By Arnold Kling
Certain protocols, and the parameters required for their usage, are essential in order to operate on the Internet. A number of bodies have become responsible for those protocol standards and parameters. It can be fairly said that those bodies steer the Internet in a significant sense. This document is a summary of those bodies and their most important characteristics.
The bodies belong to three major nexuses. Links, both formal and informal, exist between the nexuses.
It is tempting to think of the Internet’s success as being technologically determined–the triumph of packet-switched networks over circuit-switched networks. However, do not under-rate the Internet’s governance structure as a factor. I remember in 1993 hearing Vinton Cerf describe the way that engineering task forces emerged to address problems and then faded away when the problems were solved. I remember thinking how marvelous this was–that governing agencies put themselves out of business once their functions were complete. How unlike actual government.
I am generally anti-elitist. However, Cerf and the other engineering elite came up with a brilliant governance structure for the Internet, which has made it remarkably robust. I compare it to the American elite of 1787, who came up with a robust governance structure enshrined in the Constitution.
Elites who want to micro-manage are dangerous. Elites who design architectures for decentralized, flexible governance systems are a blessing.
Thanks to Ian of Truck and Barter for the pointer.
For Discussion. Is the proposed constitution for the European Union another instanace of elegant architecture?