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The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It Paperback – March 17, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151244
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Zittrain sends out a resounding wake up call ... 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." --The Oxford Times

The book ... 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. --BBC News

From the Author

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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Customer Reviews

It is balanced, informed, and most relevant to all of us.
Robert David STEELE Vivas
Maybe this book should have been broken into two parts rather than the odd mingling that took place in this text.
Terry
The internet has been a great source of innovation, creativity and freedom, because it has been generative.
Oliver Demille

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

194 of 222 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book on the strength of the title, and on receiving it, discovered that the author is the Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University, and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School (they hate it when we just say "Harvard"--must be a culture thing). So right off I know this is at least as serious a book as I hoped for.

The book is instructive without being tedious, alarming without being hysterical. It is balanced, informed, and most relevant to all of us.

The entire book focuses on the transformation of the Internet from one in which the innovation could be done at the edges, with generative innovation that built on the provided software or hardware, to one in which we are allowed to buy tethered appliances like iPhone or X-Box that are "locked down."

Even PCs are being locked down today, and with this and other examples the author has my total attention.

He suggests that the end point matters, and that the confrontation between flexibility and openness, versus security and perfect reliability (and later, perfect enforcement) is one that requires more creative thinking rather than knee jerk mandates one way or the other.

He notes that historically IBM tried to bundle everything, and they were forced by anti-trust to unbundle, just as AT&T was, as Microsoft was, and as Google will be if the USG Government ever gets either honest or informed--either will do. Look for my book review of "Google 2.0: The Calculating Predator" to understand this suprnational unsupervised threat to multiple sectors, never mind privacy and copyright.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. McDonald TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It is a major work of business, legal and policy research that will be less accessible to most people, but important to those looking to understand the future direction of today's ecommerce world. Zittrain is both a technologist and a lawyer and he appears to be writing this book more to influence policy and thinking rather than proposing a specific solution.

This is fine, in my opinion, as Zittrain provides two important frameworks that define new ways of thinking about the net and its impact: the notion of generative technology and the idea that the value of that technology is moving from the network to the endpoints. The book describes these ideas and develops them into a range of policy and technical decisions facing business, political and judicial leaders.

In the Future of the Internet, Jonathan Zittrain provides a detailed analysis of the development of the Internet, the nature of networks, and the evolution of technology. This book concentrates on the central elements of what Zittrain calls "generative" solutions. A generative solution is one that provides a basis for innovation, new products and new sources of value through experimentation and individual innovation (ala Cheesbourgh's open innovation). Zittrain sees the Internet and the PC as generative technologies, which the clearly are. However he sees generative technologies go through a pattern where the openness and high levels of trust that made them generative and attracted new solutions soon fall prey to fraud, abuse and outright criminal activities.

Zittrain argues that this is what the Internet is going through now as SPAM, Malware, Phishing and other forms of cyber crime and mischief are eroding the value of the Internet as a generative platform.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Terry on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book should have either been 150 pages shorter and simply an argument or 100 pages longer with fully developed ideas. Zittrain frequently references and discusses the idea of "generativity" and changes the definition at each usage. Sometimes it means "creativity" sometimes it means "openness" and sometimes it means "freedom", while all these ideas are tied to generativity, none are categorical or clear. It seems to be a shorthand for "computer good stuff" in the same way the word "umami" or "freedom" is used with several means and a body of meanings that's poorly defined.
The book also references several seeming contradictions that I felt were poorly addressed. The opening of the book talks about the triumph of the Internet because of its openness over walled garden, then says that it's under thread by tethered services, which the Internet had initially bested.
Hacking isn't referenced for devices like DVRs, iPhones, and other such beasts.
DRM is entirely ignored as well as its failure in the music realm. I think the Sony Rootkit debacle would have served as a nice piece.

Finally, the book's title includes "and how to stop it". I don't recall much in the book that actively tells the read what to do to stop a tethered device dominated network nor what legislation should be avoided or promoted.

The center bits on generativity and how it pops up in everyday life was both informative and interesting. Maybe this book should have been broken into two parts rather than the odd mingling that took place in this text.
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