On Defining Generativity, Openness, and Code Failure

Adam Thierer

Adam is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He previously served as President of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, Director of Telecom. Studies at the Cato Institute, and Fellow in Economic Policy at the Heritage Foundation.

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5 Responses

  1. Orin Kerr says:

    Nice post, Adam. I tend to agree.

  2. Anon says:

    Great post. I also noticed that, after calling you out, Pasquale has yet to reply to your response here: http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2010/09/future-of-the-internet-symposium-a-challenge-to-thierer-and-zittrain.html#comments

  3. Nick B says:

    I guess what I’m missing from both the AOL narrative and the IE narrative above is a sense of what role the government played in promoting competitive responses in each of these cases. Could AOL itself – and eventually the thousands of competitors to AOL (see http://bit.ly/asUuCb [pdf]) – have arisen in the absence of the Title II requirements placed upon the transmission/access services of phone companies? If the DOJ had never pushed back on Microsoft’s ability to bolt IE and related services into its dominant operating system, would we be using safari/firefox/chrome to the degree we are today?

    Do you see a role for the FCC, DOJ, or others in enabling the conditions (or planting the seeds) for “innovation around failure”? More broadly, on what kind of scale do you balance the benefits and positive spillovers of governmental intervention with the costs and excesses in different innovation contexts?

    These are honest questions — I’m not sure of the answer to them! It’d just be useful to have a more specific account of how markets become free and escape from uncompetitive dynamics — and an account that includes the actors and rules determining the possibilities for exchange. Without this account, I’m afraid that “things generally change for the better” is an incomplete history. Not overly optimistic, just incomplete.

  4. The Internet is like the NFL. In the “Nirvana Days”, the spectators stood at the edge of the field. As fan interest grew they had to be pushed back into grand-stands. Thus began the Thick-Client vs. Thin-Client debates.

    Some insiders expect to always be standing at the edge of the field. They seem to think it is their birth-right. If one hails from one of the dozen “right places” (Harvard, Yale, Stanford…) they get to stand at the edge of the field.

    But, the people at the edge of the field, start to see that SkyBoxes have been built. They want to see what goes on in those boxes. Their position at the edge of the field may not be so ideal. They see people sending messages directly from one box to another.

    In a more important evolution, a new spectator base emerges in the parking lot. They are the people in the tail-gate parties. They don’t even care about the game. They like to party. The Big.Lie.Society starts to realize that their prime position at the edge of the field may not be the most desirable. Is the NFL morphing into more than football? How can that be?

    An even more significant evolution occurs, PEOPLE ARE WATCHING ON TV!!! Oh my God, The.Big.Lie.Society insiders
    standing at the edge of the field are now in the way of the
    camera shots. Nope, they ain’t moving. They really believe that everyone can be standing at the edge of the field. They could not care less that the laws of physics prevent that. They take care of Number ONE first.

    It Seeks Overall Control

  5. Ionut Pop says:

    There is a difference between aspirational guideposts that say “go no further past this point” and heavy-handed regulation from the top down.

    I can kind of see Zittraine, et al.’s point that certainly lots of bad things *could* occur without intervention. But is it really top-down regulation they seek, or simply some signals from the powers that be that “hey, we’re watching you [insert name of dominant market player here] so don’t get too cute.” I can’t say for certain; some weeks it’s one, some weeks the other.

    I think the specter of government intervention by itself is enough to keep most companies honest in this economy. That and the specter of turning your customer’s base of goodwill for your product against you by restricting their access to and enjoyment of the web. Anything more simply risks regulatory capture of one sort or another.