The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society / Edition 1 available in Paperback
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- Oxford University Press, USA
Manuel Castells is one of the world's leading thinkers on the new information age, hailed by The Economist as "the first significant philosopher of cyberspace," and by Christian Science Monitor as "a pioneer who has hacked out a logical, well-documented, and coherent picture of early 21st century civilization, even as it rockets forward largely in a blur." Now, in The Internet Galaxy, this brilliantly insightful writer speculates on how the Internet will change our lives.
Castells believes that we are "entering, full speed, the Internet Galaxy, in the midst of informed bewilderment." His aim in this exciting and profound work is to help us to understand how the Internet came into being, and how it is affecting every area of human lifefrom work, politics, planning and development, media, and privacy, to our social interaction and life in the home. We are at ground zero of the new network society. In this book, its major commentator reveals the Internet's huge capacity to liberate, but also its ability to marginalize and exclude those who do not have access to it. Castells provides no glib solutions, but asks us all to take responsibility for the future of this new information age.
The Internet is becoming the essential communication and information medium in our society, and stands alongside electricity and the printing press as one of the greatest innovations of all time. The Internet Galaxy offers an illuminating look at how this new technology will influence business, the economy, and our daily lives.
About the Author
Manuel Castells is Professor of Planning and Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He has also been a visiting professor in fifteen universities in Europe, North America, Asia, and Latin America and has published twenty-one books, including the acclaimed trilogy The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, which has been translated into fourteen languages.
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Lessons from the
History of the Internet
The story of the creation and development of the Internet is one of an extraordinary human adventure. It highlights people's capacity to transcend institutional goals, overcome bureaucratic barriers, and subvert established values in the process of ushering in a new world. It also lends support to the view that cooperation and freedom of information may be more conducive to innovation than competition and proprietary rights. I shall not recount this saga, since there are several good chronicles available to the reader (Abbate, 1999; Naughton, 1999). Instead, I will focus on what seem to be the critical lessons we can distill from the processes that led to the formation of the Internet, from the building of the ARPANET in the 1960s to the explosion of the world wide web in the 1990s. Indeed, the historical production of a given technology shapes its content and uses in ways that last beyond its original inception, and the Internet is no exception to this rule. The history of the Internet helps us to understand the paths of its future history-making. However, before embarking on interpretation, to simplify the reader's task, I will summarize the main events that led to the constitution of the Internet in its current form; that is, as a global network of computer networks made user-friendly by the world wide web, an application running on top of the Internet.
The History of the Internet, 1962-1995: An Overview
The origins of the Internet are to be found in ARPANET, a computer network set up by the Advanced Research ProjectsAgency (ARPA) in September 1969. ARPA was formed in 1958 by the Defense Department of the United States with the task of mobilizing research resources, particularly from the university world, toward building technological military superiority over the Soviet Union in the wake of the launching of the first Sputnik in 1957. ARPANET was only a minor program emerging from one of ARPA's departments, the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), established in 1962 on the basis of a pre-existing unit. The aim of this department, as defined by its first director, Joseph Licklider, a psychologist turned computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was to stimulate research in interactive computing. As part of this effort, the building of ARPANET was justified as a way of sharing computing time on-line between various computer centers and research groups working for the agency.
To build an interactive computer network, IPTO relied on a revolutionary telecommunications transmission technology, packet switching, developed independently by Paul Baran at Rand Corporation (a Californian think-tank often working for the Pentagon) and by Donald Davies at the British National Physical Laboratory. Baran's design of a decentralized, flexible communication network was a proposal from the Rand Corporation to the Defense Department to build a military communications system able to survive a nuclear attack, although this was never the goal behind the development of ARPANET. IPTO used this packet-switching technology in the design of ARPANET. The first nodes of the network in 1969 were at the University of California, Los Angeles, SRI (Stanford Research Institute), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. In 1971, there were fifteen nodes, most of them university research centers. The design of ARPANET was implemented by Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), a Boston engineering acoustics firm converted into applied computer science, which was founded by MIT professors, and usually staffed by MIT and Harvard scientists and engineers. In 1972, the first successful demonstration of ARPANET took place at an international conference in Washington, DC.
The next step was to make ARPANET's connection with other computer networks possible, starting with the communication networks that ARPA was managing, PRNET and SATNET. This introduced a new concept: a network of networks. In 1973, two computer scientists, Robert Kahn, from ARPA, and Vint Cerf, then at Stanford University, wrote a paper outlining the basic Internet architecture. They built on the efforts of the Network Working Group, a cooperative technical group formed in the 1960s by representatives from the various computer centers linked by ARPANET, including Cerf himself, Steve Crocker, and Jori Postel, among others. For computer networks to talk to each other they needed standardized communication protocols. This was partly accomplished in 1973, at a Stanford seminar, by a group led by Cerf, Gerard Lelann (from the French Cyclades research group), and Robert Metcalfe (then at Xerox PARC), with the design of the transmission control protocol (TCP). In 1978 Cerf, Postel, and Crocker, working at the University of Southern California, split TCP into two parts, adding an inter-network protocol (IP), yielding the TCP/IP protocol, the standard on which the Internet still operates today. However, ARPANET continued for some time to operate on a different protocol, NCP.
In 1975, ARPANET was transferred to the Defense Communication Agency (DCA). In order to make computer communication available to different branches of the armed forces, the DCA decided to create a connection between various networks under its control. It established a Defense Data Network, operating on TCP/IP protocols. In 1983 the Defense Department, concerned about possible security breaches, decided to create a separate MILNET network for specific military uses. ARPANET became ARPA-INTERNET, and was dedicated to research. In 1984, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) set up its own computer communications network, NSFNET, and in 1988 it started using ARPA-INTERNET as its backbone.
In February 1990 ARPANET, technologically obsolete, was decommissioned. Thereafter, having released the Internet from its military environment, the US government charged the National Science Foundation with its management. But NSF's control of the Net was short-lived. With computer networking technology in the public domain, and telecommunications in full deregulation, NSF quickly proceeded with the privatization of the Internet. The Defense Department had decided earlier to commercialize Internet technology, financing US computer manufacturers to include TCP/IP in their protocols in the 1980s. By 1990 most computers in America had networking capabilities, laying the ground for the diffusion of inter-networking. In 1995 NSFNET was shut down, opening the way for the private operation of the Internet.
In the early 1990s a number of Internet service providers built their own networks and set up their own gateways on a commercial basis. Thereafter, the Internet grew rapidly as a global network of computer networks. This was made possible by the original design of ARPANET, based on a multi-layered, decentralized architecture, and open communication protocols. Under these conditions the Net was able to expand by the addition of new nodes and endless reconfiguration of the network to accommodate communication needs.
Nonetheless, ARPANET was not the only source of the Internet as we know it today. The current shape of the Internet is also the outcome of a grassroots tradition of computer networking. One component of this tradition was the bulletin board systems (BBS) movement that sprung from the networking of PCs in the late 1970s. In 1977, two Chicago students, Ward Christensen and Randy Suess, wrote a program, which they called MODEM, enabling the transfer of files between their PCs, and in 1978 another program, the Computer Bulletin Board System, which made it possible for PCs to store and transmit messages. They released both programs into the public domain. In 1983, Tom Jennings, a programmer, then working in California, created his own BBS program, FIDO, and started a network of BBSs, FIDONET. FIDONET is still the cheapest, most accessible computer communication network in the world, relying on PCs and calls over standard telephone lines. In 2000, it comprised over 40,000 nodes and about 3 million users. Although this represented only a tiny fraction of total Internet use, the practice of BBSs and the culture exemplified by FIDONET were influential factors in the configuration of the global Internet.
In 1981, Ira Fuchs, at the City University of New York, and Greydon Freeman, of Yale University, started an experimental network on the basis of IBM RJE protocol, thus building a network for IBM users, mainly university based, which came to be known as BITNET ("Because it's there," referring to the IBM slogan; it also stood for "Because it's time"). When IBM stopped funding in 1986, users' fees supported the network. It still lists 30,000 active nodes.
A decisive trend in computer networking emerged from the community of UNIX users. UNIX is an operating system developed at Bell Laboratories, and released by Bell to the universities in 1974, including its source code and permission to alter the source. UNIX became the lingua franca of most computer science departments, and students soon became adept at its manipulation. Then, in 1978 Bell distributed its UUCP program (UNIX-to-UNIX copy) allowing computers to copy files from each other. On the basis of UUCP, in 1979, four students in North Carolina (Truscott, Ellis, Bellavin, and Rockwell) designed a program for communication between UNIX computers. An improved version of this program was distributed freely at a UNIX users' conference in 1980. This allowed the formation of computer communication networks, Usenet News, outside the ARPANET backbone, thus considerably broadening the practice of computer communication.
In the summer of 1980 Usenet News reached the computer science department of the University of California, Berkeley, where there was a brilliant group of graduate students (including Mark Horton and Bill Joy) working on adaptations and applications of UNIX. As Berkeley was an ARPANET node, this group of students developed a program to bridge the two networks. From then on, Usenet became linked to ARPANET, the two traditions gradually merged, and various computer networks became able to communicate with each other, often sharing the same backbone (courtesy of a university). These networks eventually came together as the Internet.
Another major development resulting from the UNIX users' tradition was the "open source movement"a deliberate attempt to keep access to all information about software systems open. I shall analyze in more detail, in Chapter 2, the open source movement, and the hackers' culture, as essential trends in the social and technical shaping of the Internet. But I need to refer briefly to it in this summary account of the sequence of events that led to the formation of the Internet. In 1984, a programmer at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Richard Stallman, reacting against the decision by ATT to claim proprietary rights to UNIX, launched the Free Software Foundation, proposing to substitute "copyleft" for copyright. By "copyleft" it is understood that anyone using software that had been made freely available should, in return, distribute over the Net the improved code. Stallman created an operating system, GNU, as an alternative to UNIX, and he posted it on the Net under a license that allowed its use on the condition of respecting the copyleft clause.
Putting this principle into practice, in 1991, Linus Torvalds, a 22-year-old student at the University of Helsinki, developed a new UNIX-based operating system, called Linux, and distributed it freely on the Internet, asking users to improve it and to post their improvements back on the Net. The result of this initiative was the development of a robust Linux operating system, constantly upgraded by the work of thousands of hackers and millions of users, to the point that Linux is now widely considered one of the most advanced operating systems in the world, particularly for Internet-based computing. Other groups of cooperative software development based on open source sprung from the UNIX users' culture. Thus, in the year 2001, over 60 percent of world wide web servers in the world were running on Apache, which is an open source server program developed by a cooperative network of UNIX programmers.
What made it possible for the Internet to embrace the world at large was the development of the world wide web. This is an information-sharing application developed in 1990 by an English programmer, Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN, the Geneva-based, European high-energy physics research center. Although he was not personally aware of it (Berners-Lee, 1999: 5), Berners-Lee's work continued a long tradition of ideas and technical projects that, for the previous half-century, had imagined the possibility of linking up information sources via interactive computing. Vannevar Bush proposed his Memex system in 1945. Douglas Engelbart designed his On-Line System, including graphics interface and the mouse, working from his Augmentation Research Center in the San Francisco Bay area, and he first demonstrated it in 1968. Ted Nelson, a radical, independent thinker, envisioned a hypertext of interlinked information in his 1965 Computer Lib manifesto, and worked for many years on the creation of a utopian system, Xanadu: an open, self-evolving hypertext aimed at linking all the planet's information, past, present, and future. Bill Atkinson, the author of the graphics interface of the Macintosh, developed a HyperCard system of interlinking information while working at Apple Computers in the 1980s.
But it was Berners-Lee who brought all these dreams into reality, building on the Enquire program he had written in 1980. Of course, his decisive advantage was that the Internet already existed, and he could find support on the Internet and rely on decentralized computer power via workstations: utopias could now materialize. He defined and implemented the software that made it possible to retrieve and contribute information from and to any computer connected via the Internet: HTTP, HTML, and URI (later called URL). In cooperation with Robert Cailliau, Berners-Lee built a browser/editor program in December 1990, and named this hypertext system the world wide web (www). The www browser software was released by CERN over the Net in August 1991. A number of hackers from around the world set themselves up to develop their own browsers, on the basis of Berners-Lee's work. The first modified version was Erwise, developed at the Helsinki Institute of Technology in April 1992. Soon after, Viola, at the University of California, Berkeley, produced his own adaptation.
The most product-oriented of these modified versions of www was Mosaic, designed by a student, Marc Andreessen, and a staff member, Eric Bina, at the University of Illinois's National Center for Supercomputer Applications. They incorporated into Mosaic an advanced graphics capability, so that images could be retrieved and distributed over the Internet, as well as a number of interface techniques imported from the multimedia world. They publicized their software on the Usenet in January 1993. Thereafter, Andreessen took a programming job in a small firm at Palo Alto. While there, he was contacted by a leading Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Jim Clark, who was leaving the company he had founded, Silicon Graphics, looking for new business adventures. He recruited Andreessen, Bina, and their co-workers to form a new company, Mosaic Communications, which was later compelled to change its name to Netscape Communications. The company posted on the Net the first commercial browser, Netscape Navigator, in October 1994, and shipped the first product on December 15, 1994. In 1995, they released Navigator software over the Net free for educational uses, and at a cost of 39 dollars for business.
After the success of Navigator, Microsoft finally discovered the Internet, and in 1995, together with its Windows 95 software, introduced its own browser, Internet Explorer, based on technology developed by a small company, Spyglass. Other commercial browsers were developed, such as Navipress, used by America On Line for a while. Furthermore, in 1995, Sun Microsystems designed Java, a programming language that allowed applications programs ("applets") to travel between computers over the Internet, so enabling computers to run programs downloaded from the Internet safely. Sun released Java software free on the Internet, expanding the realm of web applications, and Netscape included Java in its Navigator browser. In 1998, to counter Microsoft's competition, Netscape released over the Net the source code for Navigator.
Thus, by the mid-1990s, the Internet was privatized, its technical, open architecture allowed the networking of all computer networks anywhere in the world, the world wide web could function on adequate software, and several user-friendly browsers were available to the public. While the Internet had begun in the minds of computer scientists in the early 1960s, a computer communication network had been established in 1969, and distributed computing, interactive communities of scientists and hackers had sprung up from the late 1970s, for most people, for business, and for society at large, the Internet was born in 1995. But it was born with the marks of a history whose analytically relevant features I shall now emphasize and interpret.
The Unlikely Formula: Big Science, Military Research, and the Culture of Freedom
First of all, the Internet was born at the unlikely intersection of big science, military research, and libertarian culture. Major research universities and defense-related think-tanks were essential meeting points between these three sources of the Internet. ARPANET originated in the US Defense Department, but its military applications were secondary to the project. IPTO's main concern was to fund computer science in the United States, letting scientists do their work, and hoping something interesting would come out of it. Baran's design was indeed a military-oriented proposal. It played an important role in the building of ARPANET because of its packet-switching technology, and because it inspired a communications architecture based on the three principles on which the Internet still operates today: a decentralized network structure; distributed computing power throughout the nodes of the network; and redundancy of functions in the network to minimize the risk of disconnection. These features embodied the key answer to military needs for survivability of the system: flexibility, absence of a command center, and maximum autonomy of each node.
While all this sounds very much like military strategy, the catch here is that Baran's proposal was rejected by the Pentagon, and no one ever tried to implement it. In fact, some sources suggest that ARPA did not know of Baran's 1964 publications on "distributed networks" until Roger Scantlebury, a British researcher who had been working on similar technologies, brought them to the attention of IPTO's director at a symposium in Tennessee in October 1967 (Naughton, 1999: 129-31). Baran's concepts were critical for the building of ARPANET, but this experimental network was built with a non-military purpose by the scientists working at and around ARPA (Abbate, 1999).
What their purpose was is in fact unclear, besides the general aim of developing computer networking. The explicit goal was to optimize the use of expensive computer resources by on-line time-sharing between computer centers. Yet, the cost of computing quickly came down, and time-sharing was no longer a major need. The most popular use of the network was electronic mail, an application first developed by Ray Tomlinson, a programmer at BBN, in July 1970. It is still the most widely used application on today's Internet. What the evidence suggests is that IPTO was used by computer scientists at the cutting edge of a new field (computer networking) to fund computer science throughout the university research system, so that, in the 1960s and 1970s, most funding for computer science research in the United States came from ARPA (it was still the case in 2000).
A network of talented scientists and engineers (among them Joseph Licklider, Ivan Sutherland, Lawrence Roberts, Leonard Kleinrock, Robert Taylor, Alex McKenzie, Frank Heart, and Robert Kahn) was formed over time, then expanded with the help of a generation of outstanding young researchers, particularly Vinton Cerf, Stephen Crocker, and Jon Postel, students of Kleinrock at UCLA. The original nucleus of ARPANET designers came mainly from MIT, including one of MIT's spin-off companies, BBN (initially working on acoustics!), and from the Lincoln National Laboratory, a major military-oriented research facility in the shadow of MIT. Key members of the network (among others Roberts, Kleinrock, Heart, and Kahn) were graduates of MIT. But academics from other research universities also became part of this informal, yet exclusive club of computer scientists, particularly from UCLA, where Kleinrock, one of the leading theoreticians in the field, was teaching, as well as from Stanford, Harvard, the University of Utah, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of California at Berkeley.
These researchers/designers circulated in and out of ARPA, research universities, and quasi-academic think-tanks, such as RAND, SRI, and BBN. They were protected by the visionary directors of IPTO, among whom were Joseph Licklider and Robert Taylor. IPTO enjoyed considerable freedom in managing and funding this network because the Defense Department had entrusted ARPA with autonomous judgment about how to stimulate technological research in key areas without suffocating creativity and independence, a strategy that eventually paid off in terms of superiority in military technology. But ARPANET was not one of these military technologies. It was an arcane, experimental project whose actual content was never fully understood by the overseeing congressional committees. Once ARPANET was set up, and new, younger recruits came to IPTO in the 1970s, there was a more focused, deliberate effort to create what would be the Internet. Kahn and Cerf clearly intended so, and designed an architecture, and the corresponding protocols, to allow the network to evolve as an open system of computer communication, able to reach out to the whole world.
So, ARPANET, the main source of what ultimately became the Internet, was not an unintended consequence of a research program going sideways. It was envisioned, deliberately designed, and subsequently managed by a determined group of computer scientists with a shared mission that had little to do with military strategy. It was rooted in a scientific dream to change the world through computer communication, although some of the participants in the group were content with just fostering good computer science. In accordance with the university research tradition, ARPANET's creators involved graduate students in the core design functions of the network, in an atmosphere of totally relaxed security. This included the use of ARPANET for students' personal chats and, reportedly, discussions about marijuana procurement opportunities. The most popular electronic mailing list in ARPANET was SF-Lovers for the use of science fiction fans. Furthermore, the transition to the civilian Internet, and then to its privatization, was managed by the National Science Foundation, with the cooperation of the academic community of computer scientists that had developed over the years around IPTO. Many of these scientists ended up working for major corporations in the 1990s.
Excerpted from THE INTERNET GALAXY by Manuel Castells. Copyright © 2001 by Manuel Castells. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
1. Lessons from the History of the Internet
2. The Internet Culture
3. E-business and the New Economy
4. Virtual Communities or Network Society?
5. The Politics of the Internet (I): Computer Networks, Civil Society, and the State
6. The Politics of the Internet (II): Privacy and Liberty in Cyberspace
7. Multimedia and the Internet: The Hypertext beyond Convergence
8. The Geography of the Internet: Networked Places
9. The Digital Divide in Global Perspective
10. Conclusion: The Challenges of the Network Society