A guide to the hidden battles for control of the Internet.
Well below the public radar, corporations and nation-states are engaged in a struggle to seize control of the Internet by capturing or influencing its technical architecture. Most Internet users are oblivious to what makes this "self-formulated ecosystem of private networks" function or even to what makes it possible. DeNardis (Communication/American Univ.; Opening Standards: The Global Politics of Interoperability, 2011, etc.) takes readers beneath the hood of the Internet, cogently explaining the technical agreements, standards and procedures that tie it together. These include control of the assignment of domain names and IP addresses, the definitions of the protocols that enable interoperability of browsers and similar devices, the mechanisms by which Internet traffic is routed around the globe and the economic issues that control interconnections between networks. While these structures may superficially appear to be neutral results of engineering or commercial convenience, DeNardis argues that the Internet's protocols are often political in both their design and effects, resulting in conflicts between competing global values. “The exact same technologies and mechanisms of coordination that enable the free flow of information,” she writes, “can be used to block access and engage in invasive surveillance of individuals." Thus they are increasingly the targets of governments and private companies more interested in controlling or blocking the flow of information than in promoting it. The author asserts that "a primary impetus for this book is the need to bring these controversies into the public consciousness and explain the connection between the future of Internet governance and the future of expressive and economic liberty." This is not an easy task; most of the issues DeNardis discusses lie outside public awareness precisely because they are highly technical in nature and require the reader's close attention to follow the author's elegant but detailed explanations.
A rigorous exploration of obscure but important issues with potentially global effects.