The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It

The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It

by Jonathan Zittrain

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300145342
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 04/14/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Director of the Harvard Law School Library, and Co-Founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education.
He performed the first large-scale tests of Internet filtering in China and Saudi Arabia, and as part of the OpenNet Initiative co-edited a series of studies of Internet filtering by national governments: Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering; Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace; and Access Contested: Security, Identity, and Resistance in Asian Cyberspace.  

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Board of Advisors for Scientific American.  He has served as a Trustee of the Internet Society, and as a Forum Fellow of the World Economic Forum, which named him a Young Global Leader, and as Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Federal Communications Commission, where he previously chaired the Open Internet Advisory Committee.


A conversation with Jonathan Zittrain

Q: You have a curious title to your book. Most people think the Internet is a good thing, so why try to stop it?

A: The Internet is a great thing—and it's largely a historical accident that we have it at all. As late as the early 1990s, people in the know assumed that one of a handful of proprietary networks would be the network of the future. Those networks carefully groomed the content to be presented to people. The Internet came out of left field as an entity with no plan for content, no CEO—not even a main menu. PCs are similarly surprisingly successful. Unlike "information appliances" such as smart typewriters and word processors, the programs on a PC can come from anywhere. This has vaulted the PC into the front lines of business environments, not just homes. Unfortunately that's not how the future is shaping up. Our own choices, made in fear, are causing the most valuable features of our modern technology to slip away.

Q: You warn that the Internet, and the computers that sit on the ends of it, will become more like appliances if we aren’t careful. What do you mean by that?

A: Devices like Apple's iPhone are incredibly sophisticated—and flexible.  But they can be programmed only by their vendors. That's very, very limiting—and yet consumers will ask for that because it makes for a more consistent experience, and because our generative PC and Internet technologies are less and less useful due to spam, spyware, viruses, and other exploitations of their openness. We need to combat these exploitations in ways that don't sacrifice fundamental openness.

Q: Is it possible to have it both ways: to have a secure Internet that remains open to the possibilities you describe in your book?

A: Yes, and the book goes into detail about how we might thread this needle. If we fail, we return to the old models of consumer technology that we had already (and rightly) forgotten thanks to the Internet's success.

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The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Shmuel510 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
On the one hand, this is mistitled. I kept waiting for the big explanation of how to stop the potentially bad future of the Internet, and the author never really delivered on that. It should have been called something like The Power of Generativity, and Why It's Worth Preserving, but that probably wouldn't have sold as many copies.That said, it's a good book that sets out a fair amount of historical perspective in illuminating contemporary issues, and it's worth a read. Just don't expect it to live up to the title.
maunder on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Zittrain's book adresses the issue of how to maintain the cooperative, free, uncontrolled internet in an era where it ihas become very profitable to attack it with viruses, bots, spam and all the many things we look on as annoyances but which hav ehte capacity to force people into accepting tethered devices such as iphones and blackberries. Such a step will kill the innovation and creativity that engendered it from the beginnning by giving it over corporations and other interests. These interests will offer tightly controlled and unalterable interent experiences while preventing the "amateur tinkering which created most of the things we like.
mlcastle on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Some good ideas, but probably twice as long as it needs to be.
trav on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Here is an author that has put a ton of data and thought into his argument that the internet is doomed to fail if we all keep buying Xbox's and iPhones. To some degree he is right. There are many more "closed" systems gaining more and more market shares. Though the book was already dated with Zittrain's blasting the iPhone for not being open to third party development. A fact that Jobs deleted with the release of the iPhone SDK in the Summer of 2008. Zittrain maintains that the internet is only successful because it was formed by thousands of people piggy-backing on each other's work and play. This chain of progress went unchecked by corporate interests and mainstream media. Mix that with some "wisdom of crowds" philosophy and viola, you have the internet. I have to say I agree with just about everything he had to say in the middle of his book. The last third or the 'solutions' section was good too, but not as realistic (or maybe fair is the word) in regards to businesses and corporate innovators. But it all made for great thinking and discussions. Zittrain does a good job of explaining "generative" properties and the usefulness of digital technology, in terms of duct tape and vodka. All easy to understand, but a bit long winded. The book would probably be better served if chopped in half. Hence the 3 out of 5 rating. He really makes sure the reader knows how important security features are. Almost every point he makes is drawn with an arrow pointing back to how much consumers treasure security. Which is indeed true and fully understood before you make it to page 100 (much less page 236). But an interesting read if you are at all interested in software or online development. Don't be afraid to skip around and skim parts of this one.
gackerman on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Zittrain differentiates tethered devices (like the BlackBerry charging on my desk) from generative devices (like the laptop on which I write these words). Argues that much of the innovation that led to the features of the Internet that we enjoy (and that makes it so useful is threatened by the centralization that we see happening (see Nicholas Carr).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago