April 13, 2024

Painters Buy White Canvases for a Reason

Wendy Seltzer (pointing to Ross Mayfield) quotes Verisign CEO Stratton Sclavos as saying, “We have to move the complexity back into the center of the network and remove it from the edge.” As even mid-level netheads know, this is the antithesis of the Internet’s design – the Internet approach is to put intelligence at the edge of the network. Here’s Wendy:

Painters buy white canvases for a reason. The Internet has succeeded as a platform for innovation because its architecture does not preempt its uses; instead, the stupid network offers a neutral background for line drawing, oil painting, and collage. Sure a grid on the blank canvas would help those making mechanical drawings at the right scale, but it’s just noise to the rest, who now need to paint an extra layer to cover it up. Complexity built into the network (such as a search engine that responds to every nonexistent domain name query [i.e., Verisign’s abortive stunt]) may enable a few uses, but it slows or breaks many more, and impedes the development of alternatives.

I’m not sure why Verisign thinks that its contract to perform certain administrative functions gives it a license to redesign the Net; but somehow it does. Just another reminder that the Net does need to be governed, if only to keep outfits like Verisign from fouling it up. Even ICANN looks pretty good at times like this.


  1. Why Platforms succeed

    Freedom to Tinker: Painters Buy White Canvases for a Reason. Great points by Ed Felton and hat tip to John about why the Internet succeeds as a platform. A great metaphor. Make it a very “stupid” network but make it flexible….

  2. Painters buy White Canvases for a reason

    From Freedom to Tinker: Painters Buy White Canvases for a Reason. A pithy way of describing why platforms are successful….