What Is Internet ?

map-of-the-internet((This is not The Internet [text stolen from René Magritte’s Pipe painting] , it shows the links between AS addresses some years ago))


  1. Introduction

Since a few years politicians from many nation state governments have started to ask how (or even insist) we should Govern “The Internet“. They are nervous that it is at present outside their Control and voice this by blaming The Internet is a chaos and full of tools for bad people to do harm. And the politicians feel that The Internet is too much USA-Gov dominated, while its use is now worldwide with interests from many stakeholders.

To my surprise an enormous amount of energy is spend and hot air is steaming out of this formal and informal discussion in all possible directions without any consensus on what they are talking about. Just take a look at what you see after you google the search term ‘ Internet Governance ‘!!!  Maybe we, as technicians and engineers, forgot to define what internet is, because we assumed that it is very simple and everybody knows it : just a bunch of routers and datacom links, right?  The intention of this blog is to help clarify that to the muggles.

2. Definition

Here is the definition that Fred Goldstein gave that is the only correct and short one in my humble opinion (IMHO):

” An internet is a voluntary agreement among network operators to exchange traffic for their mutual benefit.  (The Internet is a prototype internet.) That’s all — it’s an agreement.

It’s not a network, or a Thing of any kind.  Part of the agreement is to exchange routing information.  In order to reduce conflict, IANA assigns address blocks. Networks, however, advertise what address blocks they carry, and this is not normally checked against IANA. So IANA address block lists are there to advise in case of conflict. If however people stopped trusting them, they might look elsewhere, or (heaven forbid people give up Authority and think for themselves) make their own decisions on whom to trust.

Likewise with names: DNS is a distributed database. Users (or the DHCP servers they implicitly trust) point their resolvers at a name server, which points up the chain at others.  This is all voluntary — they don’t have to point to the ICANN roots, but do because those are the ones everyone uses, and using other roots, which exist, increases the chance of conflict.  But if the public lost trust in ICANN, they could move to another root. It is just a database of registries.

This is totally unlike the PSTN ((Public Switched Telephony Network)), whose name scheme (E.164 numbering) is laid out by  ((ITU)) treaty, and whose networks are in fact government-controlled.  An internet is voluntary; the PSTN is a public utility. Big difference.

(– quoted here with permission of  Fred R. Goldstein, Interisle Consulting Group, USA –) 

Yes, the mindsets of Netheads (computer communication engineers organized by peer group workshops of the ISOC- IETF )  and Bellheads (telecom operator officials with strong nation state governance) are different, they may be from different planets. Both have built collective intelligent structures with distributed authorities as if they are life forms.
3. The famous Doc Searls and David Weinberger  wrote something in 2003 that is consistent with this view of 2. , albeit it is somewhat longer. It was aimed specifically at trying to explain the Net to legislators and other non-technical policy makers:
=============beginning of partial copy ==============

“World of Ends”

What the Internet Is and
How to Stop Mistaking It
for Something Else.

by  Doc Searls and
David Weinberger

Last update: 3.10.03 (More typos fixed 1.29.08)

There are mistakes and there are mistakes.

Some mistakes we learn from. For example: Thinking that selling toys for pets on the Web is a great way to get rich. We’re not going to do that again.

Other mistakes we insist on making over and over. For example, thinking that:

  • …the Web, like television, is a way to hold eyeballs still while advertisers spray them with messages.
  • …the Net is something that telcos and cable companies should filter, control and otherwise “improve.”
  • … it’s a bad thing for users to communicate between different kinds of instant messaging systems on the Net.
  • …the Net suffers from a lack of regulation to protect industries that feel threatened by it.

When it comes to the Net, a lot of us suffer from Repetitive Mistake Syndrome. This is especially true for magazine and newspaper publishing, broadcasting, cable television, the record industry, the movie industry, and the telephone industry, to name just six.

Thanks to the enormous influence of those industries in Washington, Repetitive Mistake Syndrome also afflicts lawmakers, regulators and even the courts. Last year Internet radio, a promising new industry that threatened to give listeners choices far exceeding anything on the increasingly variety-less (and technologically stone-age) AM and FM bands, was shot in its cradle. Guns, ammo and the occasional “Yee-Haw!” were provided by the recording industry and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which embodies all the fears felt by Hollywood’s alpha dinosaurs when they lobbied the Act through Congress in 1998.

“The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it,” John Gilmore famously said. And it’s true. In the long run, Internet radio will succeed. Instant messaging systems will interoperate. Dumb companies will get smart or die. Stupid laws will be killed or replaced. But then, as John Maynard Keynes also famously said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

All we need to do is pay attention to what the Internet really is. It’s not hard. The Net isn’t rocket science. It isn’t even 6th grade science fair, when you get right down to it. We can end the tragedy of Repetitive Mistake Syndrome in our lifetimes — and save a few trillion dollars’ worth of dumb decisions — if we can just remember one simple fact: the Net is a world of ends. You’re at one end, and everybody and everything else are at the other ends.

Sure, that’s a feel-good statement about everyone having value on the Net, etc. But it’s also the basic rock-solid fact about the Net’s technical architecture. And the Internet’s value is founded in its technical architecture.

Fortunately, the true nature of the Internet isn’t hard to understand. In fact, just a fistful of statements stands between Repetitive Mistake Syndrome and Enlightenment…

The Nutshell
1. The Internet isn’t complicated
2. The Internet isn’t a thing. It’s an agreement.
3. The Internet is stupid.
4. Adding value to the Internet lowers its value.
5. All the Internet’s value grows on its edges.
6. Money moves to the suburbs.
7. The end of the world? Nah, the world of ends.
8. The Internet’s three virtues:
a. No one owns it
b. Everyone can use it
c. Anyone can improve it
9. If the Internet is so simple, why have so many been so boneheaded about it?
10. Some mistakes we can stop making already
======================== end of partial copy========================
The FULL TEXT of Doc and David can be read at http://worldofends.com
ir. Jaap van Till, TheConnectivist
PS. By the way, it may be interesting to know to the legislators, journalists and other non-techn decisionmakers from governments and business; that “internet” is not soft and defenseless and can be mistreated and misunderstood endlessly and in any way. Its collective intelligence may at some points decide that corrections and or sanctions are in order. The New Power is a force that can bypass, disobey or it will be used to disconnect if that is the only way.
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Keeping The Internet Dream Alive : Jennifer Granick’s Keynote Speech

Jennifer Granick

  1. Must see and must read: Jennifer Granick at the Blackhat Conference 2015, on August 10,  giving her keynote speech about “the Internet Dream” that seems to end…. if we do not think and act soon.

** The full text can be read here: https://medium.com/backchannel/the-end-of-the-internet-dream-ba060b17da61 This is a modified version of what she said, improved by herself and also published at: http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/publications/end-internet-dream (dated August 17)

** And the Video recording of what she presented is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tjvw5fz_GuA  (15:48 onwards)

2. Here are 2 exerpts from the text,  the beginning and the end remarks about what we should do:

=======exerpt 1 from speech========

Twenty years ago I attended my first Def Con. I believed in a free, open, reliable, interoperable Internet: a place where anyone can say anything, and anyone who wants to hear it can listen and respond. I believed in the Hacker Ethic: that information should be freely accessible and that computer technology was going to make the world a better place. I wanted to be a part of making these dreams — the Dream of Internet Freedom — come true. As an attorney, I wanted to protect hackers and coders from the predations of law so that they could do this important work. Many of the people in this room have spent their lives doing that work.

But today, that Dream of Internet Freedom is dying.

For better or for worse, we’ve prioritized things like security, online civility, user interface, and intellectual property interests above freedom and openness. The Internet is less open and more centralized. It’s more regulated. And increasingly it’s less global, and more divided. These trends: centralization, regulation, and globalization are accelerating. And they will define the future of our communications network, unless something dramatic changes.

=============exerpt 2 from speech============

Freedom of Expression

Today, the physical architecture and the corporate ownership of the communications networks we use have changed in ways that facilitate rather than defeat censorship and control. In the U.S., copyright was the first cause for censorship, but now we are branching out to political speech.

Governments see the power of platforms and have proposed that social media companies alert federal authorities when they become aware of terrorist-related content on their sites. A U.N. panel last month called on the firms to respond to accusations that their sites are being exploited by the Islamic State and other groups. At least at this point, there’s no affirmative obligation to police in the U.S.

But you don’t have to have censorship laws if you can bring pressure to bear. People cheer when Google voluntarily delists so-called revenge porn, when YouTube deletes ISIS propaganda videos, when Twitter adopts tougher policies on hate speech. The end result is collateral censorship, by putting pressure on platforms and intermediaries, governments can indirectly control what we say and what we experience.

What that means is that governments, or corporations, or the two working together increasingly decide what we can see. It’s not true that anyone can say anything and be heard anywhere. It’s more true that your breast feeding photos aren’t welcome and, increasingly, that your unorthodox opinions about radicalism will get you placed on a list.

Make no mistake, this censorship is inherently discriminatory. Muslim “extremist” speech is cause for alarm and deletion. But no one is talking about stopping Google from returning search results for the Confederate flag.

Globalization means other governments are in the censorship mix. I’m not just talking about governments like Russia and China. There’s also the European Union, with its laws against hate speech, Holocaust denial, and its developing Right To Be Forgotten. Each country wants to enforce its own laws and protect and police its citizens as it sees fit, and that means a different internet experience for different countries or regions. In Europe, accurate information is being delisted from search engines, to make it harder or impossible to find. So much for talking to everyone everywhere in real time. So much for having everything on the Internet shelf.

Worse, governments are starting to enforce their laws outside their borders through blocking orders to major players like Google and to ISPs. France is saying to Google, don’t return search results that violate our laws to anyone, even if it’s protected speech that we are entitled to in the U.S. If you follow this through to the obvious conclusion, every country will censor everywhere. It will be intellectual baby food.

How much free speech does a free society really need? Alternatively how much sovereignty should a nation give up to enable a truly global network to flourish?

Right now, if we don’t change course and begin to really value having a place for even the edgy and disruptive speech, our choice is between network balkanization and a race to the bottom.

Which will we pick?

The Next 20 Years

The future for freedom and openness appears to be far bleaker than we had hoped for 20 years ago. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let me describe another future where the Internet Dream lives and thrives.

We start to think globally. We need to deter another terrorist attack in New York, but we can’t ignore impact our decisions have on journalists and human rights workers around the world. We strongly value both.

We build in decentralization where possible: Power to the People. And strong end to end encryption can start to right the imbalance between tech, law and human rights.

We realize the government has no role in dictating communications technology design.

We start being afraid of the right things and stop being driven by irrational fear. We reform the CFAA, the DMCA, the Patriot Act and foreign surveillance law. We stop being so sensitive about speech and we let noxious bullshit air out. If a thousand flowers bloom, the vast majority of them will be beautiful.

Today we’ve reached an inflection point. If we change paths, it is still possible that the Dream of Internet Freedom can become true. But if we don’t, it won’t. The Internet will continue to evolve into a slick, stiff, controlled and closed thing. And that dream I have — that so many of you have — will be dead. If so, we need to think about creating the technology for the next lifecycle of the revolution. In the next 20 years we need to get ready to smash the Internet apart and build something new and better.


I encourage you in every nerd-nest of this planet tp read the speech and watch her present it several times. Beacause it is important for all of us and for our childrens’s children.

IMH opinion I like to add two comments:

A. The “right to tinker” is not only vital to learn by many  how “things” including software work by taking these things apart. Also only by mixing and interconnecting the resulting “components” from very different points of view and culture, in new constructive and creative ways our young of mind can create synthesize synthesis  and see how new things work. In that way they can create wealth and much needed jobs.

B. By swarming locally and globally  the diverse skilled and talented can flock together and give P2P each other big picture oversight which can be correlated and assembled into collective intelligent groups with decentral authority to act. New power !!

And last but not least:  WE INTERNAUTS should start writing together The Ligare Liberum:  the law of Freedom of Passage of Idea’s between people wherever they are and whatever their context. This the name of this law refers to the Mare Liberum “Law of Freedom at the Sea” and free passage through sea lanes by Hugo Grotius in 1609. Ligare refers to Latin word for: connect, bind, tie, unite. To paraphrase the poem by John Perry Brown, referred to by Jennifer Granick in her speech: The Ligare Liberum should empower and safeguard the freedom of that which we have between our ears and which we want to connect to other minds. Nation states and business corporations have no jurisdiction there nor on the content of  P2P links.

This may prepare us for the next phases of the ever evolving, learning, living and growing Internet.

Jaap van Till. TheConnectivist

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1994 Vintage Internet: the Yellow Pages

Yellow pages int

In my personal library: a copy of the Internet Yellow Pages. Published in 1994. I can not recall ever having used it, although I then must have thought I could probably not do without it. :-))

With very much effort the 10,000 addresses of the then total Internet then was sorted into interesting subjects and published in a BOOK !

Hard to imagine now that they then thought in terms of something like a phonebook for internet, well WWW. Most of the addresses are American research and education groups with .EDU addresses. Very few .COM adresses yet. Further a fair number of European Internet addresses and subjects. Also groups of scientists doing interesting things most of them.

Vinton Cerf, then at MCI, wrote the introduction.

Search engines like Google and Baidu now perform this subject search help and much much more online on the Internet itself.

Maybe in 20 years time our childrens-children will find this hard that to believe: “WTF was a Google Search ??

The following cartoon does point in that direction that ways of using the Net are changing. And we have to learn to unlearn & learn fast.


Jaap van Till, TheConnectivist

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The Last Page of the Internet (08-5-2000)





You have reached the very last page of the Internet.


We hope you have enjoyed your browsing.


Now turn off your computer and go outside and play.



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Beyond Sharing – the Collaborative Economy (reblog from Gloria Lombardi)

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 14.08.03 Reblog:  http://simply-communicate.com/case-studies/people/beyond-sharing-collaborative-economy   by Gloria Lombardi Tip of the hat from Jaap van Till, theConnectivist

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(NP14) We Have Liftoff !!! The Network Economy Sends Wakeup Calls

1. It is very significant but no accident that two new books tell about the same story about the Collaborative Sharing Network Economy now rapidly replacing the Neo-Liberal market production-consumption  economy, driven by [ big company corporations & national governments] *)  which is in decline and recession, since 2008.
Prof. Carlota Perez, of  The London School of Economics (LSE) did forecast long ago, in 2006?, that this “replacement” would signal the resumption of a long constructive learning curve with a number of structural, social and political changes.
Perez LSE
So this “halfway transition” is now in 2015 happening !!! We have at last passed the “turning point”.
 2. The new books who show this are written by Paul Mason, explaining the socio/economic/political phenomena and transtions in mind set, and Robin Chase showing vivid life and kicking cases from exponentially exploding and viral fields.
A. book: ” PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future “ – 30 Jul 2015 by Paul Mason (Author); described in The Guardian in http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun
postcapitalism boek
In October 2013 Paul Mason gave this lecture (on YouTube)   about the future that presented the core messages of his book to come in 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5teO3W4LrM and yes he mentioned the Kondratiev cycles and Carlota Perez.
B. Book:  ” Peers Inc , How People and Platforms Are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism ” van Robin Chase,  described in http://buff.ly/1JdJnZF )
Peer Inc boek
3. Both books confirm that this transition beyond the turning point to a  connected sharing economy is driven by and powered from the use of  ICT and Internet data flows. ICT and Internet tools and technology have been identified too by prof. Perez as the new General Purpose Technology on which the whole present learning curve shown above is built. The age of Electro/mechanic/ chemical & oil technology& industry is not gone but no longer leading innovation.
4. Warning: The old school neoliberal economists, banksters and power hungry politicians do not like the transition and what lies beyond the turning point: a new society with the internet smart engineers, craftsmen&women and open source programmers are leading the way into a new Peer-to-Peer (P2P) connected society, based on trans-tribal synthesis & synergy to create value and prosperity. That they do not like it was expressed for instance by the organized way in which the non-violent Occupy movements in the USA where suppressed, criminalized and contained by FBI & CIA & law enforcement, as was recently revealed.
For instance the USA neocons of big corporations & govt’t *)  still dream of a worldwide empire they call the “Anglosphere”,  which core consists of the Five Eyes WASP dominated countries, wanting to go back to the days of the former worldwide British Empire, still in decline. A bit like the explicit wish of Putin and his loyal courtiers to restore the Russian Empire. And not to forget the Chines empire now under construction based on raw materials from Africa and elsewhere on the globe. Retro dreams of former and collapsed glory and power.
The problem is that these coming and going empires are built on two FALSE assumptions:
1. Natural resources (raw materials and oil, etc) are abundant, you just can find them everywhere;
2. Information (data, knowledge, media content, Intellectual Property, communication flows) are scarce,  and should be owned, restricted and guarded. 
In reality, we are finding out that the truth is that they are just the other way around: natural resources are 
scarce and running out; and information is abundant and can be shared freely everywhere on networks & telecom. This “abundance” that is unleashed and which creates synergy by connection and synthesis is explicitly mentioned in both books shown above.
This core idea of “the other way around” has been put forward by the P2P Foundation before in various forms and gives a clear basis on how we should move forward in the world from now on.
Welcome to the age of “SYNTHECRACY” starting today.
PS 1. The Sharing Economy has entered the programs of the USA presidential candidates, see the articles on the Instigating Daily http://paper.li/instigating?edition_id=4d2614b0-3272-11e5-96e1-0cc47a0d1605
PS 2. On July 30, 2015,  I tweeted to Paul Mason :  Difference Market Economy (production-consumption, scarcety) vs Network Economy : things get better when MORE people contrib  ((and share ))
Jaap van Till, theConnectivist
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(NP13) About P2P Collective Intelligence – How Does it Emerge ?

CI 2

( RECOMMENDED!     REBLOGGED FROM NESTA.org.uk      http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/collective-intelligence-how-does-it-emerge )


Collective Intelligence: How does it Emerge ?

This paper discusses the cognitive, social and technological prerequisites for collective intelligence.

Key findings:

  • Collective intelligence emerges when there is a balance between technology, governance and joint goals.
  • Collaboration builds on our cognitive capabilities to think as we and have joint intensions.
  • Technology should make visible the assemblages of information and support the modification of knowledge.
  • Organisational models must mimic cultural transmission allowing for imitation, appropriation and combination.

The report includes a detailed case study of the Missing Maps project engages thousands of volunteers to map vulnerable areas for humanitarian intervention and disaster relief using satellite imagery and Openstreetmap, an open data-mapping platform. This is a powerful example of collective intelligence which allows us to analyse what are the prerequisites for new forms of collaboration.

We discuss the cognitive predisposition that allows humans to elaborate shared intentions, the characteristics of digital tools that support co-ordination across time and space, and the systems of governance that encourage the free transformation of knowledge.

The challenge is not only to create settings where people can share and communicate, but also to provide the means for knowledge to be made public, to be assembled, sedimented and reflected upon.


Stefana Broadbent and Mattia Gallotti   (School of Advanced Studies, University of London)


THE FULL PAPER CAN BE DOWNLOADED FROM:  http://www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/collective_intelligence.pdf

PS. It proves that ‘ Van Till’s Law ‘ DOES work: crux in this article is (1) people with very diverse (levels of) skills and expert knowledge contribute (2) into a flocking [1,2] fast shared learning group.

Jaap van Till, TheConnectivist

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