Openness is a feature, not a bug

Today’s Observer column.

Openness is what makes the internet what it is. It enabled Tim Berners-Lee to dream up the web and release it on an unsuspecting world without seeking anyone’s permission. It’s also what enabled the guys who invented Skype to use the network as a carrier for voice communications, again without seeking administrative approval. But the same openness is what enabled Sean Fanning to launch peer-to-peer file sharing on the music industry. And of course it’s what enabled the sinister Eastern European crooks of Markoff’s nightmares to unleash the Conficker.B worm, with who knows what consequences.

So we’re stuck with the trade-off between the creativity, innovation – and, yes, insecurity – that comes with openness; and the security – and stagnation – that comes with a tightly-controlled network. Which do we prefer? You only have to look at the data traffic for web pages and file sharing to know the answer.