6.5.1 TCP/IP key lessons

The key things to note about TCP/IP are that:

  • anyone can join in as long as they speak the lingo – TCP/IP;

  • the networks are dumb, the applications at the ends are clever;

  • the ‘end-to-end’ principle operates.

All the intelligence resides in the computers at the ends of the network. The network is basically dumb and indiscriminately playing pass the packet, hence the neutral end-to-end architecture which constitutes an innovation commons. It is this end-to-end architecture, built with TCP/IP protocols, that undermines the ability of anyone to control the internet.

We can contrast this with examples from the telephone industry such as the Hush-a-Phone (see page 30 of The Future of Ideas). In 1956 AT&T, squashed the distribution of the Hush-a-Phone, a bit of plastic which could be attached to a phone receiver to cut out background noise. Regulations did not allow any foreign attachments to the phone network without AT&T's permission.

Powerful gatekeepers can control innovation. End-to-end does not lend itself to central control.

I hate quotations.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

6.5 Transmission control protocol and internet protocol

6.6 How TCP/IP works