Openness is not a given on the Internet. Technical standards--the underlying architecture that enables interoperability among hardware and software from different manufacturers--increasingly control individual freedom and the pace of innovation in technology markets. Heated battles rage over the very definition of "openness" and what constitutes an open standard in information and communication technologies.
We live in an interoperable world. Computer hardware and software products from different manufacturers can exchange data within local networks and around the world using the Internet. The competition enabled by this compatibility between devices has led to fast-paced innovation and prices low enough to allow ordinary users to command extraordinary computing capacity.
Digital communications are the lifeblood of modern society. We ‚Äúmeet up‚ÄĚ online, tweet our reactions millions of times a day, connect through social networking rather than in person. Large portions of business and commerce have moved to the Web, and much of our critical infrastructure, including the electric power grid, is controlled online. This reliance on information systems leaves us highly exposed and vulnerable to cyberattack. Despite this, U.S. law enforcement and national security policy remain firmly focused on wiretapping and surveillance.
When the prevailing system of governing divides the planet into mutually exclusive territorial monopolies of force, what institutions can govern the Internet, with its transnational scope, boundless scale, and distributed control? Given filtering/censorship by states and concerns over national cybersecurity, it is often assumed that the Internet will inevitably be subordinated to the traditional system of nation-states.
Discussions of the economic impact of open source software often generate more heat than light. Advocates passionately assert the benefits of open source while critics decry its effects. Missing from the debate is rigorous economic analysis and systematic economic evidence of the impact of open source on consumers, firms, and economic development in general. This book fills that gap.
Internet filtering, censorship of Web content, and online surveillance are increasing in scale, scope, and sophistication around the world, in democratic countries as well as in authoritarian states. The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China's famous "Great Firewall of China" is one of the first national Internet filtering systems. Today the new tools for Internet controls that are emerging go beyond mere denial of information.
The Internet has reached a critical point. The world is running out of Internet addresses. There is a finite supply of approximately 4.3 billion Internet Protocol (IP) addresses--the unique binary numbers required for every exchange of information over the Internet--within the Internet‚Äôs prevailing technical architecture (IPv4). In the 1990s the Internet standards community selected a new protocol (IPv6) that would expand the number of Internet addresses exponentially--to 340 undecillion addresses.
Innovation in information and communication technology (ICT) fuels the growth of the global economy. How ICT markets evolve depends on politics and policy, and since the 1950s periodic overhauls of ICT policy have transformed competition and innovation. For example, in the 1980s and the 1990s a revolution in communication policy (the introduction of sweeping competition) also transformed the information market.
The burgeoning use and transformative impact of global electronic networks are widely recognized to be defining features of contemporary world affairs. Less often noted has been the increasing importance of global governance arrangements in managing the many issues raised in such networks.