Big Government and Big Capital, meet Big Peer Network.
Like many of the bedrock technologies that have come to define the digital age, the Internet was created by — and continues to be shaped by — decentralized groups of scientists and programmers and hobbyists (and more than a few entrepreneurs) freely sharing the fruits of their intellectual labor with the entire world. Yes, government financing supported much of the early research, and private corporations enhanced and commercialized the platforms. But the institutions responsible for the technology itself were neither governments nor private start-ups. They were much closer to the loose, collaborative organizations of academic research. They were networks of peers.
Peer networks break from the conventions of states and corporations in several crucial respects. They lack the traditional economic incentives of the private sector: almost all of the key technology standards are not owned by any one individual or organization, and a vast majority of contributors to open-source projects do not receive direct compensation for their work. (The Harvard legal scholar Yochai Benkler has called this phenomenon “commons-based peer production.”) And yet because peer networks are decentralized, they don’t suffer from the sclerosis of government bureaucracies. Peer networks are great innovators, not because they’re driven by the promise of commercial reward but rather because their open architecture allows others to build more easily on top of existing ideas, just as Berners-Lee built the Web on top of the Internet, and a host of subsequent contributors improved on Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web.
larry R.Washington, DC
I disagree with your assertion that the internet was not created by the government. In the early 60’s the government was faced with creating a communication system that would be impervious to nuclear attack. Based on work funded by the government Vint Cerf and company created TCP/IP which was then used to make Paul Baran decentralized network architecture. Shortly there after ARPA (now called DARPA) created the first wide area distributed packet network called ARPANET. ARPANET was the first and original internet and it connected most of the major government labs together. After ARPANET had matured it transitioned into what was then referred to as the Internet but it was still connected mostly to government labs, including CERN where Tim Berners-Lee formulated an information management system using a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that has become the primary means for high level network communications. ALL of key technologies were created at government laboratories or funded by the government. With an international functioning wide area network in place the Internet we know to data emerged. Sure, ethernet was a development of Xerox but that is like saying the inventor of the transistor created the radio. Ethernet is at the physical level. In truth, only big government had the motivation, and the means to design and build a nation wide network. Not because it would create an entirely new business environment but because it was essential for national survival.
See on www.nytimes.com