Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: The Future of the Internet, And How to Stop It

After having it on my to-read list for some time, I got around to reading The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It and am kicking myself for not getting to it earlier. It's great. It's well thought out and it's an *important* book.

I plan on writing something lengthier on my thoughts after reading it - It has spawned dozens of ideas for me - but here are some quick points.

In short, the book is about the trade off between Open and Closed systems - something I've written a fair amount about. He makes the point that Open and Closed lie on opposite ends of a spectrum. Open provides Affordance (the ability for systems to be used for purposes beyond their design) and Generativity (that they encourage or breed the innovation of these new uses). Closed systems provide Security, Ease of Use, and sometimes affordability (e.g. think razors/blades).

In many places in current day, the closed systems are winning because vendors and users don't take the long term view as to the cost to innovation.

The author goes on to show how this view of systems holds true for the internet at large as well as the endpoint devices. It then broadens into a larger discussion of everything from reputation systems to legislative solutions vs 'honor code' types of systems.

Is the book perfect? No. Many of the solutions, or at least solution directions, proposed are flawed (e.g. allowing programmability with security through VMs is not a solution so long as the owner of the VM platform or the platform under it are still closed). It doesn't matter though. If the book gets people even thinking and talking about this subject matter, then it's a worthwhile contribution.

Go read it. It's an important book. (also, a free PDF version is available here)

The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It

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