Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It

Jonathan Zittrain's superb new book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It is now available for free download. His central theme is that the freedom associated with general purpose PCs and an end-to-end internet is increasingly being threatened - a variety of forces (including a push by the content industry for DRM, security fears, and state regulation) are leading towards a growth in "tethered appliances" outside the control of their users, coupled with increased internet filtering and gatekeeping. The result is to dramatically shift the balance struck by the law and possibly to threaten traditional freedoms. From the synopsis:
IPods, iPhones, Xboxes, and TiVos represent the first wave of Internet-centered products that can’t be easily modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners. These “tethered appliances” have already been used in remarkable but little-known ways: car GPS systems have been reconfigured at the demand of law enforcement to eavesdrop on the occupants at all times, and digital video recorders have been ordered to self-destruct thanks to a lawsuit against the manufacturer thousands of miles away. New Web 2.0 platforms like Google mash-ups and Facebook are rightly touted—but their applications can be similarly monitored and eliminated from a central source. As tethered appliances and applications eclipse the PC, the very nature of the Internet—its “generativity,” or innovative character—is at risk.
A must read.

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