10/22: The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It

October 22, 2007 12:45 pm

Jonathan Zittrain holds the Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University and is a principal of the Oxford Internet Institute. His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education. He has recently co-authored Access Denied, a study of Internet filtering by national governments, and his book, The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It, will be released by Yale University Press and Penguin UK this winter. Papers may be found at http://www.jz.org.The Internet we know and love at risk even as its freedoms are at a high water mark and rising. It's the changing slope of the curve that counts. Regulators and some business types (e.g., incumbents)have interest in being able to intervene more readily; they've been stymied since the 1990's because the Net has produced too many golden eggs to be worth shutting it down. The deciding vote is the "consumer" vote, and they want their MTV. Unfortunately that vote is itself shifting, in part because of the uncontrolled environment represented by Net and PC: too much spyware, too many viruses, too little reliability for the applications they want to use. Waiting in the wings is a new generation of "information appliances" that in the past have been laughable (think WebTV) but now are killer: iPod, XBox, TiVo, most mobile phones, Zune, PSP. These appliances, and a general appliancization of the PC itself, represent a very different environment: the immutability of an appliance to the consumer and third parties (think television set), coupled with use of the latest Net innovations to make the thing eminently alterable by (and only by) its maker and licensees. This talk maps out the bad implications of an appliancized -- and Web 2.0 -- world, and offers suggestions to temper it.

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