iPhone 2.0 cracked in hours… what was that Zittrain thesis again?

by on July 10, 2008 · 30 comments

So, the new iPhone OS was cracked in mere hours. According to the folks at Gizmodo:

The new iPhone OS 2.0 software has been unlocked and jailbroken. It was released just hours ago and it has already been cracked by the iPhone Dev Team. The first one took a couple of months, but this one was actually unlocked before Apple released it to the public. … Now that the official iPhone OS 2.0 is out, the iPhone Dev Team will release their Pwnage tool for everyone to unlock and jailbreak their iPhones soon.

Shocker, right? Well, anyway, I found this funny because back in March I gave Jonathan Zittrain a lot of grief for making the iPhone out to be some sort of enemy of the people because of its closed, proprietary nature. In his provocative new book “The End of the Internet,” he suggested that iPhone typified a dangerous new emerging business model that would destroy the “generative” nature of the Net by pushing people into closed systems.

My response was basically that Jonathan was making a mountain out of a molehill. Generative technologies weren’t going anywhere, and the Net certainly wasn’t “dying.” Not only is generativity thriving, but there’s just no way to stop people from hacking away at closed devices and networks, as today’s cracking of the iPhone in mere hours proves once again.

So, Jonathan, I hate to pick on you again buddy, but what exactly is the problem? Apple has put another great device on the market and people immediately took steps to open it up and see if they can make it even better. Sounds like progress to me.

The Zittrain thesis is just getting harder and harder for me to take seriously.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    “a dangerous new emerging business model that would destroy the “generative” nature of the Net by pushing people into closed systems.”, where has Zittrain been? This concept has been forced upon us over the course of many years, and he is only now comprehending the foolishness of this concept.

    Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)was passed in 1998, which is reflective of the fact that the “protection” of closed systems has been on the table for a long time.

  • Tim

    Doesn’t the number of people who have access to generative technology matter for Zittrain’s thesis. Defaults matter, and if only a small number of iPhone users are willing and able to crack their iPhones, then it remains closed and proprietary for the vast majority. At least part of Zittrain’s argument is that the iPhone is the leading edge of people expecting their edge devices to give them less freedom. My parents aren’t going to be cracking their iphones anytime soon . . .

  • David

    From one perspective, Apple seems to be creating a closed proprietary system. This is true, to an extent. One of the things that Apple often does, but not always, is turn the other way when it’s systems are hacked. When Apple reacts stringently to such hacking, there usually seems to be some other hand in the mix, mostly through third party contracts Apple has entered into, such as its contract with AT&T, its contracts with the record companies for distributing music, and so on.

    They walk a fine line, and sometimes they get caught on the wrong side of it … at least there are plenty of critics around to call it on the carpet when needed.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    “a dangerous new emerging business model that would destroy the “generative” nature of the Net by pushing people into closed systems.”, where has Zittrain been? This concept has been forced upon us over the course of many years, and he is only now comprehending the foolishness of this concept.

    Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)was passed in 1998, which is reflective of the fact that the “protection” of closed systems has been on the table for a long time.

  • Tim

    Doesn’t the number of people who have access to generative technology matter for Zittrain’s thesis. Defaults matter, and if only a small number of iPhone users are willing and able to crack their iPhones, then it remains closed and proprietary for the vast majority. At least part of Zittrain’s argument is that the iPhone is the leading edge of people expecting their edge devices to give them less freedom. My parents aren’t going to be cracking their iphones anytime soon . . .

  • David

    From one perspective, Apple seems to be creating a closed proprietary system. This is true, to an extent. One of the things that Apple often does, but not always, is turn the other way when it’s systems are hacked. When Apple reacts stringently to such hacking, there usually seems to be some other hand in the mix, mostly through third party contracts Apple has entered into, such as its contract with AT&T, its contracts with the record companies for distributing music, and so on.

    They walk a fine line, and sometimes they get caught on the wrong side of it … at least there are plenty of critics around to call it on the carpet when needed.

  • Adam Thierer

    Tim… I answered your question in my previous essay about Zittrain’s thesis…

    People are getting the choices and configurations they want. Older generations are simply not comfortable with the “general purpose” devices that tinker-happy gadgeteers like Zittrain and me prefer. Shouldn’t those people get to enjoy some of the same digital experiences and communications options that the rest of us do without being expected to configure their cell phones or program their PCs?

    Again, markets are responding to these needs, but not in ways that Prof. Zittrain prefers. Perhaps in another 25 years, when today’s generation of techno-geeks are grandparents, we’ll all be perfectly comfortable with the devices and networks that Zittrain (and I) prefer. For now, that is not enough. People demand more choices–even if they are “sterile and tethered.” They should get them, and luckily they are.

  • http://www.techliberation.com Adam Thierer

    Tim… I answered your question in my previous essay about Zittrain’s thesis…

    People are getting the choices and configurations they want. Older generations are simply not comfortable with the “general purpose” devices that tinker-happy gadgeteers like Zittrain and me prefer. Shouldn’t those people get to enjoy some of the same digital experiences and communications options that the rest of us do without being expected to configure their cell phones or program their PCs?

    Again, markets are responding to these needs, but not in ways that Prof. Zittrain prefers. Perhaps in another 25 years, when today’s generation of techno-geeks are grandparents, we’ll all be perfectly comfortable with the devices and networks that Zittrain (and I) prefer. For now, that is not enough. People demand more choices–even if they are “sterile and tethered.” They should get them, and luckily they are.

  • http://www.blurringborders.com Kevin Donovan

    Actually, Adam, in light of the fiasco with activation which has bricked millions of phones and made obsolete others, it seems JZ’s thesis is relevant. The considerable time he spends discussing the ramifications of tethered appliances and perfect control seem important.

  • http://www.blurringborders.com Kevin Donovan

    Actually, Adam, in light of the fiasco with activation which has bricked millions of phones and made obsolete others, it seems JZ’s thesis is relevant. The considerable time he spends discussing the ramifications of tethered appliances and perfect control seem important.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I’ll just repeat what I said before, since nothing has progressed:

    Adam, while JZ certainly does not need me to defend him, and I probably shouldn’t get-into-it, so I’m commenting here against my better judgment … that all being said, I believe you are not quite grasping the overall argument being made. Granted, there may be a relevant problem of what-he-said vs. what-he-meant. And I’ve certainly struggled over his points myself. Still, I suggest the above reading you make is far too simplistic.

    I think things went off the rails right around this point in your reply to him:

    “Again, I guess I just don’t see how all of us would “lose a sense of equilibrium between the generative and sterile spheres,” or that “platforms that are open to third party innovation at first” will “close off selectively” and “squeeze out fully generative technologies.”"

    Well, that’s sort of what his book is all about, why that will happen (n.b. I’m not endorsing it in this comment, just explaining what I view him as saying, roughly). If you want to claim he’s wrong, OK. But thereafter, you seem to start pummeling straw-men, endlessly, tediously. You seem to believe that he’s said that “sterile and tethered” are not useful to anyone for anything and never any good in any way, and set yourself to refuting this with great vigor. In the essays, you say things at length, but the length doesn’t help if the premise is off-base.

    [See case study above of "pummeling straw-men, endlessly, tediously"]

  • Adam Thierer

    Seth… Jonathan’s book is receiving an incredible amount of attention, and that’s why I’m giving it this much scrutiny. More specifically, I have been asking him to PROVE his thesis, something I think he has failed to do. The burden of proof is on him to show us how the Internet is “dying” and generative technologies are disappearing, or growing more closed. In the examples I offered in my essays, I try to show how the EXACT OPPOSITE has been the case for many years now.

    I am awaiting evidence to the contrary.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I wouldn’t disagree with your first few sentences. The last sentence, however, is where the strawman-pummelling is found. I can just repeat: You seem to believe that he’s said that “sterile and tethered” are not useful to anyone for anything and never any good in any way, and set yourself to refuting this with great vigor. In the essays, you say things at length, but the length doesn’t help if the premise is off-base.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I’ll just repeat what I said before, since nothing has progressed:

    Adam, while JZ certainly does not need me to defend him, and I probably shouldn’t get-into-it, so I’m commenting here against my better judgment … that all being said, I believe you are not quite grasping the overall argument being made. Granted, there may be a relevant problem of what-he-said vs. what-he-meant. And I’ve certainly struggled over his points myself. Still, I suggest the above reading you make is far too simplistic.

    I think things went off the rails right around this point in your reply to him:

    “Again, I guess I just don’t see how all of us would “lose a sense of equilibrium between the generative and sterile spheres,” or that “platforms that are open to third party innovation at first” will “close off selectively” and “squeeze out fully generative technologies.”"

    Well, that’s sort of what his book is all about, why that will happen (n.b. I’m not endorsing it in this comment, just explaining what I view him as saying, roughly). If you want to claim he’s wrong, OK. But thereafter, you seem to start pummeling straw-men, endlessly, tediously. You seem to believe that he’s said that “sterile and tethered” are not useful to anyone for anything and never any good in any way, and set yourself to refuting this with great vigor. In the essays, you say things at length, but the length doesn’t help if the premise is off-base.

    [See case study above of "pummeling straw-men, endlessly, tediously"]

  • http://www.techliberation.com Adam Thierer

    Seth… Jonathan’s book is receiving an incredible amount of attention, and that’s why I’m giving it this much scrutiny. More specifically, I have been asking him to PROVE his thesis, something I think he has failed to do. The burden of proof is on him to show us how the Internet is “dying” and generative technologies are disappearing, or growing more closed. In the examples I offered in my essays, I try to show how the EXACT OPPOSITE has been the case for many years now.

    I am awaiting evidence to the contrary.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I wouldn’t disagree with your first few sentences. The last sentence, however, is where the strawman-pummelling is found. I can just repeat: You seem to believe that he’s said that “sterile and tethered” are not useful to anyone for anything and never any good in any way, and set yourself to refuting this with great vigor. In the essays, you say things at length, but the length doesn’t help if the premise is off-base.

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