on the open horizon
Linux Journal • UC Santa Barbara • Harvard University
The Net is free.
Getting it to people isn’t.
Serious infrastructure isn’t cheap.
Some structures last a long time.
What here will last longest?
Some don’t last so long.
Here’s the same railroad
Boston winters were colder then.
Here’s the same crossing in 2008:
The bell last bonged in 1982.
Here’s the same pond last Fall:
We had one day of skating this Winter.
We like to think serious
infrastructure is permanent.
That’s why we like to sign it.
tends to be temporary.
Still, we like to “brand” everything.
Here’s a tale told in manhole covers.
How about this one?
Will “broadband” be around in 50 years?
Is the Net just some pipes?
That’s what Senator Stevens says.
Technically, he’s not wrong.
TCP · UDP · DCCP · SCTP
· RSVP · ECN IP · OSPF
· IS-IS · BGP · ARP ·
RARP · RIP · ICMP…
These are full of the
language of transport.
But practically speaking,
it’s something else.
All the Net’s protocols are just agreements.
Most of them are fairly informal.
They began with the first RFC, which said…
Simple use: As with any new facility, there will be a period of very light usage
until the community of users experiments with the network and begins to depend
upon it. One of our goals must be to stimulate the immediate
and easy use by a wide class of users. With this goal, it seems
natural to provide the ability to use any remote HOST as if it had been dialed up
from a TTY (teletype) terminal. Additionally, we would like some ability to
transmit a file in a somewhat different manner perhaps than simulating a
That was in 1969.
Growth of the Net has been
loosely guided by the IETF.
David Clark: "We reject kings, presidents and voting.
We believe in rough consensus and running code"
The history of the Net has
always been a rough draft.
Bob Frankston calls the Net
“a class project” and “a prototype.”
“We need to step back and ask what we mean by "The
Internet" and why it is so important.
Internet is about relationships – you can create
solutions without having to depending on nor
negotiating with a myriad of gatekeepers in your
Traditional telecommunications is about transport as a
service which means that it's all about controlling
the path and as much as the market will bear
— thus preventing the creation of solutions that are
not profitable to these intermediaries.”
But the Net was never designed
to make money for itself.
But it has proven very good at supporting the
making of money in other ways.
Today the amount of money made because of the Net
far exceeds the money made with the Net.
Jonathan Zittrain says
the Net is generative. So is the PC.
Thanks to their “hourglass” nature.
That same hourglass is behind
>500k open source code bases.
All of these are just building materials.
The result is a wild, open and free world.
How did this happen?
Besides the cool work by guys with the IETF and all that?
You have to look at where
these building materials come from.
Unlike stone and wood, code is a product of human thought.
Open code grows wild in nature.
Human nature, that is.
“Linux doesn’t grow on trees. It is trees.” — Jackson Shaw (ex-Microsoft)
Open source and the Net share
1) Nobody owns it
2) Everybody can use it
Plus one more…
3) Anybody can improve it
A useful thing happens
when anyone can improve code.
It gets better. Naturally.
Open source is organic.
Living code doesn’t stop growing.
It adapts. Constantly.
To the real world.
Every new piece of code
is like a new element in in the periodic table.
Except there’s no limit to how many elements there are.
Or how they’re combined.
Or how fast any of them can improve.
Or how many markets they can support.
Open source code is, like life,
It improves constantly.
There are now well over 500,000 code repositories.
All are commoditites. With huge because effects.
The challenge is to restore
humans to their rightful position.
This can’t be done from just the sell side.
People need the power to do it themselves.
Open source models the way.
Selling the Net as gravy on TV and telephony doesn’t.
So here’s what we’re doing.
projectvrm.org is a project of the Berkman Center.
We’re a development community.
And we’re building a new business model based on equipping customers…
With tools that make them much more effective participants in markets.
These will be tools of both independence and engagement.
They will help customers express their intentions and do business
Outside of any one company’s silo or walled garden.
Our first initiative
is a new business model for free media.
It will be based on what customers are willing to pay,
on their own, with minimal friction
— for goods that are already there for free,
Public radio and TV
Newspapers and magazines online
Our tool for that is the “r-button”:
“I want to pay…
what I want.” And/or,
“I want to relate…
on my terms…
and not just yours.”
“This is my code’s way
of letting your code know that.
Even if you’re not listening. Yet.”
The relbutton can represent
four different states.
1. Intention to relate or buy (from
anybody, on my conditions).
2. Existing relationship (that can be
unpacked by clicking on it).
3. Intention to sell, but also to relate on
your (the buyer’s) terms, as well as
mine (the seller’s).
4. A place where buyers and sellers can
meet and relate on equal footing.
Here’s where you’ll see it first.
On a radio tuner for the iPhone and other
mobile internet devices.
Here the relbutton provides
a new business model for media.
Starting with noncommercial sources.
And growing to include everything.
So think of the last mile
as the first market
Think of your CLEC or ISP as the “back end that’s next door.”
Help customers use Amazon & Google back-end services, or…
Do the same thing yourself, but with latencies those guys can’t match.
Think about how to empower customers to do new things in new ways.
— Not just old things in better ways. (e.g. POTS over IP, HDTV)
Think about markets as environments for relationships…
And how you can help make those relationships work better.
Think of the market for new services
based on the Net as a utility.
The Net will become as necessary and common as roads, water, electricity
and waste treatment.
It is already used for far more than telephony and television. In the long
run those are just two among many data types.
The sweet spot in the market will be in helping business do business…
— Helping customers relate, converse and transact with vendors.
— Helping individuals and businesses use the Net’s back-end utilities…
Compute power, offsite backup and storage, heavy graphical rendering, etc.
Think about how to help DIY build-out
by local residents and neighborhoods
James Hettrick: “It will be as easy to install and maintain fiber as it is to do
the same with a home sprinkler system.”
There will be a whole new business in helping residents and small
contractors do “last yard” build-out.
Your customers will be your partners, not just your consumers.
Or your competitors.
Think about the customer as the start point, rather than the end point.
So the biggest growth opportunity
for people in this room…
Is to support the free and open Net.
Plus the individuals and businesses that grow there.
And the markets that they’ll build with your help.
Think about how to make money
because of the Net, not just with it.
“Triple Play” sells the Net as gravy on top of telephony and television. It
leverages the new on the old.
It’s a “with” model. In the long run it reduces you to just “the phone/cable”
company, with some Net on top.
Far more money is made on the Net than in it.
Think about how you can make “trillion play” happen…
And then about what business can be had in supporting that.