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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Four Internets | 'Communications of the ACM' article by Kieron O'Hara and Wendy Hall

Published: 3 March 2020
Photo by Umberto on Unsplash

The vision of an open Internet is characteristic of Silicon Valley's tech pioneers. The free and efficient flow of packets of bits requires decentralization to prevent bottlenecks occurring at the central points as the system scales, open standards to allow interoperability, and IP addresses to identify the correct destination.

We take this system for granted, but one does not need a very long memory to recall a time when IT was dominated by proprietary protocols like AppleTalk or DECnet, and when one could not easily send an email message from AOL to Prodigy. Yet the Internet has not simply improved—it has evolved into an open system as a result of philosophical and political decisions, as well as technical ones.

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