Open and standardized network protocols fueled Internet innovation

At the foundation of the technology that has enabled these developments is anovel philosophy of communication network design. Prior to the emergence of the Internet,communication networks were designed and operated by telephone companies. The telephone network, operating under the control of AT&T and other telephone monopolies, was designed toplace computer intelligence “inside” the network, out of the reach of end-users. The telephone network was operated in a manner that limited the end-user’s ability to attach innovative devices to the network, or otherwise take advantage of network technology in ways not designed (andsold) by the telephone company. The telephone company was the seller of network services, andend-users were the buyers of network services—end of story.

The Internet turned the telephone-company model “inside out.” Any device that abidedby the standardized and open Internet protocols could be attached to the network, and any innovator who utilized these publicly available Internet protocols could develop new content, applications, and services which would be provided over the Internet. Devices (mainly computers) attached to the edge of the network thus became the most important component of the Internet. The computers at the “network edge” could either supply network applications, content,or services, or could be used to consume network applications, content, or services. Further innovations led to the blending of computer functions at the network edge, such as those associated with file sharing technologies, where those at the network edge simultaneously produce and consume Internet content and applications.

The foundation of the innovations which are associated with the Internet—e-mail,  web browsing, search engines, online auctions,  e-commerce,  streaming media,  file sharing—are openand standardized network protocols. No firm has the ability to act as a gatekeeper associated with access to the protocols, and thus determine which applications, content, or services should be allowed to use the Internet. Innovation associated with the Internet has been fueled by the high level of deference to the network edge,  and the equal opportunity to utilize network resources enabled by Internet protocols and pro-competitive policies.

The early development of the Internet, those involved were determined that the networknot “step on the toes” of the developers of the technologies which would ultimately use the network. Those that designed the initial Internet protocols could not anticipate what direction future innovation might take. As a result of this insight, open and neutral protocols underlie how the Internet operates today.  The greatest potential for innovation associated with the development of new network applications occurs when the underlying network does not introduce artificial or arbitrary constraints on how those at the network edge innovate.

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