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Internet Architecture and Innovation

Internet Architecture and Innovation

Barbara van Schewick
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 592
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  • Book Info
    Internet Architecture and Innovation
    Book Description:

    Today--following housing bubbles, bank collapses, and high unemployment--the Internet remains the most reliable mechanism for fostering innovation and creating new wealth. The Internet's remarkable growth has been fueled by innovation. In this pathbreaking book, Barbara van Schewick argues that this explosion of innovation is not an accident, but a consequence of the Internet's architecture--a consequence of technical choices regarding the Internet's inner structure that were made early in its history.The Internet's original architecture was based on four design principles: modularity, layering, and two versions of the celebrated but often misunderstood end-to-end arguments. But today, the Internet's architecture is changing in ways that deviate from the Internet's original design principles, removing the features that have fostered innovation and threatening the Internet's ability to spur economic growth, to improve democratic discourse, and to provide a decentralized environment for social and cultural interaction in which anyone can participate. If no one intervenes, network providers' interests will drive networks further away from the original design principles. If the Internet's value for society is to be preserved, van Schewick argues, policymakers will have to intervene and protect the features that were at the core of the Internet's success.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-26586-7
    Subjects: Business, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the thirty years since its inception, the Internet has experienced remarkable growth. What started in the 1970s as an experimental network connecting research and military networks has become a global network linking more than 1.6 billion users worldwide.¹ The Internet’s growth has been fueled by an unprecedented amount of innovation. Over the years, network engineers have developed numerous new physical networking technologies (including Wi-Fi and optical networking technologies) over which the Internet can run. The Internet now connects everything from sensors to supercomputers. A constant stream of new applications lets users do new things, or do them more efficiently,...

  5. I Foundations

    • 1 Architecture and Innovation
      (pp. 19-34)

      Engineers focus on technology; managers, legislators, regulators, and the lawyers and economists who advise them focus on economic systems. This common separation of responsibilities may blind us to the links between the two: the architecture of a complex technical system—the description of its basic building blocks—fundamentally influences and is influenced by the economic system that drives the development, production, and use of the system. Failure to appreciate these links may result in policies or strategies that do not realize the economic potential of technical systems. To understand and exploit these links, engineers need to learn a bit about...

  6. II The End-to-End Arguments and the Original Architecture of the Internet

    • 2 Internet Design Principles
      (pp. 37-82)

      Design principles shape architectures by imposing rules that system architects must follow.1,2They may constrain how a system is decomposed into components, how functionality is distributed among these components, or how components may depend on one another. Since different design principles impose different constraints, the technical characteristics of the resulting architectures may differ depending on the design principles that were used to create them. The technical differences among architectures, in turn, may translate into different economic constraints on those who design, produce, and use the resulting systems. Thus, before we can understand how architectures (and the design principles that shaped...

    • 3 The Original Architecture of the Internet
      (pp. 83-112)

      This chapter outlines how the layering principle and the end-to-end arguments shaped the original architecture of the Internet. To situate the discussion, the first section provides an overview of the original architecture of the Internet. (Readers already familiar with the Internet’s architecture may skip that section.) The second section discusses the effect of the layering principle and the two versions of the end-to-end arguments on the Internet’s original architecture. The final section discusses some common misconceptions about the meaning of the end-to-end arguments and their relationship to the original architecture of the Internet.

      The Internet aims to provide universal communication...

  7. III Architectural Constraints on Innovation

    • 4 Architecture and the Cost of Innovation
      (pp. 115-164)

      To evaluate how the Internet’s architecture affects innovation, we must understand exactly how architecture constrains economic actors. How do design principles and the architectures they shape influence the costs and benefits associated with a given innovation? How do they affect who can design and build an innovation? Answering these questions is the goal of part III. Chapters 4–6 each focus on a particular aspect of the relationship between architecture and innovation and explore it in detail. The resulting insights are then applied to assess how the Internet’s original architecture influences innovation.

      This chapter examines how architecture affects the costs...

    • 5 Architecture and the Organization of Innovation
      (pp. 165-214)

      This chapter explores how a system’s architecture affects the organizational structures in which the development and production of the system, and subsequent innovations, can take place.¹ Product architectures constrain the options for organizing the initial development and production of a system’s components, and for organizing subsequent innovation, by enabling or disabling arm’s-length relationships. Once an architecture has been created, detailed design can begin. During detailed design, designers must decide how each component will be structured to provide the functionality assigned to it by the architecture; subsequently, each component must be implemented or manufactured according to this specification. Features of the...

    • 6 Architecture and Competition among Makers of Complementary Components
      (pp. 215-282)

      This chapter focuses on an architectural feature that influences the benefits that component developers can expect from their innovation: the ability of one component to control how other components are executed. By describing how components cooperate to provide the overall functionality of a system, an architecture defines interdependencies between components. As we will see, the nature of these interdependencies at the architectural level affects the economic relationships among the makers of components.

      For example, if one component can affect how other components function, the maker of that one component can favor certain versions of the rest of the components. In...

  8. IV The End-to-End Arguments and Application Innovation

    • 7 Network Architectures and the Economic Environment for Application Innovation
      (pp. 285-296)

      Chapters 4–6 highlighted three mechanisms by which an architecture may influence economic actors’ incentives and ability to innovate. By affecting the transaction and coordination costs associated with organizing initial component development and subsequent innovation in arm’s length relationships, an architecture affects the ability of independent economic actors other than system architects to innovate (chapter 5). An architecture’s modifiability influences the cost of developing an innovation, which not only affects incentives to innovate but also may determine who can innovate (chapter 4). The range of strategies an architecture supports influences the potential benefits from innovating—and these potential benefits, in...

    • 8 Decentralized versus Centralized Environments for Application Innovation
      (pp. 297-354)

      As we saw in chapter 7, the transition from a network architecture based on the broad version of the end-to-end arguments to a core-centered network architecture gradually changes the economic environment for innovation at the application level. As the amount of application-specific functionality in the network increases, independent application developers’ incentives to innovate can be expected to decrease. Network owners’ incentives to innovate at the application level increase with the ability to control the network, but then decrease sharply as the rising amount of application-specific functionality in the core of the network increasingly prevents the deployment of new applications without...

    • 9 Public and Private Interests in Network Architectures
      (pp. 355-376)

      Different network architectures shape the economic environment for application innovation in different ways. In particular, a network architecture’s compliance with or deviation from the broad version of the end-to-end arguments affects who can innovate and what incentives they have to do so. Ultimately (other things such as the set of actors exposed to the architecture and the set of constraints [i.e., laws or norms] under which they operate all being equal), these differences will result in different amounts, different qualities, and different kinds of innovation in applications.

      But just because there are differences, legislators and regulators do not have to...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 377-392)

    Many people have a pragmatic attitude toward technology: they don’t care how it works, they just want to use it. With regard to the Internet, this attitude is dangerous. As this book has shown, different ways of structuring the Internet result in very different environments for its development, production, and use. If left to themselves, network providers will continue to change the internal structure of the Internet in ways that are good for them, but not necessarily for the rest of us—individual, organizational or corporate Internet users, application developers and content providers, and even those who do not use...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 393-494)
  11. References
    (pp. 495-550)
  12. Index
    (pp. 551-574)