6.9 Summary and SAQs

In this section we have looked at Lessig's model of the four contraints on our behaviour: law, social norms, market forces and architecture.

Figure 10

We have spelled out the importance of law and architecture in relation to the ideas in this course and looked at some stark examples of architecture as a regulator. The poisoned flowers story explained the wider meaning of architecture in the context of the internet. Essentially, the architecture of the internet determines the laws of nature on the internet.

An e2e ‘innovation commons’ at the content and code/logical layers made it impossible for anybody to control what anybody else did on the network. There was no centralised controller or gatekeeper who could stop someone from trying out their new ideas. People shared information and ideas, and innovation happened.

It happened because many of the resources used in internet innovation were shared freely and because the environment (architecture and law) was right. In the case of the architecture, it was an innovation commons because of its e2e design. e2e meant that intelligence was kept at the ends of the network and the network itself remained simple. This in turn meant that:

  • the network was open to innovation;

  • innovators didn't need permission to innovate – anyone could join in as long as they used TCP/IP;

  • network owners could not discriminate against certain users because the network does not provide the tools to do so – the networks are dumb; the applications at the ends are clever.

We have looked at circuit and packet switching and TCP/IP in order to understand more fully how the architecture actually works.

6.9.1 Self-assessment Questions