|Multi-Stakeholder Public Policy Governance and its Application to the Internet Governance Forum|
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Although it has already been observed that the Internet is more than a technical artifact, but also (and perhaps more importantly) a social phenomenon, the reason for the technical focus of the preceding introduction to the Internet’s early structure and protocols is that the technical and social are closely interrelated. After all, the architecture of the Internet—the physical design of the network and the manner in which communications traverse it—was shaped by the ethos of the hackers who developed it. They created an Internet that featured:
decentralisation (a flat, peer-to-peer network topology that distributed network intelligence, and resisted centralised monitoring and intervention—reflecting its designers’ preference for decentralisation and autonomy over hierarchy and control);
interactivity (a default policy of unrestricted bidirectional access between hosts through design principles such as “end-to-end connectivity,” thus maximising its capacity for the exchange of information, in line with the Hacker Ethic);
openness (the use of freely available tools and protocols that empowered the individual Internet user to communicate and publish information without the intermediation of third parties such as media outlets or governments);
anonymity (the absence of built-in authentication mechanisms either in the transport or network layer (eg. in TCP/IP) or the application layer (eg. in SMTP, the email protocol), which were not only unnecessary within a mutually trusting community, but also fostered anonymity and privacy);
cosmopolitanism (addressing and routing protocols that cut across boundaries of geography and politics, as its founders collaborated across state and later national boundaries when designing the network);
egalitarianism (the absence of any framework for certain users to be assigned elevated rights or privileges on the network); and
resilience (routing intelligence built into the network that impeded attempts at censorship, in accordance with its designers’ iconoclasticism and distrust of authority). As John Gilmore of the EFF is attributed as saying, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”
The Internet promoted these values not merely through its culture, but through its very design, which embedded engineering principles that reflected the values of its designers, who had “hardwired their way of life in the Internet architecture.” This produced an innate congruence between the technical and the social architecture (or culture) of the Internet.
This can also be, but is not universally, conveyed by the term “net neutrality”: Mueller, Milton, Net Neutrality as Global Principal for Internet Governance (2007).
See further Section 126.96.36.199 for a disambiguation of the meaning of “free” in this context.
For a more comprehensive list of the architectural features of the Internet, see IETF, Architectural Principles of the Internet (1996).