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Isenberg on what makes the Internet the Internet

David Isenberg has posted a transcript of his keynote at the Broadband Properties Summit that reminds us that the value of the Net comes not merely from its technical architecture but from the fact that that protocols that define that architecture are public. From the middle of the talk:

The Internet derives its disruptive quality from a very special property: IT IS PUBLIC. The core of the Internet is a body of simple, public agreements, called RFCs, that specify the structure of the Internet Protocol packet. These public agreements don’t need to be ratified or officially approved – they just need to be widely adopted and used.

The Internet’s component technologies – routing, storage, transmission, etc. – can be improved in private. But the Internet Protocol itself is hurt by private changes, because its very strength is its public-ness.

Because it is public, device makers, application makers, content providers and network providers can make stuff that works together. The result is completely unprecedented; instead of a special-purpose network – with telephone wires on telephone poles that connect telephones to telephone switches, or a cable network that connects TVs to content – we have the Internet, a network that connects any application – love letters, music lessons, credit card payments, doctor’s appointments, fantasy games – to any network – wired, wireless, twisted pair, coax, fiber, wi-fi, 3G, smoke signals, carrier pigeon, you name it. Automatically, no extra services needed. It just works.

This allows several emergent miracles…

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