Talk About Scale!

So here’s the most interesting thing I’ve come across in 2012**. . . As anyone who reads what I write here or elsewhere knows, I am obsessed with trying to understand Internet scale. I am convinced — and it was Jefferson, interestingly enough, who convinced me — that it is simply impossible to understand any questions about Internet law and policy without considering the extraordinary and unprecedented magnitude of Internet activity. The TCP/IP network had to solve a number of very profound scaling problems before it could perform the tasks it now performs — 700,000 Google searches, 11 million IM conversations, 1 million Facebook status updates, etc. etc., every minute of every day, more content posted to YouTube every month (probably, by now, every 3 weeks or so) than the combined output of all US television networks since their inception in the 1940s, etc. — and the idea that our legal system, and the 19th and 20th century tools it contains, can somehow magically “scale up” to work well on the Net is, frankly, laughable — though I try to keep a straight face when respected colleagues and friends propound it.

It’s why the current brouhaha about the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) (see my previous posts here and here) is so important. The regulators have started to understand scale, and the solutions they’ve come up with — law enforcement via the domain name system — is positively chilling. If that’s the best we can do, we’re in trouble.

** Actually, it’s not the most interesting thing I’ve come across in 2012; the most interesting thing I’ve come across in 2012 is here.

[and thanks to J. Lewis for the pointer]