Internet Architecture and Innovation

  • Published

Internet Architecture and Innovation by Barbara van Schewick. MIT Press, 2010, 592 pp.

Each Airman is charged with understanding and anticipating changes in the Air Force’s operating environment. Perhaps no environment is currently more challenging than cyberspace. Thankfully, Barbara van Schewick’s Internet Architecture and Innovation provides a comprehensive evaluation of the Internet, skillfully examining its critical components and delving into why much of our interaction with cyberspace is shaped the way it is. This informative text educates both the informed and lay reader and serves as an authoritative resource for examining current and future cyber issues.

Van Schewick’s unique expertise as an associate professor of both law and electrical engineering at Stanford University allows her to expertly weave technical, legal, and economic decomposition and synthesis of the Internet’s architecture and highlight its impact as a driver of global development and innovation. One of the most valuable and critical elements of the book is the time and detail she dedicates to developing a baseline understanding of the origin of this architecture and the basis of its design. Most critically, the author educates readers on Internet design principles, modularity, layering, and both narrow and broad versions of the end-to-end arguments. Understanding such arguments or how functions are divided between the source and destination of a network is especially critical because the placement of functions has significant impact on innovation. Van Schewick argues that deviation from the broad version of the end-to-end argument is one of the most significant factors affecting economic incentive for innovation over the Internet. Additionally, because of her focus on design principles, several aspects of her analysis transcend the immediate subject of the effect of Internet architecture on innovation and offer universal lessons for leaders to improve innovation within their own organizations.

Reading Internet Architecture and Innovation is an investment that both technical and nontechnical readers should make to better understand the principles and debates that form the way information, money, and ideas are shared today and in the future. Readers with only casual familiarity with the Internet and its design concepts will likely find this study initially challenging and will have to reread several passages. However, van Schewick’s meticulous and clear building-block approach permits readers with a limited technical background to understand the rules and debates about one of the most critical elements of global interaction. As the Air Force continues to seek ways to create operations within the cyber domain, Internet Architecture and Innovation provides an invaluable resource for understanding the design principles that shape the domain.

Capt Kyle B. Bressette, USAF

Nellis AFB, Nevada

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."