supra note 25._____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It New Haven 2009