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The Generative Internet

Jonathan L. Zittrain
Harvard Law Review
Vol. 119, No. 7 (May, 2006), pp. 1974-2040
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4093608
Page Count: 67
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The Generative Internet
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Abstract

The generative capacity for unrelated and unaccredited audiences to build and distribute code and content through the Internet to its tens of millions of attached personal computers has ignited growth and innovation in information technology and has facilitated new creative endeavors. It has also given rise to regulatory and entrepreneurial backlashes. A further backlash among consumers is developing in response to security threats that exploit the openness of the Internet and of PCs to third-party contribution. A shift in consumer priorities from generativity to stability will compel undesirable responses from regulators and markets and, if unaddressed, could prove decisive in closing today's open computing environments. This Article explains why PC openness is as important as network openness, as well as why today's open network might give rise to unduly closed endpoints. It argues that the Internet is better conceptualized as a generative grid that includes both PCs and networks rather than as an open network indifferent to the configuration of its endpoints. Applying this framework, the Article explores ways - some of them bound to be unpopular among advocates of an open Internet represented by uncompromising end-to-end neutrality - in which the Internet can be made to satisfy genuine and pressing security concerns while retaining the most important generative aspects of today's networked technology.

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