This page has select reviews of The Future of the Internet- And How to Stop It in chronological order.
For media coverage related to Herdict, click here.
Doc Searls, Understanding Infrastructure, Linux Journal (April 19, 2008)
In his new book, “The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It” (Yale University Press, 2008) Jonathan Zittrain defines generativity as “a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences.
Jonathan Zittrain shows how the Net and PC operating systems are generative by locating them at the waists of hourglasses. Both make possible an endless variety of invention and innovation both above and below them. They are like a universal joint making the stuff above independent of the stuff below.
Richard Waters, Inherent risks of a locked-down cyberspace, Financial Times (April 24, 2008)
If asked to pick a favourite piece of consumer technology, who wouldn’t choose their iPod over their PC? It does the one thing it is designed to do – play digital music – very well. Not like the PC, which may be endlessly adaptable but is not optimised for any single use, is difficult for the non-technical person to control, and may be exposed to spam, viruses and intrusive cyber-criminals. That choice, according to Jonathan Zittrain, professor of internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, could be fateful for the future of the internet and, ultimately, the open society it helps to sustain.
Darren Waters, Stark warning for internet’s future, BBC News (April 24, 2008)
The 1960s vision of a network of networks has grown into a tool that encircles the globe, drives economies and connects citizens. But Professor Jonathan Zittrain, one of the world’s leading academics on the impact of the net, is warning that the future is potentially bleak.
Will the Internet Survive? npr.org (April 27, 2008)
The Internet is a happy accident of the 20th century. But law professor Jonathan Zittrain wonders whether the net can survive in a culture of freedom and innovation. Andrea Seabrook talks to Zittrain about his new book “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It“.
Tom Standage, The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain, The Sunday Times (April 27, 2008)
The internet is falling! You may recently have read that it could soon be overwhelmed by an “exaflood” of streaming video, as people flock to YouTube and the BBC’s iPlayer.
This is just the latest version of an idea that keeps reappearing in different guises. In 1995 Robert Metcalfe, an American networking guru, predicted that the internet would soon collapse. It didn’t, and Metcalfe duly ate his words, after liquidising them in a blender. More recently there have been claims that spam and viruses will bring down the internet.
This doesn’t worry Jonathan Zittrain. In The Future of the Internet he claims that it is in danger in a more subtle way: its culture of innovation is under threat and we will all be the poorer for it. What makes the internet so valuable, says Zittrain, a professor of internet governance at Oxford University, is its “generative” nature – a handy term that encapsulates its open, anarchic and innovative essence.
Zittrain: I want to see us (and that means the market) avoid a dichotomy between the generative but now-dangerous PC-style platforms on the one hand, and the iPhone’s gated community on the other. I’d prefer to work inward from the current Internet/PC rather than start with a closed system and pry it open.
Tom Hoffman, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Tuttle SVC (April 30, 2008)
I’m not ready to sign my name to all the the solutions outlined by Jonathan Zittrain in “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It,” but his clear explanations and definitions of the problems we’re facing today, in schools’ IT as much as anywhere, are more than enough to recommend the book to anyone working in ed-tech.
One key concept Zittrain lays out is “generativity:”
By design, the university workstations of 1988 were generative: their users could write new code for them or install code written by others. This generative design lives on in today’s personal computers. Networked PCs are able to retrieve and install code from each other. We need merely click on an icon or link to install new code from afar, whether to watch a video newscast embedded within a Web page, update our word processing or spreadsheet software, or browse satellite images.
Daniel Miller, Sterilizing Cyberspace, New Left Review (May-June, 2008)
Jonathan Zittrain’s lucid new book traces this movement and puts it in context. Zittrain is—astonishingly—the professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford; one of a burgeoning number of legal scholars who have recently trained their attention on cyberspace. “The Future of the Internet” opens by contrasting two different tendencies that run through the history of information technology.
Brian Braiker, A Killer Product: Will closed devices like Apple’s iPhone murder the Web?, Newsweek (May 2, 2008)
Jonathan Zittrain claims that the very thing that makes the Internet great–its “generative” or innovative nature–is being locked down in a new wave of closed devices like the iPhone, Xbox, TiVo and the OnStar system. Zittrain, cofounder of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, claims the Internet’s ability to serve as an open platform for innovation is being undermined by these “tethered” toys that can’t be easily modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners.
John Naughton, The typing error that gave us thirty years of spam, The Guardian (May 4, 2008)
In a way, that’s the theme of an interesting book by Jonathan Zittrain which also came out on Thursday. It has an innocuous title – The Future of the Internet – but a puzzling subtitle, And How to Stop It, and it’s published in the UK by Allen Lane. Zittrain, who collects professorial chairs the way other people collect stamps (currently Oxford, Harvard and New York), is a distinguished cyber-scholar who fears that the proliferation of spam, malicious software, identity theft and other evils will generate unstoppable demands for regulation.
Zittrain “The Future of the Internet- And How to Stop It” book and download, Consuming Experience.com (May 4, 2008)
Jonathan Zittrain virtually needs no introduction: world-renowned expert and visionary on the internet and the law / society, professor at Oxford‘s Oxford Internet Institute and co-founder of Harvard‘s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, his book “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It” just came out on 1 May.
I was lucky enough to be at the book launch in London, chaired by ORG head Becky Hogge, last week at the RSA. His lively, witty and informative talk at the launch was superb – and you can now play or download the MP3 audio podcast of Zittrain’s talk at the launch of “The future of the internet”. The webcast will be out in a week or two, I gather (unless the RSA people were meaning just the podcast). Watch it if you can, if only for the fun slides of happy Bill Gates mugshots and a hamster-powered shredder, and of course what Prof Zittrain said in relation to those slides – but you can hear all that on the podcast. I’d not come across Cats That Look Like Hitler, though I’d heard of couch surfing before! More seriously, see the BBC report on the talk, which sums it up well.
Peter Griffiths, Should the public police the internet?, Reuters Blogs (May 8, 2008)
In an age of viruses, fraud and identity theft, who should be responsible for policing the Internet?
Governments, private security companies and law enforcement agencies all play a part in tackling cyber-crime.
But author and academic Jonathan Zittrain argues that we should be wary of “locking down” the Internet with increasing amounts of centralised rules and sealed gadgets that can’t be tinkered with.
Reg Little, Walking on wild side of the Web, The Oxford Times (May 9, 2008)
Prof Zittrain’s arrival in Oxford from Harvard, where he founded the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, offered the clearest proof of the university’s determination to establish itself as a major international player in studying the Internet.
He arrived with a reputation for his work on censorship, taxation of Internet commerce and risks the Internet poses to our privacy.
But few could have predicted its new Internet professor could have such a fearful view of the Internet’s future. And if that is not bad enough news, it seems all the gadgets that we have learnt to treasure – your iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, PlayStation – are all helping to kill it.
Prof Zittrain sends out his resounding wake up call in his new book The Future of the Internet And How To Stop It. Jimbo Wales, founder of Wikipedia, pulls no punches with his advice. “The best way to save the Internet is to turn your laptop off until you’ve read this book.” After reading it you may well find yourself looking at your iPhone with suspicion, not so much as toy as a pernicious enemy.
Steve Song, Tinkerless or tinkermore?, manypossibilities.net (May 9, 2008)
The Guardian this week published a review of Jonathan Zittrain’s book “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.” The journalist quotes Zittrain as saying
“unlike the internet itself, where creative chaos reigns, popular new devices such as the iPod and BlackBerry are “tethered appliances”, closed off to amateur tweaking, and modifiable, to a large extent, only by their manufacturers — and so they stifle the kind of innovation that enabled them to be created in the first place”
This apparently is going to kill the hive of creativity that gave birth to the Internet in the first place.
Bill Fenwick and Drue Kataoka, Zittrain’s Zen Negations at the Ritz, Valleyzen.com (May 11, 2008)
“If you want to be at the heart of the intellectual universe, come to Stanford,” said Stanford Law School Dean, Larry Kramer, introducing Jonathan Zittrain to a pumped-up pro-Stanford audience at the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco. This book-signing event was organized by Dean Kramer and Stanford Law School in an effort to recruit the Oxford professor and internationally-known cyberlaw scholar to the Farm.
Flanked by giant digital images from the book, Zittrain described the magic of the early Internet with a series of resounding “No’s.”
No Main menu. No investment in content. No partnerships. No CEO. No business plan. No subscribers.
The absence of those things, he claimed, is what made the early Internet so successful and gave it the winning edge over centralized proprietary networks like Prodigy.
Bill Thompson, Staying Safe and Taking Risks, BBC News (May 14, 2008)
Jonathan Zittrain’s recent book, The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It, has spurred a lot of discussion both online and offline, with blog posts lauding his insights or criticising his over-apocalyptic imagination.
The book itself makes fascinating reading for those who have watched the network grow from its roots in the research community into today’s global channel for communications, commerce and cultural expression.
Zittrain […] outlines the beginnings of the Internet as built quietly, modestly, playfully, and whimsically, without the thought of making money, and yet capable of out-competing the existing proprietary networks. This is the dark matter, the secret sauce of that underlies the power of Internet, he said.
The Apple II and the VisiCalc spreadsheet are an example of the dark energy that will carry you if you can tap it, Zittrain said. “Openness” created the off-the-shelf software market–people wanting to share what they made on their Apple II computers. Hook up the generative PC to the generative Internet and creativity is unleashed, in such forms as eBay, Skype, Kazaa, and Wikipedia, Zittrain said. Wikipedia, for example, is like a community-run park–you don’t need a company to come in to clean it up or the government to increase the laws against littering, he said.
Fred Fortin, Coming to Health Care: The Challenge of Privacy 2.0, worldheatlhcareblog.org (May 16, 2008)
Given that health care is a late bloomer to new media and the Web 2.0, some of the friction Lessig talks about may still be helping to secure private health information. Since this confidential information predominately resides today in slow moving, conservative institutions that dominate health care delivery, there is still time to consider the threats to privacy thatJonathan Zittrain outlines in his new book, The Future of the Internet (and how to stop it).
Colleen Walsh, Zittrain speculates on Web’s trajectory, Harvard University Gazette (May 22, 2008)
Jonathan Zittrain is a man with a passion for cyberspace and a concern for its future.
His dynamic style, energy, and command of all things cyber-related were evident Thursday (May 15) as he opened a two-day conference at Harvard Law School (HLS) to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
The center, which Zittrain, Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Visiting Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, helped establish during the heart of the dotcom boom, was created, says its Web site, “to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions.”
Zittrain’s opening talk, “The Future of the Internet (Take 1),” drew from his book “The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It” (Yale University Press, 2008) and described both positive and negative aspects of the Internet. The talk noted the collaborative, open nature of the Web and included suggestions about how to combat threats to these qualities — qualities that make the Internet so fruitful and dangerous at the same time.
Josh Quittner, Who Will Rule The New Internet?, Time (June 4, 2008)
I ask Zuckerberg about the theory that closed, proprietary networks like Facebook could stifle the Net’s innovative spirit. That idea is the subject of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, a new book by Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He argues that the rise of gated, closed communities like Facebook, the advent of the iPhone and even the seemingly innocuous standards-setting of Google could draw nerd talent away from the disruptive kind of innovation that occurred on the wild and woolly Net.
Michael Holloway, The Future of the Internet in Focus, openrightsgroup.org (June 6, 2008)
On Wednesday of this week we co-hosted an event at the British Computer Society to discuss the problems raised by Jonathan Zittrain’s new book, “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.” Professor Zittrain was joined by technology journalist Bill Thompson and our Executive Director, Becky Hogge, to discuss the threat that insecurity and “tethered appliances” pose to the generative Internet. We were also fortunate enough to have an expert and lively audience.
Nate Anderson, Tim Wu: iPhone central to “future of the Internet“, ars technica (June 8, 2008)
While closed devices can offer a more controlled environment, better security, and fewer crashes, they can only be altered in ways supported by the companies that produced them. They remain incapable of spurring much further innovation, the kind of innovation that has exploded on open platforms. Zittrain has no problem with such devices, but he argues that it’s best for society if generative devices remain central rather than fringe products.
Katie Baker, A Safe But Sterile Internet, Newsweek International (June 9, 2008)
Zittrain’s worst-case scenarios may seem implausible—it’s unlikely that Steve Jobs will erase iPhone memories any time soon. But as a legal scholar, Zittrain is right to be concerned with the implications of restricted Web freedom—and especially the power of states or companies to decide what speech can be accessed. Even now, routine filtering programs can mistakenly ban legit sites (a U.S. Embassy’s page was once targeted as porn by the Feds’ own filter because it had “ass” in its name). While Zittrain is not sure just how to solve the regulation tug-of-war, he believes that over time, the evils of too much freedom pale beside those of authoritarian control.
Jon Swartz, Berkman center pioneers the future of cyberspace, USA Today (June 10, 2008)
[Berkman] Center co-founder Jonathan Zittrain, in his new book, “The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It,” cautions the very thing that makes the Internet great — its innovative nature — is being hindered by proprietary devices like the iPhone.
“Devices like iPhone are incredibly sophisticated, but they can be programmed only by their vendors and can be confining,” Zittrain says. “We don’t want to sacrifice fundamental openness on the Internet.”
Denis Hancock, The iPhone and the battle for the future of the Internet, Wikinomics (June 10, 2008)
The argument builds on Jonathon Zittrain’s new book “The Future of the Internet (and how to stop it)“, where it is argued that “generative” technologies (think: open) are being marginalized by closed technologies like the iPhone and other proprietary platforms. As Wu went on to argue, open devices are important (and even the iPhone is making tentative steps in this direction), but without open access to networks they aren’t much good. There is also an interesting perspective on Wu’s history provided, notably including how he determined that some work in his former life (working with a device maker to help ISPs control content people can access) was “probably not very good for the health of the Internet or the future of free speech.”
Scott Bradner, What will rule the “new” Internet?“, NetworkWorld.com (June 10, 2008)
Particularly germane this week is the iPhone since the next generation of it was announced Monday at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. Quittner, as most observers have done, gushes over the iPhone while mentioning that it is the most closed of the platforms. It is also something, as Quittner mentions, that Harvard Visiting Professor Jonathan Zittrain addresses far more starkly in his new book “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It” and addressed at the 10th anniversary of Harvard’s Berkman Center For Internet and Society.
A leading expert in cyberlaw who has published extensive work on policy issues regarding the Internet has accepted an offer to become a tenured professor at Harvard Law School, school officials announced last week.
Tom Morris, Can someone please open Jonathan Zittrain?, tommorris.org (June 18, 2008)
But I just don’t buy Zittrain’s argument. He sees the Internet as having only two sides – basically, insecure Windows installs or the iPhone. Experience shows otherwise: Linux, the BSD systems (including OS X and Darwin), Java, Apache, and open source. The very existence of these systems knocks a fatal blow in Zittrain’s argument. Windows is an anomaly that distorts the argument. And, to be honest, who even uses Windows anymore? Most of the people I know only have a Windows install so they can see how badly IE 6 renders their standards-compliant (X)HTML and CSS or play DirectX games. Even my parents don’t use Windows anymore. I remember back in 1997 when I first discovered FreeBSD, the idea that my parents would be using a computer running an OS I could ssh into was completely alien.
Christian Harris, The Internet is Doomed (& I feel Fine), community.zdnet.co.uk (June 27, 2008)
One of the world’s leading academics, Professor Jonathan Zittrain, has warned that the Internet may come to an end under the weight of malicious code. [end dramatic music] Zittrain has called for the Internet to be locked down by a solution that does not destroy the creativity and openness that made the Internet such an enormous success in the first place.
Let’s get this right. There are over 171 million Web hosts now in use. Think of each one of these as a distinct Web site (some Web sites do span multiple hosts, but some hosts deliver multiple sites). Each Web site has content within it.
Julian Sanchez, The Parli Style, julansanchez.com (June 27, 2008)
Something was bothering me as I watched Jonathan Zittrain’s excellent and engaging talk at PDF the other day. I mean, beyond the fact that he looks approximately my age, which would cause me to weep bitter, bitter tears of shame and envy if it were true. No, it was something awfully familiar about his gestures, about the way he gestured and roamed the stage, about his cadence, about his whole speaking style.
Nick Heath, Zittrain: Android holds the key to free future, Silicon.com (June 30, 2008)
Android’s battle to be the dominant mobile phone operating system (OS) could decide the future freedom of our technology, according to a leading web academic.
Jonathan Zittrain, author of “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It,” said the success of Google’s open source mobile platform will be a deciding factor in whether our technologies are free and open or restricted and closed.
Richard Martin, A Bleak Vision for Orwell’s Internet, InformationWeek.com (July 1, 2008)
“Today, the same qualities that led to [the success of the Internet and general-purpose PCs] are causing [them] to falter,” continues Zittrain. “A seductive and more powerful generation of proprietary networks and information appliances is waiting for round two.”
It’s an important and interesting thesis, but I think it’s misguided on two counts.
No. 1, Zittrain misses the movement toward openness that is suffusing not only new mobile devices, like Nokia’s future open source handsets running the Symbian operating systems, but cloud platforms like Google’s App Engine, which allows developers to create new applications based on the Python programming language. Even the iPhone from Apple, a company that has based its business model on tethered systems, is now moving toward an open software development kit. I spent two days last week listening to product managers at Google talk about their commitment to an open, innovative, “generative” cloud model. Either they are accomplished liars or Zittrain has it wrong.
“When we participate in other walks of life – school, work, PTA meetings, and so on – we do so as ourselves, not wearing Groucho moustaches, and even if people do not know exactly who we are, they can recognise us from one meeting to the next. The same should be possible for our online selves,” argues Zittrain.
He then introduces the need for ‘reputation bankruptcy’ on the lines of financial bankruptcy, to allow people a fresh start. “We ought to consider how to implement the idea of a second or third chance into our digital spaces.”
Darin Barney, Netizens of the world, unite, The Globe and Mail (July 6, 2008)
Marion Long, Reviews; Will Your iPod Turn on You?, Discover (July 7, 2008)
Once a freewheeling frontier, the Internet is approaching lockdown as we trade freedom for the promise of security in our online lives, Oxford University cyberlaw scholar Jonathan Zittrain says. Viruses, spyware, malware, and spam are driving Internet users away from technologies like Wikipedia, which anyone can modify, toward appliances such as iPods, iPhones, Xboxes, and TiVos, which only their makers can modify. The control that the developers of these “tethered appliances” retain threatens to stifle the innovation that gave rise to the Internet, and it can be turned against us too—to spy on us, sell our secrets, silence dissent, and eliminate choice. Zittrain sounds the alarm in clear, compelling language and maps out a plan that could provide reasonable security without sacrificing what we most want to protect about the Internet.
Andrew Rasiej and Mica L. Sifry, Politics 2.0’s beach reading list, Politico (July 24, 2008)
The next book we would add to your pile is Jonathan Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It.” If Shirky’s main focus is how the Net is fostering a creative explosion of self-organization, Zittrain’s goal is to warn that this very openness could also be the Net’s undoing. Thanks to the inclusive nature of personal computers that will run any software you load onto them, and to open protocols for Web development, we’re living in a golden age of what Zittrain calls “generativity.” But we can’t take it for granted, as spam, malware and other malevolent entitites online are pushing people toward shiny, closed appliances such as the iPhone; the owners of the Net’s pipes, the telcos, want to start discriminating among content online and end the practice of Net neutrality. Whatever your political leaning, if you’re a tech-politico, Zittrain’s book makes for sober reading.
Stephen Ellis, Walled gardens not about to take over net, Australian IT (July 8, 2008)
Zittrain has been a key figure in several of the most contentious legal battles over online file sharing and copyright, and was one of the authors of a landmark study that showed that spam email stock tips actually do influence stock prices (a disheartening result that encouraged spammers everywhere).
His new book has prompted heated debate across the technology industry. It argues, on the one hand, that open (rather than proprietary) technologies and platforms are best for consumers because they encourage faster innovation. On the other hand, it says the current dominance of open technologies is fragile and under threat.
Suzanna Stinnett, Virtual Thursdays: The Internet’s security complex, examiner.com (July 10, 2008)
Security comes in different forms. In Jonathan Zittrain’s book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It (with its powerful cover graphic that puts the eye on a train and hurtles it off a cliff), he says the Internet’s innovative nature is at risk, and that its current trajectory is one of lost opportunity. On the surface I think that’s myopic, but I respect his opinion, and I’ll delve more into what he has to say. I think about trajectories too, and wrote in my book about how small changes make all the big changes happen. Mr. Zittrain confirmed my train of thought by suggesting that the Internet’s future as an openly innovative machine can be secured by its millions of users. (Something about the price of freedom is buzzing in the back of my mind.)
Michael Bhaskar, Tethered Reading, The Digitalist (July 17, 2008)
The recent noise about the iPhone highlights a trend recently discussed by Jonathan Zittrain in his book The Future of the Internet; namely how “generative” IT platforms are giving way to closed “tethered” appliances. The iPhone is such a device, in that it is ultimately policed by Apple and is capable of being controlled by them.
Zittrain acknowledges the benefits of tethered appliances in an age when the internet is becoming increasingly dangerous but he raises a few spectres of what might result from a world dominated by tethered appliances, where the openness and flexibility engendered by neutral networks and development platforms, an openness that has lead to an unprecedented flowering of productivity and creativity, gives way to greater manufacturer control.
Jason, ‘The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It’, The Tindog Coffeehouse (July 23, 2008)
Overall, it’s a positive review, but one area where Doctorow disagrees with the author is on the subject of “generativity”, the ability to take an existing technology and use it in ways the creator never intended. Zittrain argues that this generativity allows people with bad intentions (hackers, spyware vendors, etc.) to leverage the Internet for malicious purposes, leading to increased regulation that threaten the good benefits that the Internet offers. Doctorow disagrees with this line of reasoning.
JoCoWash, The Future of the Internet, The Tech Brief (Aug. 1, 2008)
To read a good book about this topic, I recommend “The Future of Internet and How to Stop It” by Jonathan Zittrain and it talks about a lot of interesting topics and ideas
Venkatesh Rao, The Future of the Internet According to Jonathan Zittrain, Ribbonfarm.com (Aug. 10, 2008)
“Be wary of SaaS and Internet-connected appliances, and it’s a good thing if the legal innovation never catches up with technological innovation.” That would serve as a rough summary of the thesis Jonathan Zittrain, cyberlaw Professor at Oxford, seeks to defend. In The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It he develops an elaborate and densely-argued socio-legal doctrine designed to do one thing: protect the generativity of the Internet without letting it becoming prey to its own power or the anxieties of regulators. This is no quick and dirty treatment of GPL vs. Proprietary. It isn’t your grandmother’s elementary lecture on free as in speech vs. free as in beer. This is a demanding book written by a lawyer, unapologetically full of long, complex sentences that throws the full complexity of cyberlaw problems at you.
Josh Catone, Why Closed Platforms Could Ruin the Web, SitePoint (Aug. 12, 2008)
Indeed, Steve Jobs today confirmed the existence of the controversial “kill switch” that will allow Apple to kill any iPhone application it had already approved. However, the fact that they control which apps even make it through their approval process and can be installed on the phone (at least on phones that haven’t been unlocked) illustrates Zittrain’s point on its own.
Paul Starr, Freedom’s Future Online, The American Prospect (Aug. 13, 2008)
The delirium and delusions that surrounded computing and the Internet in the 1990s have given way to a sentiment just as dangerous–complacency. It’s not just that yesterday’s wonders have so quickly become routine; most of us also take for granted the basic workings of the digital environment, including the freedom for experimentation that it affords. Countries like China may control the Internet, but in our society don’t the free market and the open, untamed wilds of cyberspace make it nearly impossible to clamp down on innovation?
If that’s what you think, you need to read Jonathan Zittrain’s new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.
Sarah Perez, The Web Computer: Closed, Secure, and Tightly Controlled, ReadWriteWeb (Aug. 15, 2008)
In fact, this idea that someone else, above and beyond the user, should have control over what’s permitted to run on our machines, be them PCs or iPhones, is the driving force of change in today’s new computing environment. To see what we mean, you have to read this interview with Jonathan Zittrain, cofounder of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he discusses how the internet and computing as we’ve known it was just a historical accident. “Bill Gates never dreamed of controlling Windows applications [like this],” he says, when speaking of the shift to these controlled platforms of the future.
Ed Cone, Android and IPhone and Generativity, Know It All (Aug. 15, 2008)
I asked Internet paterfamilias and Google evangelist Vint Cerf what kind of phone he uses, and we talked a bit about Android and Jonathan Zittrain’s concept of “generative” platforms that encourage development and innovation; Zittrain is worried about iPhone lock-in.
Kenneth Neil Cukier, Who Holds the Key?: The struggle to balance openness and control, Economist.com (Aug. 15, 2008)
Firms have good reasons to control how people use their products, from ensuring security to protecting copyrights. But aggressive oversight risks sacrificing the “generativity” of computer technology—that is, the continuous, unpredictable improvements from all quarters that drive innovation. Mr Zittrain fears that the rise of tethered appliances will inevitably chip away at the freedom of the internet and personal computing, which many take for granted.
Social Networks: My final example is social networks, another area where tipping can quickly lead to one or a few players’ dominance. My intuitions are that social networks are somewhere between search engines and auction sites as to factor a); that they empower communities at least as powerful as those seen on eBay to “police” their own policies; and that competition is more likely to develop in the social network space than in the search engine or auction platform industries. I think upcoming debates about social network “neutrality” and transparency will look a bit like current debates on “device neutrality.” Consider this discussion from Jonathan Zittrain’s book on appliance neutrality:
Reasonable people disagree on the value of defining and legally mandating network neutrality. But if there is a present worldwide threat to neutrality in the movement of bits, it comes from enhancements to traditional and emerging “appliancized”services like Google mash-ups and Facebook apps, in which the service provider can be pressured to modify or kill others’ applications on the fly. Surprisingly, parties to the network neutrality debate—who have focused on ISPs—have yet to weigh in on this phenomenon. . . .
Terry Short, Review: The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Ear to the Track (Aug. 17, 2008)
As a technological Paul Revere ride (“The appliances are coming!”), Zittrain is not entirely convincing in all aspects of the arguement. He returns to the code level as the most important aspect of generactivity, but fails to make the case that this is in danger of being taken away from serious open coders. And while tethered appliances may proliferate, it seems unlikely that they will replace PCs in a zeros sum game.
Cracker Belly, Review of “Future of the Internet and How to Stop It“, Cherrypal.blogspot.com (Aug. 17, 2008)
He argues that because the Internet was framed in a spirit of openness and cooperation, an ethic that greatly enhances the generative nature of the technology, there are, as a result, holes and vulnerabilities that lend them to exploitation. Spam, viruses, worms, zombie code, root kits and spyware are just a few examples of the burgeoning security threats that confront information technology and the Internet today. Zittrain argues that if we do not act proactively to curb the impulse to trade security for freedom in response to this proliferation of risk, we might be destined to settle for an information economy that is more industrial than digital in nature.
Kevin Donovan, A Better Way for the iPhone Kill Switch: Nudges, freeculture.org (Aug. 18, 2008)
In recent weeks, the iPhone has made quite a stir because of the regulatory decisions made by Apple. Jonathan Zittrain raised this worry in his book, The Future of the Internet, where he cautioned that generativity – the nature of systems to accept input from everyone – was being traded for sterile appliances – devices which do only simple tasks (GPS, TiVo)
Bob DuCharme, Jonathan Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It“, bobdc.blog (Aug. 21, 2008)
I don’t want to rehash the whole book here, but I’ll admit that I expected it to be fairly dry and read it mostly out of a sense of responsibility to be up on these issues. It actually is a fairly quick read; I read most of my copy sitting on a beach. Once Zittrain lays out his case, which includes a history of the Internet that was fascinating to someone who’s read quite a few histories of the Internet, he reviews several of the things that have gone wrong (for example, spam and malware). This sets the stage for how tightly-controlled Internet walled gardens are becoming more appealing to people, and he describes some of the decentralized, grass-roots practices that have dealt with such issues surprisingly effectively—for example, robots.txt files and Wikipedia’s practices for resolving disputes.
Kai Ryssdal, Unblocking news on the Internet, Marketplace from America Public Media (Aug. 21, 2008)
When China filtered news and blocked Web sites during the Beijing Olympics, it helped increase concern about censorship on the Internet. Commentator Jonathan Zittrain says there are ways to fight back.
Philip Young, Privacy 2.0: Ethical journalism in a world without secrets, Mediations (Sept. 10, 2008)
Drawing initially in the work of cyberlaw expert Johnathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet (2008), this paper seeks to examine whether traditional notions of privacy need to be re-examined in a world where ‘secrets’ are routinely put on public display. Soon, photo-recognition search software will automatically ‘tag’ faces in online photo albums, already websites can use GPS and online maps to give a real time account of the movements of celebrities. These changes are upon us and Zittrain argues that words like ‘public and private are no longer subtle enough to express the kind of privacy we may want’.
So how should journalists respond to what Zittrains call the ‘privacy mosiac’? What are the consequences for truthful expression in a ‘hyperscrutinised society’?
Edward Cone, Smothering the iPhone, CIO Insight (Oct. 7, 2008)
Some insiders say Apple’s own policies around creating iPhone applications could ruin the popular device. When we interviewed Jonathan Zittrain earlier this year, his warnings about the iPhone seemed a bit academic. Sure, his preference for open systems like the Internet made sense, but Apple was allowing developers to create applications for its App Store, and the supercool iPhone seemed invincible.
That was then; this is now. Suddenly, the iPhone has competition: smart phones powered by Google’s developer-friendly Android operating system. Nobody expects the initial device to be an iPhone-killer, but the prospect of numerous designs powered by increasingly useful software changes the game.
Meanwhile, all is not well in App Store land. As Zittrain said, “Steve Jobs reserves the right to reject, prospectively or retroactively, any software he doesn’t like, for any reason. That’s the point where I say, ‘Yikes.’”
Daniel J. Solove, NSA Surveillance: Having a Laugh at the Expense of Your Privacy, concurringopinions.com (Oct. 9, 2008)
I like Zittrain’s idea of proponents of different “neutralities” talking to each other more. But in order to avoid colonization in such encounters, I would like to structure the mutual influence on the basis of the a) cultural, b) communal, and c) competitive dynamics surrounding new intermediaries. That’s why I’d ground calls for search neutrality in the net neutrality debate; calls for auction platform neutrality in the literature on operating systems; and calls for social network neutrality in the literature now growing up around device and appliance neutrality. That trichotomy may seem a little too “neat” at present, but does have the virtue of identifying debates where economic analysis alone may be relevant, and where it should only be one small part of larger policy decisions.
Atul Varma, Herdict: The Verdict of the Herd, toolness.com (Nov. 7, 2008)
I’m still in the middle of reading The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, but one of the major “take-aways” from the book is a software suite that Zittrain has been working on at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society called Herdict, which is a portmanteau of “herd” and “verdict”.
From what I understand, one component of the suite, Herdict for Network Health, is a Firefox/IE plug-in that allows an end-user’s computer to tell “the herd”—that is, the other users of the software as a single anonymous entity—what sites it can access. If a user can’t access a particular site, they can ask the herd for more information; this “verdict” can help determine whether you can’t access a site because the site is down (in which case the entire herd can’t access it), or because a firewall is in the way (in which case only some of the herd can access it). This information can then be used to generate a snapshot of Internet health by geography, and empowers users to figure out the true cause behind cryptic messages like “The Connection Has Been Reset”.
Kenneth Corbin, Should Apple Free the iPhone? Internetnews.com (Nov. 7, 2008)
Zittrain criticized the model where companies give a tentative embrace of the developer community, but retain strict control of the content and distribution of the applications they create.
But it’s not just the iPhone that concerns Zittrain. The same issues arise in many popular developer initiatives, such as the Facebook Platform and Google’s App Engine. For Zittrain, these programs are failing to unlock the “generative” potential of what is commonly called the wisdom of the crowds.
Unthethered: A Sculpture Garden Of Readymades, Artcal.net
Additionally, as a show of objects that have been tinkered with, invented, and allowed to be “generative”, that is, open to experimentation and other use, Untethered presents a deliberate reference to the notion of “tethered appliances” (a term used by Internet scholar Jonathan Zittrain in his book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Yale University Press and Penguin UK, 2008)-technologies, such as iPods or cell phones, that contain proprietary software and are tied to single uses or networks. In this, the exhibition ties into Eyebeam’s recently launched Open Culture Research Group, a forum for the investigation of free and open source software and hardware.
Hal Abelson, Keeping the Net Stupid, American Scientist (Nov-Dec. issue, 2008)
The story of the end-to-end Internet and its discontents has been told before, but never with such insight and never from such a comprehensive technical, legal, policy and social perspective as in Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It. Zittrain, who recently moved from the Oxford Internet Institute to Harvard Law School, is renowned in Internet policy circles as the most tech-savvy of today’s young cyber-legal minds. This book is certain to cement that reputation. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to co-teach Internet policy courses with Zittrain at Harvard and MIT, and it is delightful to see his insights packaged up with such lucidity and wit here.
Erin Rhodes, Inaugural Zittrain Forum Engages Audience With Timely Political Debate, Lawyers Journal (Nov. 21, 2008)
On October 14, the inaugural Zittrain Forum on Law & Public Policy proved that political debates can be civilized. Over 250 guests filled the Grand Ballroom of the Omni William Penn Hotel to listen to friendly yet compelling discussion between national political commentators Peter Beinart and Jonah Goldberg.
Peter Moon, O iPhone Pode Matar a internet, Epoca (Nov. 24, 2008)
Rescuing the Internet for Digital Natives and the Rest of Us, Harvard Law Bulletin (Fall, 2008)
Jonathan Zittrain, The Internet is Closing to Innovation, Newsweek (Dec. 8, 2008)
Technologies like the Internet and the PC are civic in the sense that they depend on support and innovative outsiders to survive and grow. When civic technologies become popular enough to subvert, they need civic defense systems. I’m part of a consortium developing free software that does just that. It helps PC users communicate with each other to defend themselves against rogue programs; before running new software, people can check to see if other members of the herd have run it, and how it worked out. The idea is to draft a critical mass of users to support the common protocols of the Internet, so that we don’t yet have to give up and call in the police or the Pinkertons—or Steve Jobs.
Tim Wu, The New New Media, The New Republic (Dec. 31, 2008)
Zittrain, a moderate and an optimist, pleads for a middle way. He does want a safer and more reliable Internet, but he thinks that this can happen without sacrificing its spirit. While light on specifics, his vision of the future Internet resembles Mick Jagger circa 2008: older, safer, but still more or less rocking.
David Reed, Fouling Our Own Net, IEEE Spectrum (February, 2009)
Zittrain’s most controversial and novel point concerns cloud computing, in which data and software reside on remote servers instead of securely within one’s own computer. Many would characterize cloud computing and related technologies as highly generative, but Zittrain argues that rather than liberating us from perfect enforcement, the freedom to ”mash up” services may make it even easier to lock down our data and software.
Doug Clow, Future of the Net, New Technology in Higher Education (March 30, 2009)
Too focused on security issues and not on commercial pressures; not enough on control-freakery of governments; too Manichean – mixed economies; too pessimistic about frailties (and intelligence and adaptability) of human beings; over-estimates security ‘advantages’ of tethered appliances.
Zvika Ben-Haim, Review of The Future of the Internet, Wikipedia Signpost (June 1, 2009)
Some of the problems described by Zittrain are also confronting Wikipedia specifically. Many people have an obvious economic incentive in altering the content of Wikipedia to suit their needs. Thus, it is not inconceivable that vandalism will be transformed from a graffiti-like nuisance to a profitable business. If this happens, we may one day have to deal with massive, multiple-IP, botnet-driven advertising, inserted simultaneously into thousands of marginally-related articles. If a single botnet was able to occupy a sizable portion of Yahoo’s server load, how will a small corps of vandal fighters deal with such an attack? These questions are beyond the scope of Zittrain’s book, but perhaps we Wikipedians should think about the matter sooner rather than later.