Will your iPhone destroy the Internet?

“The rise of gadgets like the iPhone, Blackberry and Xbox threatens to unravel the decades of innovation that helped to build the Internet, a leading academic has warned in a new book,” Peter Griffiths reports via Reuters.

“Professor Jonathan Zittrain says the latest must-have devices are sealed, ‘sterile’ boxes that stifle creativity and turn consumers into passive users of technology,” Griffiths reports. “Unlike home computers, new Internet-enabled gadgets don’t lend themselves to the sort of tinkering and collaboration that leads to technological advances, he says.”

“Zittrain contrasts one of the first mass-produced home computers, the Apple II from the 1970s, with Apple’s latest gadget, the iPhone. He says the iPhone is typical of what he calls ‘tethered appliances,'” Griffiths reports. “‘They are appliances in that they are easy to use, while not easy to tinker with,’ he writes. ‘They are tethered because it is easy to for their vendors to change them from afar, long after the devices have left warehouses and showrooms.'”

“They are a world away from the ‘generative Internet,’ a term Zittrain uses to describe the open, creative, innovative approach that helped build the Internet,” Griffiths reports.

Full article here.

If Zittrain’s so smart, why hasn’t he changed his name?

The answer to the headline is an emphatic “No.”

66 Comments

  1. What a load of horseshit.

    From the same article:

    “The rise of viruses and fraud has also led to tighter controls on PCs, particularly those in schools, universities, offices and public places, Zittrain says.”

    He’s obviously never used an iPhone or a Mac.

  2. Hey, jackass, the iPhone and devices like will put the power of the internet in the hands of everyone on the planet. That power will transform this culture in ways that we have not dreamed about. The social aspects of these devices is staggering.

  3. This was obviously written before the release of the iPhone SDK, which promises to remove some of the “sterility” that he bemoans.

    As to the ability of a “box owner” like Apple, Microsoft or RIM to push updates to the consumer, I think on balance that most consider this a good thing in a time when people demand improved security and rapid update of features to their devices. I will admit this also can be abused – turning off “jailbroke” iPhones or Xbox’s hacked to run Linux being a couple of examples.

    How many “consumers” out there really are the sort of tinkerers that he says are being cut out of this opportunity to “advance”? Are they really going to let the evolution of things like Xboxes and iPhones stop them? The number of threads about jailbreaking iPhones seems to indicate….”no”?

  4. Publish or perish. This guy published and his idea will probably perish.

    There is lots of room for various devices. Recently, the public likes Apple products better than just about anything else.

    But then that’s the result of a free market, not a tenure system.

  5. The iPhone will surely break the InturWebby. The iPhone will remove all those beautiful IE-only sites. Surely, Gatesy and Ballmsy can fix the problem. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”raspberry” style=”border:0;” />

  6. @twodales
    “Hey, jackass, the iPhone and devices like will put the power of the internet in the hands of everyone on the planet. That power will transform this culture in ways that we have not dreamed about. The social aspects of these devices is staggering.”

    We just don’t know if the change will be for good or bad yet.And we won’t know until the change happens.

  7. Marshall McLuhan would have identified the iPhone and the other devices mentioned as hot media. they are definitely interactive and compelling. They are totally different from the TV which is a cool medium and does not demand interaction.

    Certainly the iPhone brings a very high level of interaction including the ability to create and distribute new software for its use in an easy and very accessible manner. This feature alone will spur incredible creativity in how people interact and use information.

    It’s very exciting!!

    This guy’s just trying to get an audience by being a naysayer!

  8. His argument is ridiculous because devices like the iPhone aren’t <i>replacing/i> computers, they’re being used in addition to them. The tinkering that has always gone on will continue to go on.

  9. I read this article a few days ago and re-read it just now. It’s not that I disagree with this guy – I just don’t even begin to understand what he’s talking about. What’s more, I don’t think he does either.

    “Unlike home computers, new Internet-enabled gadgets don’t lend themselves to the sort of tinkering and collaboration that leads to technological advances, he says.

    OK? But if I can’t tinker with my iPhone, how does that affect the internet? And even if tinkering with my iPhone was in some way relevant to internet innovation, it’s not like computers and other devices that we can “tinker” with are going away.

    Does this article even begin to make sense?

  10. How do people like this actually become Professors of anything, when their intelligence is well south of a 6th form debating society. Most of the innovation on the PC was/is done by Apple, or on the Apple platform despite it being argued time and again this was a ‘tied’ platform. The so called ‘open’ platform that is windows has simply stagnated or copied the more innovative platform that is the Mac. equally all the tinkering has led to it as experts are beginning to recognise a bloated fur ball of an operating system that actually fears real innovation for the damage it can do to its innards. The iPhone has already innovated more in its short life span than mobile phones have in many many years. Sometimes it actually really helps to open your eyes before your mouth.

  11. This guy’s thinking is very short-sighted. I would agree that if desktop and laptop computers vanished tomorrow, that yes, the internet would suffer if the only way to access or design for it was with iPhones or other mobile devices.

    But that’s not going to happen — just like these people who say that the desktop computer will not exist in 10 years are thinking with half a brain cell. That’s bull.

    There will always be a need for the desktop. There will always be a need for the laptop — even as it’s form factor changes. And now there will be very good reason to have the internet in your pocket, too. They overlap, folks. None completely threatens the demise of the other.

    In fact, taken together, a beautiful desktop (iMac, perhaps), with a gorgeous ultra-portable (Macbook Air, anyone) and a small multimedia device (ahem, iPhone, ahem, Touch) is one hell of a great 1-2-3 punch.

    The internet is going to be more than fine. In the U.S., all we really need is better broadband and wireless. THAT’s what is stifling innovation here.

  12. Does he not understand that most iPhone owners ALSO have computers that are “tinkerable”? iPhones promote more people using the internet, or using it more often than just at their computers. That provides the demand for tinkerers. There is also the fact that people that tinker, do so because they enjoy it. They will still tinker. What about the kid that cracked the iPhone shortly after it was released? People are going to open and tinker with even the “closed, sterile boxes” that Apple and RIMM don’t want you tinker with. “kill the internet”….Creative people MADE the iPhone. Creativity cannot be killed by the iPhone. It will probably inspire creativity, even “in the internet”.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.