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The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,419 ratings  ·  80 reviews
This extraordinary book explains the engine that has catapulted the Internet from backwater to ubiquity—and reveals that it is sputtering precisely because of its runaway success. With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to a lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation—and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control.

IPods, iPhones, Xboxes,
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Adam Ross
Do you recall the end of The Dark Knight? Batman locates the Joker through tapping into every cell phone in Gotham city, turning them into one gigantic triangulation machine. The Future of the Internet, though written before the movie, is about exactly that. It deals with the issue of tethered devices - iPads, iPods, e-book readers, webcams, flip-cams and the rest of the growing technological wonders of Web 2.0. It is commonly believed that the Internet is the harbinger of freedom and ...more
Here is an author that has put a ton of data and thought into his argument that the internet is doomed to fail if we all keep buying Xbox's and iPhones. To some degree he is right. There are many more "closed" systems gaining more and more market shares. Though the book was already dated with Zittrain's blasting the iPhone for not being open to third party development. A fact that Jobs deleted with the release of the iPhone SDK in the Summer of 2008.

Zittrain maintains that the internet is only
Elaine Nelson
I want to read this again (probably online), to reabsorb some of the lessons and get a sense of whether I have any part to play in the landscape as it moves forward. (ugh, mixed metaphor roundup!) This is the other book that I read after seeing its author at SXSWi '09, and in this case, his presentation was on the same topic of the book. So there was a lot that felt familiar, but with more depth and nuance.

"Generativity" is the central metaphor of the book: what allows for it and what are its
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Though these two inventions -- iPhone and Apple II -- were launched by the same man, the revolutions that they inaugurated were radically different. For the technology that each inagurated were radically different. The Apple II was quintessentially generative technology. It invited people to tinker with it. Hobbyists wrote programs. It was a platform. Businesses began to plan on selling software. Jobs (and Apple) had no clue how the machine would be used. They had their hunches, but, ...more
Eustacia Tan
Sep 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is technically a book that I'm reading for one of my tutorials, but I find that I need to write things down, to get some order to my thoughts.

The Future of the Internet - And How to Stop It is, to me, a warning. The internet came about about because it had the element of generativity. Generativity is "a system's capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences." Basically, because people can add things to the internet, it grew so
Kim Pallister
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After having it on my to-read list for some time, I got around to reading this book and am kicking myself for not getting to it earlier. It's great. It's well thought out and it's an *important* book.

I plan on writing something lengthier on my thoughts after reading it - It has spawned dozens of ideas for me - but here are some quick points.

In short, the book is about the trade off between Open and Closed systems - something I've written a fair amount about. He makes the point that Open and
May 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The key idea in The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It is what Jonathan Zittrain calls "generativity." Essentially, Zittrain posits that the feature that makes the internet successful is that it easily allows anyone to build new products, features, and communities on top of an open infrastructure.

The problem with "generativity" is that it also allows (and encourages) the creation of negative products and features: malware, spam, identity theft, piracy, etc.

The threat to generativity is
Lori Grant
A should-read book for knowledge workers and entrepreneurs on concepts and trends regarding visions of the future.
Vikas Lather
Not very clear and concise
Carlos Dominguez
The whole book, in short:

- The internet's flexibility and lack of hard restrictions allow it to be "generative" -- that is, new uses can be implemented by users without the original architects having designed for them.
- This same generativity leads to bad things too, like viruses and spam.
- After a period of generativity leads to some "good things" (email, cat videos) and some "bad things" (viruses), people are willing to accept less-generative/locked-down devices that can only do the "good
Evin Ashley
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
6 stars. MY NEW BIBLE!

Indeed, I'm not exaggerating - this book had me starstruck from page 1, mainly because I know relatively little about the internet and am beyond curious to explore its engineering. But on an intuitive level, I knew the issues and potential paths for evolution Zittrain described are a mirror of our own human situation - the necessity to evolve governance to preserve generativity at our core. This, I believe, will be the defining challenge of my generation.

That additional 6th
Naomi Toftness
I ended up giving up on this book. I think this book quickly became dated and it's hard to stay concentrated on such a technical and doom-filled book that dwells on history. Not enough Future, or what can be done about it
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly interesting book, but serves more as a time capsule now than it does a prognostication or jeremiad. Obviously the internet was not stopped from becoming terrible.
Ben Babcock
Jun 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ben by: The Colbert Report
This was a very fascinating book. Some of the technical language may be new to a reader who is not already knowledgeable on computers and networking. Beyond the vocabulary, however, the book is accessible to newcomers to the field. Zittrain writes with an open invitation to discuss, talking with the reader rather than lecturing the reader. He admits that he does not have all the answers to the rather large problems the Internet faces. On the other hand, unlike many alarmists, he at least tries ...more
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Berkman Center, gift from Mike
I read the first 100 pages of this book as an ebook (free download:, then was gifted a dead-tree copy. I learned that I will prefer dead trees to ebooks unless a tablet PC or other device changes my mind as I suspect it will.

For me, Zittrain is, for the most part, preaching to the choir. With electrical engineering and computer science education and years of reading slashdot/digg/reddit, for the most part I know my geek history and the score on most of
Aug 18, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gadget geeks, twentysomethings, Standard Poodles (damn insightful, they are)
Recommended to Andrew by: NPR
I'm still ankle-deep in this book, and have been for some time. The first 1/3 of the book is a great history of how we got to where we are with this wonderful world of the internet. some of the most amazing things instituted when the interwebs (tx, W) got started up were all the protocols, agreements, and structures that never got commercialized, privatized, or bushwhacked by opportunistic boobs. now, in this age of the XBox, iPhone, and Tivo, we are seeing an attempt to railroad the "free to ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intensely informative and motivating: I particularly drew influence from Zittrain's suggestions on software/data security. He says something to the extent of his 'ideal computing environment actually being split into two distinct, non-communicating spaces, achieved through either virtualization or drive formatting; with one space used to house important and private documents and not actively used to access the internet, and another, easily reconfigured or expendable space used to house all ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After having it on my to-read list for some time, I got around to reading this book and am kicking myself for not getting to it earlier. It's great. It's well thought out and it's an *important* book.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and very scary ideas/theories in this book. The first part discusses the state of the Internet today, painting a landscape filled with virus and malware infected PCs working in unison as botnets to carry out denial-of-service attacks or acting as virtual email servers flooding the net with millions of spam. All the while, the anti-virus software companies secretly throw their hands up in frustration and hopelessness.

As the book progresses, it tries to predict the consequences
Victor Gonzalez
Zittrain explores the different problems that face the internet and the PC in today’s worlds. He explains his view on how this problems occurred and how they were handled. Zittrain has confusing view toward the beginning of the internet and it changes throughout the book. In the first section of the book there is a perception where Zittrain believes that the generative aspect of the Internet and the PC is harmful and that the continuance of this will harm the future development of them. In the ...more
Jun 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tech
I have my guesses of what the future of the internet is considering I went to a panel discussion with Jonathan Zittrain and Jimmy Wales. The panel is what inspired me to read this book and I'd been looking forward to it for a few years now. It was disappointing to see how dry and dense the book can be. There was a lot there that I'd already known (being a CS major and web dev) so it felt like I wasn't really learning anything. When I realized I wasn't even halfway done with it after a week of ...more
Jeb Benson
Nov 29, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I checked this book out after seeing it referenced in the Steve Jobs biography. The author's basic premise, that the Internet and related hardware technologies are teetering dangerously close to becoming closed systems to minimize risk at the expense of unknown serendipitous rewards (like the Internet itself was), seems almost prescient and rings ever more true today in 2012 when consumers are being increasingly forced to consider and choose "ecosystems", e.g. Apple, Microsoft, or Google, rather ...more
Feb 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Ahhh, the sky is falling! This book is a bit alarmist for my tastes, but I appreciate the historical perspective on proprietary models compared with shared models, and I do agree with a lot of Zittrain's alarm. I think that the cover image of the edition I read, of a train track going off the edge of a cliff, combined with the title, do a disservice to Zittrain's message. Although he does come across as almost conspiracist-y, he provides suggestions for improvement, and hope for the future. He ...more
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: technology-stuff
I read this book while researching network neutrality for school. Zittrain has a very clear way of articulating current concerns about the internet. It's also a great brief history of the internet and an interesting look at what the future holds. It's a little sobering to read some of his takes on security issues on the internet (especially the economic vulnerability part), but the information is relatively objective and helpful. Bottom line: there is a fine line between making the internet safe ...more
Feb 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book offers an intriguing perspective on the internet and digital culture. Zittrain compares generative appliances (like PCs that accept code from any source) to tethered applicances (like iPods that are completely locked down by the company and cannot be reprogrammed without illegally hacking into them)and what an impact these two technological systems can have on our culture. It definitely made me think about the serious implications that seemingly simple digital choices can have on life.
Kam Yung Soh
Interesting look at how the Internet may look in the future. The author advocates a 'middle path' between a completely open internet (where users fully decide what to access) and completely closed tethered applications.

Illustrated with the histories of internet technology like Wikipedia, Google, malware and the 'darknet', it makes for an interesting reading.

Best read if you already have a 'feel' for internet based technologies as the author makes some technological assumptions on the part of the
Wally Bowen
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very important book on what we are about to lose if a handful of telephone and cable companies succeed in cementing their control over the Internet (via control of broadband access). His writing style and syntax are awkward at times, and there is some unnecessary repetition. But if you can get past these two minor annoyances, this is a an excellent overview of where the Internet came from – and where it will go if we do not take action to prevent the corporate enclosure of this communications ...more
Fairly interesting premise - that the generative nature of the internet that is more or less responsible for its rise in popularity will eventually transform it into a non-generative system as people shy away from the security risks of generativity...if that makes any sense...unless it is stopped! (Which is what he is talking about in the title...I got confused and thought the "and how to stop it" referred to the internet itself, rather than the future). Zittrain, however, is really really ...more
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Table of Contents

Part I The Rise and Stall of the Generative Net

1 Battle of the Boxes

2 Battle of the Networks

3 Cybersecurity and the Generative Dilemma

Part II After the Stall

4 The Generative Pattern

5 Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement

6 The Lessons of Wikipedia

Part III Solutions

7 Stopping the Future of the Internet: Stability on a Generative Net

8 Strategies for a Generative Future

9 Meeting the Risks of Generativity: Privacy 2.0

Jeffrey Hart
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A very good book on what should be preserved about the Internet ("generativity") and how things might go wrong if "appliancization" such as that associated with the iPhone and other "tethered" devices goes too far. I was not completely happy with what the author said about net neutrality, and that he was not sufficiently critical of the strategy of building broadband by letting the phone/cable duopoly pay for it by selling us broadband-based entertainment. But there is much to admire in this ...more
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Jonathan Zittrain is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he cofounded the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and Professor of Computer Science at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is the author of The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It.
“Innovation within services like CompuServe took place at the center of the network rather than at its fringes. PCs were to be only the delivery vehicles for data sent to customers, and users were not themselves expected to program or to be able to receive services from anyone other than their central service provider. CompuServe depended on the phone network’s physical layer generativity to get the last mile to a subscriber’s house, but CompuServe as a service was not open to third-party tinkering.” 0 likes
“The first online services built on top of AT&T’s phone network were natural extensions of the 1960s IBM-model minicomputer usage within businesses: one centrally managed machine to which employees’ dumb terminals connected.” 0 likes
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