IPcentral Weblog
  The DACA Blog

Saturday, September 20, 2008

another review of Zittrain's "Future of the Internet"
(previous | next)
Zittrain Future of the Net coverSorry if it seems like I am beating a dead horse here, but the folks at the City Journal asked me a pen a review of Jonathan Zittrain's new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. Faithful readers here will no doubt remember that I have already penned a review of the book and several follow-up essays. (Part 1, 2, 3, 4). I swear I am not picking on Jonathan, but his book is probably the most important technology policy book of the year--Nick Carr's Big Switch would be a close second--and deserves attention. Specifically, I think it deserves attention because I believe that Jonathan's provocative thesis is wildly out of touch with reality. As I state in the City Journal review of his book:
[C]ontrary to what Zittrain would have us believe, reports of the Internet's death have been greatly exaggerated. [...] Not only is the Net not dying, but there are signs that digital generativity and online openness are thriving as never before. [...] Essentially, Zittrain creates a false choice regarding the digital future we face. He doesn't seem to believe that a hybrid future is possible or desirable. In reality, however, we can have a world full of some tethered appliances or even semi-closed networks that also includes generative gadgets and open networks. After all, millions of us love our iPhones and TiVos, but we also take full advantage of the countless other open networks and devices at our disposal. [...]
Further, while it's true that the creators of iPhone and TiVo maintain a high degree of control over the guts of the devices or their operating systems, the technologies themselves are hardly sterile or non-generative. In fact, these devices have amazing uses, and they have both recently become more open to third-party add-ons and applications. Geeks who demand still more are also hacking away at these and other digital devices to get them to do everything but wash their dishes.Most of us want networks and digital devices that work.
Zittrain, by contrast, seems to long for the era when we all had to load floppy disks into our PCs each morning to get our operating systems running. But those were hardly the good old days. Device makers realized that only techno-geeks would tolerate such hassles, and so our PCs and phones now come with more software and services built in to make our lives easier. Nothing stands in the way of those who still prefer the rugged individualist approach to conquering cyber-frontiers and digital devices. But what Zittrain does in The Future of the Internet is generalize his personal preferences to the whole of cyber-society. What's good for the ivory-tower digerati may not be what the rest of us want or need.
If you are interested you can read the entire review here. Again, I encourage you to read Zittrain's entire book and decide for yourself if my critique is unfair. Despite my criticisms, it's a very well-written and interesting book. As with everything Jonathan does, he has a special gift for making nerdy tech policy issues both interesting and entertaining.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 5:38 PM | Books & Book Reviews , Generic Rant , Innovation , Internet

Share |

Link to this Entry | Printer-Friendly

Post a Comment:

Blog Main
RSS Feed  
Recent Posts
  EFF-PFF Amicus Brief in Schwarzenegger v. EMA Supreme Court Videogame Violence Case
New OECD Study Finds That Improved IPR Protections Benefit Developing Countries
Hubris, Cowardice, File-sharing, and TechDirt
iPhones, DRM, and Doom-Mongers
"Rogue Archivist" Carl Malamud On How to Fix Gov2.0
Coping with Information Overload: Thoughts on Hamlet's BlackBerry by William Powers
How Many Times Has Michael "Dr. Doom" Copps Forecast an Internet Apocalypse?
Google / Verizon Proposal May Be Important Compromise, But Regulatory Trajectory Concerns Many
Two Schools of Internet Pessimism
GAO: Wireless Prices Plummeting; Public Knowledge: We Must Regulate!
Archives by Month
  September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
  - (see all)
Archives by Topic
  - A La Carte
- Add category
- Advertising & Marketing
- Antitrust & Competition Policy
- Appleplectics
- Books & Book Reviews
- Broadband
- Cable
- Campaign Finance Law
- Capitalism
- Capitol Hill
- China
- Commons
- Communications
- Copyright
- Cutting the Video Cord
- Cyber-Security
- Digital Americas
- Digital Europe
- Digital Europe 2006
- Digital TV
- E-commerce
- e-Government & Transparency
- Economics
- Education
- Electricity
- Energy
- Events
- Exaflood
- Free Speech
- Gambling
- General
- Generic Rant
- Global Innovation
- Googlephobia
- Googlephobia
- Human Capital
- Innovation
- Intermediary Deputization & Section 230
- Internet
- Internet Governance
- Internet TV
- Interoperability
- IP
- Local Franchising
- Mass Media
- Media Regulation
- Monetary Policy
- Municipal Ownership
- Net Neutrality
- Neutrality
- Non-PFF Podcasts
- Ongoing Series
- Online Safety & Parental Controls
- Open Source
- PFF Podcasts
- Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism
- Privacy
- Privacy Solutions
- Regulation
- Search
- Security
- Software
- Space
- Spectrum
- Sports
- State Policy
- Supreme Court
- Taxes
- The FCC
- The FTC
- The News Frontier
- Think Tanks
- Trade
- Trademark
- Universal Service
- Video Games & Virtual Worlds
- VoIP
- What We're Reading
- Wireless
- Wireline
Archives by Author
PFF Blogosphere Archives
We welcome comments by email - look for a link to the author's email address in the byline of each post. Please let us know if we may publish your remarks.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation