The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it review
Is the Internet heading for disaster? After 20 pages of reading Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, you’re convinced that it is.
Zittrain highlights the move over the past 20 years from ‘generative’ technology – where computers, from the Apple II onwards, were open to anyone to code and adapt without restriction – to the more sterile, semi-closed ecology of the iPod, Xbox and iPhone.
The principal reason behind the change, suggests Zittrain, is that while generative technology brought clear technological benefits, it has also become burdened by problems, such as viruses and worms.
What worries Zittrain is that, almost unnoticed, the same drift from generative technology is happening on the internet, a wonderful resource now beset by growing spam and ID theft problems.
Much of the second half of this book is devoted to the development of a strategy that addresses these security problems without destroying openness.
Zittrain’s conclusions might sound facile – he comes out strongly against legal or prescriptive restrictions and instead wants us rely on technically experienced people with goodwill solving the problem.
But his empirical examples of how well that approach can work – such as how a privacy solution to web page spidering was found without recourse to law and how Wikipedia is being policed by good ‘netizenship’ – are convincing.