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This extraordinary book explains the engine that has catapulted the Internet from backwater to ubiquity—and reveals that it is sputtering precisely because of its runaway success. With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to a lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation—and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control. IPods, iPhones, Xboxes, a This extraordinary book explains the engine that has catapulted the Internet from backwater to ubiquity—and reveals that it is sputtering precisely because of its runaway success. With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to a lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation—and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control. 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. The Internet’s current trajectory is one of lost opportunity. Its salvation, Zittrain argues, lies in the hands of its millions of users. Drawing on generative technologies like Wikipedia that have so far survived their own successes, this book shows how to develop new technologies and social structures that allow users to work creatively and collaboratively, participate in solutions, and become true “netizens.” The book is available to download under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 3.0 license: Download PDF. http://futureoftheinternet.org/download


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This extraordinary book explains the engine that has catapulted the Internet from backwater to ubiquity—and reveals that it is sputtering precisely because of its runaway success. With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to a lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation—and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control. IPods, iPhones, Xboxes, a This extraordinary book explains the engine that has catapulted the Internet from backwater to ubiquity—and reveals that it is sputtering precisely because of its runaway success. With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to a lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation—and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control. 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. The Internet’s current trajectory is one of lost opportunity. Its salvation, Zittrain argues, lies in the hands of its millions of users. Drawing on generative technologies like Wikipedia that have so far survived their own successes, this book shows how to develop new technologies and social structures that allow users to work creatively and collaboratively, participate in solutions, and become true “netizens.” The book is available to download under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 3.0 license: Download PDF. http://futureoftheinternet.org/download

30 review for The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    Do you recall the end of The Dark Knight? Batman locates the Joker through tapping into every cell phone in Gotham city, turning them into one gigantic triangulation machine. The Future of the Internet, though written before the movie, is about exactly that. It deals with the issue of tethered devices - iPads, iPods, e-book readers, webcams, flip-cams and the rest of the growing technological wonders of Web 2.0. It is commonly believed that the Internet is the harbinger of freedom and privatizat Do you recall the end of The Dark Knight? Batman locates the Joker through tapping into every cell phone in Gotham city, turning them into one gigantic triangulation machine. The Future of the Internet, though written before the movie, is about exactly that. It deals with the issue of tethered devices - iPads, iPods, e-book readers, webcams, flip-cams and the rest of the growing technological wonders of Web 2.0. It is commonly believed that the Internet is the harbinger of freedom and privatization. Instead, we find a growing ability to control content and the free flow of information. Databases and newspapers copyright content so that others cannot use the statistics and content to benefit mankind. Apple, Microsoft and video game designers more and more rely upon DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) to control copying of film, music and video technology; they are attempting to assert their copyrights through technological locks that curtail fair use laws and encroach upon the public domain. Video games on the new consoles can only be installed on one console, and then only four times. Thus, gamers cannot install their games on multiple consoles - to play peer to peer, both gamers must pay the $80+ to get the game. This is the withdraw of private ownership and the dawn of an age of "use." We do not own the music and movies and games we buy online, we are paying for the privilege of using them for a certain time. Further, it is illegal by U.S. law to "hack" the system to bypass these controls. Even if you simply want to know how these devices work if you crack their encryptions you are liable to the corporations and can be brought up on felony charges. If you are caught tampering with such technological encryption, the corporations also have the right to "brick" your console, iPad, Nook or computer, essentially killing the machine. They have the power to do this remotely, from any place on earth. Amazon has the ability to reach into every Kindle on earth and delete any content they wish - a power they have already utilized. Police and military are already able to access your webcams and cell phones to spy on citizens. If the device is plugged in, they can be used to eavesdrop on any conversion within the microphone or camera they have. iPhones track your every movement, linked up to the google maps network, and increasingly police can confiscate these phones and download this tracking information without a warrant. In a world where devices are permanently linked to the internet, serious privacy issues and violations are already here. The newly debuted "cloud computers," which have no hard drive, but hold all their applications and content on the internet cloud, draw questions about privacy, control, and ownership. If I store documents on a cloud owned by a corporation, does this count as a "work-for-hire," in which case the corporation possesses the copyright of my work? But, Zittrain is quick to say, this recent development within internet programming was not inevitable, nor is it going to last forever. The strong resurgence of anti-DRM, anti-"bricking," movements and the growth of "freeware" and open source programming on the internet is a positive step towards freeing the internet from the control of the powerful and allowing for the true burgeoning of culture, creativity and technology. We must fight and assert our rights - the right to fair use, the right to "mash-up," the right to freedom of information, the right to keep the government and the corporations out of our computers, e-readers, iPods and game consoles. The personal computer flourished because it allowed for user calibration; anyone could write programs to use the machines for anything. We must assert this right with our e-readers, and the rest of our technology. This was a really important book. At first I thought the issues revolving around copyright was a marginal issue. Now I'm beginning to see it is almost entirely central to the explosive growth of corporate power in our country, and actually allows them to copyright ideas, information, statistics, and all later use with tight regulation and technological blocks. This is nothing less than turning "culture" into "commodity," to the point where these multinationals can literally own and control the use of culture itself.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    Here is an author that has put a ton of data and thought into his argument that the internet is doomed to fail if we all keep buying Xbox's and iPhones. To some degree he is right. There are many more "closed" systems gaining more and more market shares. Though the book was already dated with Zittrain's blasting the iPhone for not being open to third party development. A fact that Jobs deleted with the release of the iPhone SDK in the Summer of 2008. Zittrain maintains that the internet is only Here is an author that has put a ton of data and thought into his argument that the internet is doomed to fail if we all keep buying Xbox's and iPhones. To some degree he is right. There are many more "closed" systems gaining more and more market shares. Though the book was already dated with Zittrain's blasting the iPhone for not being open to third party development. A fact that Jobs deleted with the release of the iPhone SDK in the Summer of 2008. Zittrain maintains that the internet is only successful because it was formed by thousands of people piggy-backing on each other's work and play. This chain of progress went unchecked by corporate interests and mainstream media. Mix that with some "wisdom of crowds" philosophy and viola, you have the internet. I have to say I agree with just about everything he had to say in the middle of his book. The last third or the 'solutions' section was good too, but not as realistic (or maybe fair is the word) in regards to businesses and corporate innovators. But it all made for great thinking and discussions. Zittrain does a good job of explaining "generative" properties and the usefulness of digital technology, in terms of duct tape and vodka. All easy to understand, but a bit long winded. The book would probably be better served if chopped in half. Hence the 3 out of 5 rating. He really makes sure the reader knows how important security features are. Almost every point he makes is drawn with an arrow pointing back to how much consumers treasure security. Which is indeed true and fully understood before you make it to page 100 (much less page 236). But an interesting read if you are at all interested in software or online development. Don't be afraid to skip around and skim parts of this one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Nelson

    I want to read this again (probably online), to reabsorb some of the lessons and get a sense of whether I have any part to play in the landscape as it moves forward. (ugh, mixed metaphor roundup!) This is the other book that I read after seeing its author at SXSWi '09, and in this case, his presentation was on the same topic of the book. So there was a lot that felt familiar, but with more depth and nuance. "Generativity" is the central metaphor of the book: what allows for it and what are its co I want to read this again (probably online), to reabsorb some of the lessons and get a sense of whether I have any part to play in the landscape as it moves forward. (ugh, mixed metaphor roundup!) This is the other book that I read after seeing its author at SXSWi '09, and in this case, his presentation was on the same topic of the book. So there was a lot that felt familiar, but with more depth and nuance. "Generativity" is the central metaphor of the book: what allows for it and what are its consequences. It's a useful construct for understanding a wide variety of phenomenon, from the beginning of the PC to the current technology landscape. I read someplace recently that most books about the culture of the internet are either optimists or pessimists, and I'd agree with that sentiment generally. What strikes me about Zittrain is that he takes a reasonable middle approach: here's the awesome parts, here's how that leads to something scary, here's something insane that could happen as a reaction, here's some ways we could work ourselves out of it. I like that.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    "Though these two inventions -- iPhone and Apple II -- were launched by the same man, the revolutions that they inaugurated were radically different. For the technology that each inagurated were radically different. The Apple II was quintessentially generative technology. It invited people to tinker with it. Hobbyists wrote programs. It was a platform. Businesses began to plan on selling software. Jobs (and Apple) had no clue how the machine would be used. They had their hunches, but, fortunatel "Though these two inventions -- iPhone and Apple II -- were launched by the same man, the revolutions that they inaugurated were radically different. For the technology that each inagurated were radically different. The Apple II was quintessentially generative technology. It invited people to tinker with it. Hobbyists wrote programs. It was a platform. Businesses began to plan on selling software. Jobs (and Apple) had no clue how the machine would be used. They had their hunches, but, fortunately for them, nothing constrained the PC to the hunches of the founders. Apple did not even know that VisiCalc was on the market when it noticed sales of the Apple II skyrocketing. The Apple II was designed for surprises -- some very good (VisiCalc), and some not so good (the inevitable and frequent computer crashes). The iPhone is the opposite. It is sterile. Rather than a plaform that invites innovation, the iPhone comes preprogrammed. You are not allowed to add programs to the all-in-one device that Steve Jobs sells you. Its functionality is locked in..." (2) "Just as the general-purpose PC beat leased and appliancized counterparts that could perform only their manufacturers' applications and nothing else, the Internet first linked to and then functionally replaced a host of proprietary consumer network services." (26) "Generative systems are built on the notion that they are never fully complete, that they have many uses yet to be conceived of, and that the public can be trusted to invent and share good uses. Multiplying breaches of that trust can threaten the very foundations of the generative system." (43) "Generativity is a system's capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences." (70) "Generativity's benefits can be grouped more formally as at least two distinct goods, one deriving from unanticipated change, and the other from inclusion of large and varied audiences The first good is its innovative output: new things that improve people's lives. The second good is its participatory input, based on a belief that a life well lived is one in which there is opportunity to connect with other people, to work with them, and to express one's own individuality through creative endeavors." (80) "Mash together those technologies and functionalities through the kind of generative mixing allowed by their open APIs and it becomes trivial to receive answers to questions like: Where was Jonathan Zittrain last year on the fourteenth of February?, or, Who could be found near the entrance to the local Planned Parenthood clinic in the past six months? The answers need not come from government or corporate cameras, which are at least partially secured against abuse through well-considered privacy policies from Privacy 1.0. Instead the answers come from a more powerful, generative source: an army of the world's photographers, including tourists sharing their photos online without firm (or legitimate) expectations of how they might next be used and reused." (215) "Today's online environment is only half of the verkeersbordvrij system: there are few perceived rules, but there are also few ways to receive, and therefore respect, cues from those whose content or data someone might be using." (228)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    This is technically a book that I'm reading for one of my tutorials, but I find that I need to write things down, to get some order to my thoughts. The Future of the Internet - And How to Stop It is, to me, a warning. The internet came about about because it had the element of generativity. Generativity is "a system's capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences." Basically, because people can add things to the internet, it grew so fast This is technically a book that I'm reading for one of my tutorials, but I find that I need to write things down, to get some order to my thoughts. The Future of the Internet - And How to Stop It is, to me, a warning. The internet came about about because it had the element of generativity. Generativity is "a system's capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences." Basically, because people can add things to the internet, it grew so fast. But now, we're shifting away from generativity to what the author calls "sterile" appliances. The threat of viruses and bad code makes people like me go to closed systems (like Apple), where screening is involved and I'm pretty sure that the apps I download aren't malware. But, this shift threatens the essence on which the internet is built. So how are we going to combat this? The book talked about the Verkeersbordvrij experiment, where removing traffic signals actually reduced accidents, and points to the success of wikipedia as a way that social pressures instead of legal means can be used to prevent bad information (and possible, bad software) from being spread. To me, this seems to involve the belief that the majority of people are good and those intending to make mischief can be reigned in. But as the book itself points out, there is now a business model for viruses, and I'm pretty sure that spam mail and the scam emails are making someone money. I believe even the wikipedia model has some flaws - too little eyes on it, and it may just falter (I think there was the Saved by the Bell wiki, that had its content changed, right?). It may be that the generative element works only when the audience size within a certain range. Or maybe I'm being unnecessarily cynical. Maybe we can preserve the generative element that let the internet grow. After all, “generatively itself is, at its core, not a technology project. It is an education project, an exercise in intellect and community, the founding concepts of the universe.” It may be that the current and future generation of internet uses, the ones who grew up with the concept of the internet, are willing to be informed participants, who will demand the ability to mix and create new things out of the existing, who will use open-source software to its fullest potential. Things like fanvids (as insignificant as they seem) tell me that people taking a range of things and making something new from them. Or they could be so used to apps that only the select few go beyond that to create apps and rewire parts of the internet. Maybe, generativity will settle down to a more limited range in the future - we can mix and match and make things, but only using source data that is approved (or imported to the virtual world by ourselves). Would that strain of retained generativity be the real thing, or a false one, controlled by one of the larger tech companies? I have no idea, but this book definitely gave me a lot of think about. Now here's hoping I can write my book report. This review was first posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kim Pallister

    After having it on my to-read list for some time, I got around to reading this book 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 Clos After having it on my to-read list for some time, I got around to reading this book 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 at the book's site - do a google search)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vinay

    The key idea in The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It is what Jonathan Zittrain calls "generativity." Essentially, Zittrain posits that the feature that makes the internet successful is that it easily allows anyone to build new products, features, and communities on top of an open infrastructure. The problem with "generativity" is that it also allows (and encourages) the creation of negative products and features: malware, spam, identity theft, piracy, etc. The threat to generativity is t The key idea in The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It is what Jonathan Zittrain calls "generativity." Essentially, Zittrain posits that the feature that makes the internet successful is that it easily allows anyone to build new products, features, and communities on top of an open infrastructure. The problem with "generativity" is that it also allows (and encourages) the creation of negative products and features: malware, spam, identity theft, piracy, etc. The threat to generativity is that, in the face of unwanted spam & malware (essentially, things that inconvenience common users), users may be more amenable to stricter regulation of the internet: this has the potential to damage the very generative features that have allowed projects such as Wikipedia (Wikipedia is cited as a prime example of a generative community built on top of the internet -- many of his solutions are based on the Wikipedia community). The solution Zittrain proposes is essentially an extension of techniques that the internet and wikipedia are built on: informally defined standards and social mores that are organically grown instead of imposed from on high. The book is a decent formulation of the problems with regulating a giant, open network. It peters out at the end, however, when he talks about the effects on privacy and how to stave off regulation by various governments.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Toftness

    I ended up giving up on this book. I think this book quickly became dated and it's hard to stay concentrated on such a technical and doom-filled book that dwells on history. Not enough Future, or what can be done about it I ended up giving up on this book. I think this book quickly became dated and it's hard to stay concentrated on such a technical and doom-filled book that dwells on history. Not enough Future, or what can be done about it

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lori Grant

    A should-read book for knowledge workers and entrepreneurs on concepts and trends regarding visions of the future.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vikas Lather

    Not very clear and concise

  11. 4 out of 5

    CTEP

    This book looked at technology/computers/internet's ubiquity (is that how you spell that?) in our lives, looking at how we got to where we are and then proposes where we are headed (and the problems we might face if we don't do something about it). Zittrain breaks down computers and the internet into a number of different dichotomies, the major one being generative PCs/internet uses and tethered/appliancized computers/uses. An example of a generative PC would be the PCs most of us use everyday, w This book looked at technology/computers/internet's ubiquity (is that how you spell that?) in our lives, looking at how we got to where we are and then proposes where we are headed (and the problems we might face if we don't do something about it). Zittrain breaks down computers and the internet into a number of different dichotomies, the major one being generative PCs/internet uses and tethered/appliancized computers/uses. An example of a generative PC would be the PCs most of us use everyday, which are produced by one company (dell, apple...) but can run third-party software which was not necissarily created by that company. Tethered and appliancized would be our cellphones (for instance) since the manufacturer controls what softwares (for the most part) we can install and there are automatic updates that can change the functionality of them, without our control. (There are lots of examples and history and additional breakdowns of these categories). He goes through advatages and disadvantages of each of these. (We can try new things and there can be new grassroots software and uses for the generative side, but maybe our information is not secure, and viruses, and ... And on the other side, that creativity, flexibility, grassroots/opensource/etc is lost, but maybe things are more secure.) The book has a lot more than I am going to write here, but it helped me think about the CTEP project. Question assumptions made maybe? We are helping people who don't have tech skills get them because they are important and often necissary, but we don't spend as much time talking about the role they are playing in lives, and the power and control over information that is happening. (Google Docs is great and useful, but what if they do an update you don't like, unlike a computer based software you can't choose to not upgrade, thats a small example, you should read the book and there are lots of things to think about). The book is engaging for being written by a law professor, and you should check it out from a library near you (or get it on interlibrary loan from the UofM's law library, like I did).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Dominguez

    The whole book, in short: - The internet's flexibility and lack of hard restrictions allow it to be "generative" -- that is, new uses can be implemented by users without the original architects having designed for them. - This same generativity leads to bad things too, like viruses and spam. - After a period of generativity leads to some "good things" (email, cat videos) and some "bad things" (viruses), people are willing to accept less-generative/locked-down devices that can only do the "good thin The whole book, in short: - The internet's flexibility and lack of hard restrictions allow it to be "generative" -- that is, new uses can be implemented by users without the original architects having designed for them. - This same generativity leads to bad things too, like viruses and spam. - After a period of generativity leads to some "good things" (email, cat videos) and some "bad things" (viruses), people are willing to accept less-generative/locked-down devices that can only do the "good things", claiming greater security against the "bad things", but paying the price of generativity in the future (an essentially unknown cost, potentially explosive). These locked-down devices ("tethered appliances") can be a raw deal: they're too-easily regulable and surveilled, they tie their functionality to the existence of faraway entities, and so on. We'd be better off trying to find ways to preserve generativity in technology while managing the negative side effects without too much heavy-handed regulation. - Wikipedia is a highly-generative system that, on the surface, seems like it should be heavily vulnerable to abuse and manipulation, but that developed a strong community aspect with evolving norms that have allowed it to succeed beyond anyone's dreams. Perhaps there are ways to inject notions of community, norms, and reputation into generative networks in general that will allow effective self-governance to develop organically. Probably there was some other evidence and such within this book's pages, but mostly the book is just the above argument stated over and over again. It's an interesting argument -- like, I'm glad I read it -- but my rating reflects the fact that there just isn't that much else too it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Evin Ashley

    6 stars. MY NEW BIBLE! Indeed, I'm not exaggerating - this book had me starstruck from page 1, mainly because I know relatively little about the internet and am beyond curious to explore its engineering. But on an intuitive level, I knew the issues and potential paths for evolution Zittrain described are a mirror of our own human situation - the necessity to evolve governance to preserve generativity at our core. This, I believe, will be the defining challenge of my generation. That additional 6th 6 stars. MY NEW BIBLE! Indeed, I'm not exaggerating - this book had me starstruck from page 1, mainly because I know relatively little about the internet and am beyond curious to explore its engineering. But on an intuitive level, I knew the issues and potential paths for evolution Zittrain described are a mirror of our own human situation - the necessity to evolve governance to preserve generativity at our core. This, I believe, will be the defining challenge of my generation. That additional 6th star is for going beyond what most pop-intellectuals do these days: they describe problems in detail, and stop at vague suggestions for solutions; I believe fearful for their reputations. But Zittrain lays out detailed potential solutions, and what their potential outcomes would look like. Even if he's wrong, he gets my utter admiration. Highly highly highly recommended reading, which is free for download here: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/ha... PS. http://pix.iemoji.com/images/emoji/ap...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zaron

    This is a fairly interesting book, but serves more as a time capsule now than it does a prognostication or jeremiad. Obviously the internet was not stopped from becoming terrible.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marcos

    Excellent book about my life of computers, in great detail! It's almost like my auto-biography as my computer life from 1982 is written in great detail! Excellent book about my life of computers, in great detail! It's almost like my auto-biography as my computer life from 1982 is written in great detail!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    This was a very fascinating book. Some of the technical language may be new to a reader who is not already knowledgeable on computers and networking. Beyond the vocabulary, however, the book is accessible to newcomers to the field. Zittrain writes with an open invitation to discuss, talking with the reader rather than lecturing the reader. He admits that he does not have all the answers to the rather large problems the Internet faces. On the other hand, unlike many alarmists, he at least tries t This was a very fascinating book. Some of the technical language may be new to a reader who is not already knowledgeable on computers and networking. Beyond the vocabulary, however, the book is accessible to newcomers to the field. Zittrain writes with an open invitation to discuss, talking with the reader rather than lecturing the reader. He admits that he does not have all the answers to the rather large problems the Internet faces. On the other hand, unlike many alarmists, he at least tries to propose some sort of positive solution instead of simply throwing up his hands to say, "We're doomed." Zittrain managed to pinpoint some concepts with which I was already familiar but for which I didn't have particular words. The major one is, of course, generativity. The other one was the procrastination principle--I operate on this, although I never named it such, and it's a pretty good name. So the book was worth reading for that alone. His perspectives on generativity, the procrastination principle, the Internet's development and future, etc., are interesting. He presents a concise history of the Internet's development. I found the historical anecdotes entertaining and informative, such as the one about how a Cap'n Crunch cereal whistle could be used to get free phone calls. These anecdotes provide insight into how the Internet came to be and how it works today. The book makes me think too, and that's always good. I'd already been considering how "appliances" like the iPhone were affecting the Internet and our own freedom, so Zittrain provided a concurrent dialogue that helped me form my own opinions. His conclusion is essentially a call-to-arms; his theme something similar to "Why Can't We Be Friends?" He proposes that through better education and the embrace of social, as well as technological, means of fighting spam, viruses, and malware, we can improve the Internet without entering a period of security lockdowns that kill the generativity he values so much. The cynical part of me isn't very hopeful. It's too much to ask of the average person to attempt to understand this nebulous thing we call "the PC." And any attempt to make the system simpler has the risk of killing generativity. We seem to be at an impasse! So the future will arrive, and we will hopefully be better informed, if not wiser.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I read the first 100 pages of this book as an ebook (free download: http://futureoftheinternet.org/download), then was gifted a dead-tree copy. I learned that I will prefer dead trees to ebooks unless a tablet PC or other device changes my mind as I suspect it will. For me, Zittrain is, for the most part, preaching to the choir. With electrical engineering and computer science education and years of reading slashdot/digg/reddit, for the most part I know my geek history and the score on most of th I read the first 100 pages of this book as an ebook (free download: http://futureoftheinternet.org/download), then was gifted a dead-tree copy. I learned that I will prefer dead trees to ebooks unless a tablet PC or other device changes my mind as I suspect it will. For me, Zittrain is, for the most part, preaching to the choir. With electrical engineering and computer science education and years of reading slashdot/digg/reddit, for the most part I know my geek history and the score on most of the legal issues pertaining to the internet. Still, Zittrain told some gems that I didn't know about, and most of his analyses are poignant and clearer or more fully thought-out than my own. I'd estimate a quarter to a third of the book was new to me. Some have criticized his analysis as being black and white, but how else do you communicate to someone the nature of a spectrum but by describing each comprising end and the defining variable? I would recommend this book to everyone I know if only because it is impossible for me to effectively summarize these 250 pages into a few minutes if I can even hold the floor that long in a conversation. On top of that, the amount of information consolidated in this book is incredible--after the text of 250 pages comes 80 pages of references to the full stories, about a quarter of the book's length. To Zittrain's credit, he does not attempt a sci-fi vision of the future, though he considers potentials that are possible from the current situation. The title of the book may be misleading for that reason and that the book deals more with the past and present than the future. I think everyone should know at least the base histories provided herein and agree with Zittrain that historical knowledge is key to avoiding mistakes as we move into the future. One of the most intriguing ideas in the book is "verkeersbordvrij", Dutch for free of traffic signs, and how the philosophy plays out online. Experiments in several European towns have shown "dramatic improvements" in vehicular safety when nearly all traffic signs are removed. In an unsafe environment, drivers can no longer pay little mind to their actions assuming other drivers will follow rules.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Wersly

    Intensely informative and motivating: I particularly drew influence from Zittrain's suggestions on software/data security. He says something to the extent of his 'ideal computing environment actually being split into two distinct, non-communicating spaces, achieved through either virtualization or drive formatting; with one space used to house important and private documents and not actively used to access the internet, and another, easily reconfigured or expendable space used to house all recre Intensely informative and motivating: I particularly drew influence from Zittrain's suggestions on software/data security. He says something to the extent of his 'ideal computing environment actually being split into two distinct, non-communicating spaces, achieved through either virtualization or drive formatting; with one space used to house important and private documents and not actively used to access the internet, and another, easily reconfigured or expendable space used to house all recreational materials, as well as surf the web in riskier ways.' I've implemented such an arrangement on my personal computer, and I've found that it's had some interesting impact on my own approach to digital life. But this is all aside the point - there's a lot more to this book than the stupid shit it motivated me to do. Zittrain balances a lot of healthy technology criticism against his own love for and knowledge of technology: that is, he's not like a lot of these other tech-critic writers who come off as fearful luddites (or perhaps the slightly more obnoxious pole, the free-software-everything-ideologues). Additionally, and quite interestingly, Zittrain draws a lot of influence from how digital culture has so far organized itself to suggest some principles as to how to proceed with government and regulation of the online-sphere - see his chapter on Wikipedia if you want to see this at its most developed. This is a wonderful book; anyone serious about the current shape and progress of digital society should read it. You can read the whole thing for free here: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/han... (and convert it in Calibre so you can read it on your Kindle and tell Amazon to go fuck themselves!)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Janet

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

  20. 5 out of 5

    Davis

    Very interesting and very scary ideas/theories in this book. The first part discusses the state of the Internet today, painting a landscape filled with virus and malware infected PCs working in unison as botnets to carry out denial-of-service attacks or acting as virtual email servers flooding the net with millions of spam. All the while, the anti-virus software companies secretly throw their hands up in frustration and hopelessness. As the book progresses, it tries to predict the consequences o Very interesting and very scary ideas/theories in this book. The first part discusses the state of the Internet today, painting a landscape filled with virus and malware infected PCs working in unison as botnets to carry out denial-of-service attacks or acting as virtual email servers flooding the net with millions of spam. All the while, the anti-virus software companies secretly throw their hands up in frustration and hopelessness. As the book progresses, it tries to predict the consequences of these problems if not adequately addressed. And it also touches copyright and privacy issues. The author also provides solutions which seem possible, but somewhat dependent on assuming that the majority of people generally want to do good, as witnessed by the rise of Wikipedia (which has its own chapter in the book). The book is well researched and the author seems very knowledgeable in this area. What prevented a 5 star rating is the fact that the writing is somewhat convoluted and verbose. This makes it all the more difficult for those not familiar with computer science concepts and terminology to comprehend the ideas and theories expressed in this book. The book is also downloadable in PDF format on the author's website, www.jz.org, under a Creative Commons license. This is very convenient as I plan to read it again.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Victor Gonzalez

    Zittrain explores the different problems that face the internet and the PC in today’s worlds. He explains his view on how this problems occurred and how they were handled. Zittrain has confusing view toward the beginning of the internet and it changes throughout the book. In the first section of the book there is a perception where Zittrain believes that the generative aspect of the Internet and the PC is harmful and that the continuance of this will harm the future development of them. In the s Zittrain explores the different problems that face the internet and the PC in today’s worlds. He explains his view on how this problems occurred and how they were handled. Zittrain has confusing view toward the beginning of the internet and it changes throughout the book. In the first section of the book there is a perception where Zittrain believes that the generative aspect of the Internet and the PC is harmful and that the continuance of this will harm the future development of them. In the second part this view is different and he argues on the importance of this generative to drive innovation. The last part focus on providing different solution so that the internet and the PC can be preserve with the essence they were created initially. Throughout the book Zittrain mention various examples to explain his points can cover important issues such as those concerning privacy issues, patent and copyright problems, network neutrality and other issues.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I have my guesses of what the future of the internet is considering I went to a panel discussion with Jonathan Zittrain and Jimmy Wales. The panel is what inspired me to read this book and I'd been looking forward to it for a few years now. It was disappointing to see how dry and dense the book can be. There was a lot there that I'd already known (being a CS major and web dev) so it felt like I wasn't really learning anything. When I realized I wasn't even halfway done with it after a week of se I have my guesses of what the future of the internet is considering I went to a panel discussion with Jonathan Zittrain and Jimmy Wales. The panel is what inspired me to read this book and I'd been looking forward to it for a few years now. It was disappointing to see how dry and dense the book can be. There was a lot there that I'd already known (being a CS major and web dev) so it felt like I wasn't really learning anything. When I realized I wasn't even halfway done with it after a week of several attempts and having no motivation to finish it, I just gave up. So yeah, I guess I'll never know what it is we're supposed to do to stop the internet's future. Maybe I'll read the Cliffnotes one day.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Margot

    Ahhh, the sky is falling! This book is a bit alarmist for my tastes, but I appreciate the historical perspective on proprietary models compared with shared models, and I do agree with a lot of Zittrain's alarm. I think that the cover image of the edition I read, of a train track going off the edge of a cliff, combined with the title, do a disservice to Zittrain's message. Although he does come across as almost conspiracist-y, he provides suggestions for improvement, and hope for the future. He d Ahhh, the sky is falling! This book is a bit alarmist for my tastes, but I appreciate the historical perspective on proprietary models compared with shared models, and I do agree with a lot of Zittrain's alarm. I think that the cover image of the edition I read, of a train track going off the edge of a cliff, combined with the title, do a disservice to Zittrain's message. Although he does come across as almost conspiracist-y, he provides suggestions for improvement, and hope for the future. He doesn't just present a reactionary argument that we should return to the models of the past, but acknowledges that the evolution of the internet is inevitable and will continue, with or without our involvement, so we better put in our two cents before the corporations control EVERYTHING.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeb Benson

    I checked this book out after seeing it referenced in the Steve Jobs biography. The author's basic premise, that the Internet and related hardware technologies are teetering dangerously close to becoming closed systems to minimize risk at the expense of unknown serendipitous rewards (like the Internet itself was), seems almost prescient and rings ever more true today in 2012 when consumers are being increasingly forced to consider and choose "ecosystems", e.g. Apple, Microsoft, or Google, rather I checked this book out after seeing it referenced in the Steve Jobs biography. The author's basic premise, that the Internet and related hardware technologies are teetering dangerously close to becoming closed systems to minimize risk at the expense of unknown serendipitous rewards (like the Internet itself was), seems almost prescient and rings ever more true today in 2012 when consumers are being increasingly forced to consider and choose "ecosystems", e.g. Apple, Microsoft, or Google, rather than "generative" technologies. However, this message is crystal clear after the Introduction and no one should have to suffer through the endless pages of dry material to find there are few, if any, meaningful suggestions on "How to Stop It" as this book claims.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I read this book while researching network neutrality for school. Zittrain has a very clear way of articulating current concerns about the internet. It's also a great brief history of the internet and an interesting look at what the future holds. It's a little sobering to read some of his takes on security issues on the internet (especially the economic vulnerability part), but the information is relatively objective and helpful. Bottom line: there is a fine line between making the internet safe I read this book while researching network neutrality for school. Zittrain has a very clear way of articulating current concerns about the internet. It's also a great brief history of the internet and an interesting look at what the future holds. It's a little sobering to read some of his takes on security issues on the internet (especially the economic vulnerability part), but the information is relatively objective and helpful. Bottom line: there is a fine line between making the internet safe and trustworthy for users and keeping the parts of the internet that make it a great place for innovation and free speech; how can we manage both?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Fairly interesting premise - that the generative nature of the internet that is more or less responsible for its rise in popularity will eventually transform it into a non-generative system as people shy away from the security risks of generativity...if that makes any sense...unless it is stopped! (Which is what he is talking about in the title...I got confused and thought the "and how to stop it" referred to the internet itself, rather than the future). Zittrain, however, is really really reall Fairly interesting premise - that the generative nature of the internet that is more or less responsible for its rise in popularity will eventually transform it into a non-generative system as people shy away from the security risks of generativity...if that makes any sense...unless it is stopped! (Which is what he is talking about in the title...I got confused and thought the "and how to stop it" referred to the internet itself, rather than the future). Zittrain, however, is really really really really in love with the internet, and its making me distrust his views.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Hart

    A very good book on what should be preserved about the Internet ("generativity") and how things might go wrong if "appliancization" such as that associated with the iPhone and other "tethered" devices goes too far. I was not completely happy with what the author said about net neutrality, and that he was not sufficiently critical of the strategy of building broadband by letting the phone/cable duopoly pay for it by selling us broadband-based entertainment. But there is much to admire in this emi A very good book on what should be preserved about the Internet ("generativity") and how things might go wrong if "appliancization" such as that associated with the iPhone and other "tethered" devices goes too far. I was not completely happy with what the author said about net neutrality, and that he was not sufficiently critical of the strategy of building broadband by letting the phone/cable duopoly pay for it by selling us broadband-based entertainment. But there is much to admire in this eminently sensible and well-argued book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cara

    This book offers an intriguing perspective on the internet and digital culture. Zittrain compares generative appliances (like PCs that accept code from any source) to tethered applicances (like iPods that are completely locked down by the company and cannot be reprogrammed without illegally hacking into them)and what an impact these two technological systems can have on our culture. It definitely made me think about the serious implications that seemingly simple digital choices can have on life.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wally Bowen

    Very important book on what we are about to lose if a handful of telephone and cable companies succeed in cementing their control over the Internet (via control of broadband access). His writing style and syntax are awkward at times, and there is some unnecessary repetition. But if you can get past these two minor annoyances, this is a an excellent overview of where the Internet came from – and where it will go if we do not take action to prevent the corporate enclosure of this communications co Very important book on what we are about to lose if a handful of telephone and cable companies succeed in cementing their control over the Internet (via control of broadband access). His writing style and syntax are awkward at times, and there is some unnecessary repetition. But if you can get past these two minor annoyances, this is a an excellent overview of where the Internet came from – and where it will go if we do not take action to prevent the corporate enclosure of this communications commons.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kam Yung Soh

    Interesting look at how the Internet may look in the future. The author advocates a 'middle path' between a completely open internet (where users fully decide what to access) and completely closed tethered applications. Illustrated with the histories of internet technology like Wikipedia, Google, malware and the 'darknet', it makes for an interesting reading. Best read if you already have a 'feel' for internet based technologies as the author makes some technological assumptions on the part of the Interesting look at how the Internet may look in the future. The author advocates a 'middle path' between a completely open internet (where users fully decide what to access) and completely closed tethered applications. Illustrated with the histories of internet technology like Wikipedia, Google, malware and the 'darknet', it makes for an interesting reading. Best read if you already have a 'feel' for internet based technologies as the author makes some technological assumptions on the part of the reader.

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