Internet Architecture and Innovation

by Barbara van Schewick


Tim Wu, Important, Customer Review on, May 11, 2011:
“This book is the most comprehensive study of the issues surrounding Internet Innovation, Net Neutrality, and related issues. It lays the intellectual foundation for Internet policy over the next decade. In particular, this book offers powerful non-market power based reasons to favor non-discrimination policies for internet traffic. Highly recommended.”

John Naughton, Why it’s time to get off the fence about net neutrality, The Guardian/The Observer, March 13, 2011:
“It was this neutrality that enabled the explosion of creativity triggered by the network. As Barbara van Schewick explains in a compelling book, Internet Architecture and Innovation, one implication of net neutrality was that the barriers to entry to the online market were incredibly low: all you needed was a good idea, programming skills and enough money to rent space on a server. So it’s no accident that some of the most iconic internet businesses – Amazon, eBay, Google, Blogger and Facebook to name just five – were launched without any significant capital investment by anyone other than their founders and their friends and families.

This is what makes cyberspace so different from the ‘real’ world – where anyone seeking to create an innovative, disruptive business has to find a way of placating or buying off the incumbents. Net neutrality enables something radically different, what one might call ‘permissionless innovation’.”

Evgeny Morozov, Passing Through: Why the Open Internet is Worth Saving, Boston Review, February 28, 2011:
“But could the information empire still be a useful concept in the net neutrality debate? Internet Architecture and Innovation, a new book by Stanford Law professor Barbara Van Schewick, shows that it is not. Reading Van Schewick’s book after Wu’s is like walking into a three-hour academic lecture after watching an eighteen-minute TED talk: while the lecture might seem too demanding at the outset, it eventually proves far more rewarding.”

Chris Witteman, Four takes on why net neutrality matters, Ars Technica, December 20, 2010:
“One book, Internet Architecture and Innovation, is by Stanford’s resident expert at the intersection of engineering, economics, and law, Barbara van Schewick, and it looks at these issues in a business context. Van Schewick compares how open and closed systems impact innovation in the electronic space. Her book is crammed with information, making the footnotes sometimes more interesting than the text, which is dense and often delivered at a level of abstraction that makes it almost unreadable.

Nonetheless, Internet Architecture and Innovation is an important work: it supplies a key piece of the broadband puzzle in its consideration of broadband transport as a necessary input for other businesses. Just like the railroads in the time of Hiram Johnson, broadband increasingly occupies a bottleneck position, giving network operators an inbred advantage in a horde of ancillary businesses. This can be particularly devastating for entrepreneurs who hope to take the broadband input and make something new out of it (think Google, Wikipedia, Facebook). Van Schewick’s fundamental premise rings true: only neutral networks promote competition and innovation. “

Christopher Parsons, Review: Internet Architecture and Innovation, Technology, Thoughts, and Trinkets, December 1, 2010:
“I have a suspicion that this book will become one of the centrepieces for Internet governance literatures in coming years, and likely to be as influential Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom with regards to the economics of the Internet. If issues around Internet governance, innovation, and control are your cup of tea then consider this book an absolute must buy.”

Marvin Ammori, Architecture, Law and Innovation, Balkanization, August 24, 2010:
“Yesterday, I was chatting with a law scholar whose research focuses on innovation. He told me that, on his desk, at the top of his short stack of new books to read, is Barbara van Schewick’s celebrated new book, Internet Architecture and Innovation. I wasn’t very surprised: it seems everyone interested in Internet law and policy or innovation is talking about the book. …

So I wanted to flag this book even for those among you who tend not to read the latest book on Internet policy, but who would be interested more broadly in an important book on law, economics, architecture, and innovation. …

The framework and arguments of the book have broader applicability to legal thinking, even beyond Internet issues.  First, it’s the best example of a “law and architecture” book. … Barbara’s book is the best analysis built on an analysis of architecture, economics, and law. She analyzes how the original architecture of the Internet–built according to particular, open design principles–promotes one particular, important value, innovation.

Second, the book is interdisciplinary of necessity, incorporating deep insights from computer engineering (Barbara has a phd in computer science), law (she is a law professor at Stanford), management science, and economics. Since she is expert in all these areas, she can see and make connections that other scholars, focused in one discipline, will overlook. And since she is writing for so many different audiences, her book is fascinatingly informative for all of us who wondered how the Internet actually works.

Finally, her economic analysis of innovation is among the most interesting law and economics analysis I’ve come across. It rests on the leading research in innovation economics and succeeds in disproving several economic arguments previously considered conventional wisdom to some economists, especially those discussing telecommunications.”

Markus Beckedahl, Buch: Internet Architecture and Innovation,, August 13, 2010:
“Eines der spannendsten Buch-Neuerscheinungen in diesem Jahr im Themenfeld Netzpolitik ist sicherlich “Internet Architecture and Innovation” von Barbara van Schewick. … Das Buch dürfte zum Standardwerk in der Netzneutralitätsdebatte werden und man sollte es eigentlich jedem Mitglied in der Enquete-Kommission zu Internet und digitale Gesellschaft erstmal zum lesen geben, bevor dort weiter über Netzneutralität diskutiert wird.”

Xeni Jardin, Essential new book on ‘Net Policy (blessed by Lessig!): “Internet Architecture and Innovation”, Boing Boing, August 12, 2010:
Marvin Ammori has an extensive review up on Barbara van Schewick’s “Internet Architecture and Innovation,” a new book on Internet policy that Ammori describes as “essential reading for anyone interested in Internet policy–and probably for anyone interested in the law, economics, technology, or start-ups.”

The title (and the topic) are the sort of thing that tend to make readers’ eyes glaze over, but Ammori’s pithy post explains “why the book is important and eye-opening for everyone (…) not only for those who (like me) have spent their careers in Internet policy.””

Susan Crawford, The FCC Needs to Do the Right (& the Hard) Thing, Salon – The GigaOM Network, August 12, 2010:
“Net neutrality is actually a very old idea. The idea is that when you’re making point-to-point basic transportation (of information or people) available to the public, you’re not supposed to discriminate against uses of your network. (Barbara van Schewick has a marvelous new book out about this here.)”

Marvin Ammori, Internet Policy: Most Important Book in Years is Now Out, August 11, 2010:
There’s a new book out on Internet policy that is essential reading for anyone interested in Internet policy—and probably for anyone interested in the law, economics, technology, or start-ups. I recommend it to everyone. …

Barbara van Schewick’s new book, “Internet Architecture and Innovation,” is one of the very few books in my field in the same league as Larry Lessig’s Code, in 2000, and Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, in 2006, in terms of its originality, depth, and importance to Internet policy and other disciplines. I expect the book to affect how people think about the Internet; about the interactions between law and technical architectures in all areas of law; about entrepreneurship in general. I also think her insights on innovation economics, which strike me as far more persuasive than lawyers’ usual assumptions, should influence “law and economics” thinking for the better. …

This is one of those rare books where every chapter is full of novel and important ideas. But I’ll tell you about my very favorite part. In the eighth chapter, beginning with “The Value of Many Innovators,” van Schewick presents the stories of how several major technologies were born: Google, Flickr, EBay, 37Signals, Twitter, and even the World Wide Web, email, and web-based email. I had always suspected that the “accidental” beginnings and unexpected successes of these technologies were a series flukes, one fluke after another. Rather, van Schewick explains, it’s a pattern. Her models actually predict the pattern accurately–unlike other academic models like the efficient market hypothesis and theories on valuing derivatives. These entrepreneurial stories (or case studies, to academics) are eye-opening; they’re also counter-intuitive unless you consider the management science and evolutionary economics van Schewick applies to analyze them. So if you wondered what the invention of Flickr, Google, Twitter, and the World Wide Web had in common, van Schewick answers the question.”

Lawrence Lessig, Another Deregulation Debacle, New York Times Room for Debate, August 10, 2010:
The deregulatory crusade is a bit more forgivable when it comes to the Internet. Economics really hasn’t caught up with the particular lessons that the Internet has to teach. Not so much because it doesn’t have the equations, or the brilliant mathematicians. But instead because the focus has been too narrow, and incomplete.

As much as anything else, the economic success of the Internet comes from its architecture. The architecture, and the competitive forces it assures, is the only interesting thing at stake in this battle over “network neutrality.” And yet, the most senior economic advisers in the White House don’t seem to know what that means. They could, if they took the time. Barbara van Schewick’s extraordinary new book, “Internet Architecture and Innovation,” is perhaps the best explication of this point so far for those who should be studying these hard, new policy questions.

But instead, policymakers, using an economics framework set in the 1980s, convinced of its truth and too arrogant to even recognize its ignorance, will allow the owners of the “tubes” to continue to unmake the Internet — precisely the effect of Google and Verizon’s “policy framework.””

Brad Burnham, Internet Architecture and Innovation, Union Square Ventures Blog, August 10, 2010:
Barbara van Schewick’s book, Internet Architecture and Innovation, is out and everyone who cares about the future of the Internet should click here and buy a copy. It is not an easy read, but the architecture of the Internet and the ways in which that architecture is directly responsible for the explosion of innovation over the last 15 years is not an easy topic.

Thoughtful, well intentioned people find themselves on different sides of the net neutrality debate. Internet access providers have spun network neutrality as needless and overreaching government intervention into a vibrant, competitive market. On the other side, net roots activists attack any innovation in the physical network as a threat to the Internet. Barbara’s book offers a comprehensive framework for sorting through the issues. …

Barbara challenges policy makers and advocates to imagine policy at an architectural level – a difficult task for regulators used to managing specific behaviors or politicians who prefer to hand out checks at ground breaking ceremonies. She argues that protecting the original design principles of the Internet is the most efficient regulatory regime. In effect, she is saying that only by learning to regulate at an architectural level can we create flourishing competitive markets that do not require the constant attention of over worked and ill prepared regulators.

Barbara makes a compelling case. I hope everyone involved in this noisy debate reads this book.”

Gordon Cook, Book Review, Cook Report on Internet Protocol – Technology, Economics and Policy, Volume XIX, No. 6:
“Legislators must have it drummed into them that Internet architecture is as critical to the economic well-being of their constituents as any of these other [basic infrastructures]. To do this, everyone active in public interest Internet policy MUST thoroughly familiarize themselves with Barbara van Schewick’s book. Her work charts a clear path through a subject of enormous complexity. Her arguments are detailed and exhaustively documented. … If I were ever involved directly in regulatory decision making, I would certainly want those advocating for me to know this work inside and out.”

Lawrence Solum, Legal Theory Bookworm, Legal Theory Blog, July 24, 2010:
“An important book on an important topic. Highly recommended.”

Advance Praise

Lawrence Lessig, author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace:
“This isn’t a flash in the pan piece. This book will be an evergreen in a wide range of academic and policy contexts—more than an introduction to how technology and policy should be analyzed, it is, in my view, the very best example of that analysis.”

Daniel E. Atkins, W.K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information, Professor of Information and EECS, and Associate Vice-President for Research Cyberinfrastructure, University of Michigan:
“This is a tour de force on the topic on the role of the end-to-end principle in the design of the Internet.”

David P. Reed, MIT Media Laboratory:
“This is an important book, one which for the first time ties together the many emerging threads that link the economic, technical, architectural, legal, and social frameworks of the birth and evolution of the Internet.”