Monday, June 15, 2009

The Internet, a bordered or borderless world?

I have just finished reading Who controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World written by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu. The book addresses a serious question---does the evolution of the Internet make itself be more bordered or more borderless a world? The authors then answered it by leading the readers' attention to a traditionally overlooked side of the Internet, i.e., the physical coercion by the local governments to the Web resource producers. The book is very well written and I recommend it to not only the ordinary readers who are curious on how the Internet grows, but also the entrepreneurs who plan to start up a Web company.

"... physcial coercion by government---the hallmark of a traditional legal system---remains far more important than anyone expected." This is the central point of the book.

The Internet, more precisely the World Wide Web, is not a self-governing society. Without the coercive power by all kinds of the local authorities at the invisible (or watchable) back, the seemly self-organizing Web may actually not sustain any longer. Anybody, especially the Web businessperson, who misses the point will eventually pay for the misconception.

When I was starting to think of the evolutionary model of the Web, I envisioned the Web being an actively growing extension of our real society in contrast to a passively progressive product of human beings. By this mean, the Web naturally must have inherited all the major factors in our real human society instead of being a counter force to fundamentally rebuild the world. The revolution brought by the Web is primarily on how the real world is extended to the virtual worlds. With the virtual extensions, we humans could duplicate the existence of selves in arbitrarily many times and thus might multiply the production of the individuals indefinitely. In spite of the revolution, the Web only gradually evolves in contrast to substantially rewrites the basic structure of human society.

We will continuously live in the bordered world into the foreseeable future of the Web age.

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