Here I am live at the [email protected] conference at Harvard, an event that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and also is looking at some of the key issues facing the Internet today.
Jonathan Zittrain, a co-founder of the Center, just finished a talk on the future of the Internet. Not surprisingly, the talk was based mainly on his book, titled (surprise, surprise) “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.”
The main arguments that he is making is that demands for security and reliability on the Internet will lead to a lockdown of systems and Internet access that will result in an Internet very different from the one we have now, one lacking the freedom and transparency of today’s Internet and also one that would be much less of an engine for innovation (especially for individuals).
The demands for improved security will lead to actions by governments and by entrenched corporate interests to slowly enact this lockdown (which will also benefit many of these entrenched interests).
His main argument for hope is the bottom-up community approach: the idea that the mass of users and companies that respect the rights of users could lead to better solutions. His examples include voluntary and also community-based efforts such as robots.txt; a voluntary agreement between Web sites and search engines about what can be indexed; and Wikipedia, where the participants can as a group make decisions, for example, to exclude the name of the famous Star Wars Kid in his Wikipedia page.