The Future of the Internet

I just read The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain.

In the book, Mr. Zittrain states that in the beginning of the computer networks that would eventually form the Internet, computers connected to it would run whatever code or programs they encountered because all there was was free and good code.

Then came along the Morris Worm in the late 1980s and that started to change peoples perspectives on running every piece of code that flowed down the turnpike. People became afraid that one day their computer would encounter bad code such as viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, etc.

Slowly, over the years with the advent of Web 2.0, computers and programs started to become less and less generative, to the point where most devices are becoming “tethered” in a way.

A tethered device is a device that for all intents and purposes “calls home” from time to time to get new code and programming from the company that created it. No user serviceable parts inside.

One of the more interesting examples of tethered appliances given is that of the TiVo. Everyone knows of the TiVo, that little device that allows you to record television shows to its hard disk for future viewing. One thing I found interesting was that in a small Texas town TiVo, Inc brought a lawsuit against the makers of EchoStar charging that the EchoStar device infringed on several of TiVo’s copyrights.

The judges decision in this case was that EchoStar was to remotely disable the offending units through its tether to EchoStar.

Countless subscribers of the EchoStar box are going to be punished (and forced to buy a TiVo box) because of the decision of a court in Texas. To me, this is almost like someone knocking on my door telling me the airbag in my car will have to be disabled because it infringes on some other car company’s copyrights

To this end, Mr. Zittrain argues that people need to be mindful of what they do online and know that somewhere out there Big Brother is watching.


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