The Common Pool quadrant is about positive “generative” and “distributed & decentralized” properties. Opportunity and growth abound (generative) and there are no insurmountable barriers to entry for those wishing to take part (decentralized and distributed). Disputes and challenges are resolved through competition, as opposed to negotiation or inherited rights. This quadrant is about constant evolution, and it features a healthy ecosystem. That ecosystem – the interlinked network operators, developers, infrastructure providers, resource management organizations, etc. – is the key to the generative nature of this quadrant. Organization and operation tends to be “horizontal”, not “vertical”, so that the underlying building blocks (technologies, networks, etc.) are available to all to build upon. The “win” for the Internet is that it retains the ability to react and respond to new requirements.
Factors driving towards this scenario
Driving forces that lead the Internet into this quadrant are competition and desire to leverage the benefits of economies of scale (in open development and interoperable systems). Players feel in control of their own destiny because they have the ability to rebuild their future if need be (evolve, innovate).
Factors attracting away from this scenario
Forces that pull the future of the Internet away from this quadrant include concerns about loss of control of one’s destiny (national, commercial, personal) and attempts to preserve individuals (rather than the population).
In the beginning there were many networks, and they worked to hook up together so that diverse endpoints could connect, pass traffic, coordinate, share data. The network was more than the sum of its parts – it included the results of efforts by the operators who thought making connections (physical, software, or communication) in the middle of the night was fun in its own right. It’s not that they were altruistic, so much as they were playing, and the opportunity for New and Exciting abounded. Management could go ahead and make whatever decisions they wanted, but Root ruled the roost. When one operator got lazy and wrote a script to search anonymous FTP archives for files of interest, others caught wind of it and asked for the data, and scripts – the Internet’s first search engine, and one of its first commercial activities, was born. When another technical person, across the ocean, needed to find a way to allow researchers to publish and share research activities, a method of linking remote files was created – the result was a pragmatic solution to a common problem. All of these people found common cause in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – a rough and ready group of engineers tinkering with the running code of the Internet.
By 2009, the proportion of technical people “playing” with the Internet was dwarfed by people building networks for Serious Business. “Where,” they asked, “is The Plan?”
Perceiving none, by 2012 they brushed aside these amateur efforts, claiming Methodology was more important. They flocked to more conventional business meetings, and built roadmaps and technologies by pushing blocks and lines around PowerPoint diagrams. “Network architecture can be expressed in bubble diagrams!” they cried, “so if we edit the bubbles, we’re adjusting network architecture,” they concluded. They lobbied governments, near and far – “it’s in the best interests of your citizens; we’ll organize it all.”
When concerns were raised about the possibility of locking out new entrants and opportunities for innovation, they were brushed off by Industry Experts, “There is nothing new to be developed in the Internet now. All that remains is more and more precise service implementation.”
Over the course of the next three years, all eyes were focused on the major incumbents, who were demonstrating their prowess by developing multi-tiered deployment plans for the Future Network, resolving known issues through hard-fought negotiations between powerful industry players.
And: nothing happened.
Incumbents deployed the bubble-diagrammed technologies to great fanfare and little effect. Notably, each network’s implementation varied just-ever-so-slightly from their competitors’, so interoperation failed at all but the most basic (existing) levels.
In the meantime, the plain folks, who’d been too busy working out the algebras of trust transitivity and the core scaling issues of existing network technologies to attend these multi-week suit-sessions, had scaled new heights of finessing technology and developed ugly-but-functional approaches to critical problems with the Internet. Created by open, collaborative process, and published in freely-accessible documents, new entrants to the Internet (networking and applications/services) seized these tools to build the Next Big Thing. It wasn’t pretty; it didn’t flash; it wasn’t intellectually or aesthetically impressive. It just worked. And solved an existing problem. So the new entrants handed the incumbents their lunch (again). Cognoscenti hid out in their basements, firing up creaky VHS players to listen to David Lynch’s sage giant from “Twin Peaks” – “It is happening… again.”
There was much upheaval, wailing and gnashing of teeth, appeal to governments for redress (or at least a bailout), some failed, some adjusted, and many applied the newest economic fad, acquiring the customers and assets of the new entrants through corporate “leveraged lease-to-buy” options.
Meanwhile, as the network and service operators thrashed each other in pursuit of larger market share, network users reveled in the new opportunities afforded them by innovations from all corners of the globe. Retirees took language courses by video connection with independent teachers in other parts of the globe. The established music industry was left in the dust as independent artists networked to promote their collective music activities.
There still was no master plan and were no guarantees. In the end, the power of global evolution, favouring the success of the population over the preservation of the individual, prevailed. Constant innovation is here to stay. Trying to fix things in place is like trying to fix a peg in an ice dam: it might appear to be fixed, but constant incremental shifts are always driving (powerfully) in a new direction. Ride that wave, or be left out in the cold.