The Centripetal Network How the Internet Holds Itself Together, and the Forces Tearing it Apart
Kevin D. Werbach
University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School - Legal Studies Department
August 15, 2007
Contrary to the assumptions of most scholars, the Internet is not purely a decentralizing force. It is an inward-pulling, or “centripetal,” network, which encourages independent providers to federate around shared platforms. The Internet’s capacity to pull itself together helps explain how innovations emerge so powerfully on the network.
Despite its many benefits, the centripetal Internet is in danger. At every layer of functionality, tensions are developing in the finely-balanced arrangements that keep the Internet from turning into a fragmented assemblage of loosely connected yet distinct components. Appreciating the centripetal character of the network provides insights into the reasons for these developments, and sheds light on the proper responses.
The key to understanding how the Internet holds itself together, and how it may tear itself apart, lies in the emerging science of networks. A network science perspective illuminates how the very forces that helped make the Internet a ubiquitous platform threaten its continued vitality. Over the next several years, the fundamental challenge to the Net is not the heavy-handed impositions of overzealous regulators, nor the anti-competitive tactics of companies with market power, nor the sinister efforts of spammers, identity thieves, and virus writers. The greatest threat to the Internet is itself.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 64Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 17, 2012
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