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IP: Meaning at the end points
More IP comments from Bob Frankston, including his feelings about legislative involvement, along with my comments about his statement of IP connectivity.
Here are some excerpts from an email from Bob Frankston where he lays out his feelings about government regulation of the Internet and what the Internet is, followed by some of my comments.

What frightens me about governance is that it is indeed a form of code, it's even called a code. The difference is that rules of governance represent undebugged, often very badly written, code. And, unlike computer programs, the basic concept of hard science -- testability --- doesn't apply. When the two meet in the regulation of code, the regulation of cyberspace and the regulation of Internet, the damage can be considerable. In fact, as David [Reed] has pointed out, there is no such thing as the Internet. It's just a term we used for the set of systems that happen to use a particular set of conventions for exchanging packets and is defined by usage not by any fixed set of systems.
In the long term I believe that the basic concept of creating meaning at the end points while commoditizing the connections between them is very powerful and unstoppable. But in the near term, there can be a lot of damage and frustration...
...The opportunity is to build upon the examination of what happens when our legal system meets this new frontier. In the long term we need to rethink everything.

I think Bob's definition of the Internet as "creating meaning at the end points while commoditizing the connections between them" helps you understand its organic growth and evolution. It makes it possible for extremely rapid and diverse innovation. Keeping this ability is crucial to society exploiting the potential of telecommunications and computer technology.

It contrasts with the old way of creating telecommunications based services/applications/etc. by implementing the needs of a particular application through customization at the end points and also in all the connections between them. For example, television has cameras, studios, transmitters, receivers, etc., all tuned to a particular application, knowing its details (525 lines interlaced with audio for all programs in the USA, etc.). Innovation in TV requires reimplementation of all the pieces from camera to screen. Contrast that with the Internet where my ISP and the IP stack in my PC don't know if I'm using an HTML 2.0 browser, doing transactions with XML, streaming out RealAudio, sharing a whiteboard with Netmeeting, or creating a VPN to let a local program access a disk remotely. Only the end points care. Innovation can happen in a weekend with just some code at the end points. That's why Tim Berners-Lee could create the basis of the World Wide Web himself so quickly and easily, and others could try it without billions in infrastructure modifications. Compare that to the attempt to just upgrade the resolution of television with HDTV.

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