On today’s Squawk Box we had a fascinating discussion with noted academic Jonathan Zittrain about his new book, “The Future of The Internet And How To Stop It“. Zittrain’s central thesis is that we’ve gone from proprietary mainframes and information services to a world of personal computers and the open Internet and now we are – by our own choice – returning to a world of locked-down devices and proprietary networks. We discussed why that transformation was occuring, what we lose in the process and how we might be able to prevent this future from occurring.
Zittrain refers to our current PCs (Windows, Mac & Linux) and current networks as “generative” systems that let us create and use new applications. The evolving model of “sterile, tethered appliances” he views as dangerous because we are essentially ceding control to the manufacturers and service providers. For instance, as cool as the iPhone may be, the only applications that can run on it are those approved by Apple (yes, it can be “jailbroken”, but then Apple can send out an update that kills those iPhones). Likewise, service providers/carriers can tightly restrict exactly what people can and cannot do with their mobile handsets and systems. Zittrain sees this future as one where innovation doesn’t happen – or at least as rapidly.
We discussed how this applies to the new wave of “cloud computing” as well as to mobile handsets other than the iPhone. Along the way we also discussed the word “generative”, what’s next for Jonathan and what it was like to be a guest on Stephen Colbert’s show. It was an enjoyable show and we greatly appreciate Jonathan Zittrain for taking the time to join us.
On the call: Dan York (host), Jonathan Zittrain (guest), Jonathan Jensen, James Swing, Steve Lecomte, Dwight Irving, William Volk, Dameon Welch-Abernathy, Sergio Meinardi, joly, Michael Graves, Noam Tomczak, Doug Neal and Forest Mars.
Additional notes and the chat transcript (which includes links to a good number of other reviews and videos about the book) can be found on the call web page.