Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, February 8, 2010

a case of increasing relevance

Jonathan Zittrain wrote these words in his book The Future of the Internet:

In the arc from the Apple II to the iPhone, we learn something important about where the Internet has been, and something more important about where it is going. The PC revolution was launched with PCs that invited innovation by others. So too with the Internet. Both were generative: they were designed to accept any contribution that followed a basic set of rules (either coded for a particular operating system, or respecting the protocols of the Internet). Both overwhelmed their respective proprietary, non-generative competitors, such as the makers of stand-alone word processors and proprietary online services like CompuServe and AOL. But the future unfolding right now is very different from this past. The future is not one of generative PCs attached to a generative network. It is instead one of sterile appliances tethered to a network of control.

These appliances take the innovations already created by Internet users and package them neatly and compellingly, which is good — but only if the Internet and PC can remain sufficiently central in the digital ecosystem to compete with locked-down appliances and facilitate the next round of innovations. The balance between the two spheres is precarious, and it is slipping toward the safer appliance.

Zittrain’s book was published in 2008, so these words may well have been written in 2007. They’re looking more and more prescient.

1 comments:

  • A bit of a tangent, but speaking of the future of the internet (and books and academia and authors you've mentioned), you might enjoy Anthony Grafton's take on blogging and Mary Beard's book collection from her "A Don's Life" blog in the new TNR book section.

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