Internet Architecture and Innovation

by Barbara van Schewick


Navigating the Book

The author of an academic book usually assumes that her readers know the relevant literature, and that she only has to add to it. I did not have this luxury. My argument crosses a number of disciplines and speaks to readers with a wide range of backgrounds. The book is designed to be accessible to all of them. In particular, one does not have to have a background in networking or in economics to understand it. As a result, the book is longer than it would be if it were targeted at readers in a single discipline, and it contains explanations that will be familiar to some readers but not to others. For example, engineers will already know about modularity, the layering principle, and the architecture of the Internet, and lawyers, economists, and management scientists will already know how transaction costs influence the boundary choices of firms. I hope that my headings and introductions will help readers recognize things they already know and help them get to what they do not know.

The book can be read straight through, from cover to cover. But one may also follow some of the more specific conceptual threads that run through the book:

  • The third thread explores aspects of the approach to “architecture and economics” (see box I.1) advanced by the book. Within the framework described in chapter 1, the book focuses on the effect of one constraint (architecture) on one specific activity (innovation), and sets aside consideration of other factors (such as the effect of non-architectural constraints, or the mechanisms by which architectures are influenced by economic systems) that are relevant within the framework. This thread ties together the portions of the book that touch on these other factors (see table I.3). In doing so, it complements the detailed analysis (in chapters 4-8) of how architectures—particularly that of the Internet—affect innovation.