The Technology Liberation Front just marked its 15th year in existence. That’s a long time in the blogosphere. (I’ve only been writing at TLF since 2012 so I’m still the new guy.)

Everything from Bitcoin to net neutrality to long-form pieces about technology and society were featured and debated here years before these topics hit the political mainstream.

Thank you to our contributors and our regular readers. Here are the most-read tech policy posts from TLF in the past 15 years (I’ve omitted some popular but non-tech policy posts).

No. 15: Bitcoin is going mainstream. Here is why cypherpunks shouldn’t worry. by Jerry Brito, October 2013

Today is a bit of a banner day for Bitcoin. It was five years ago today that Bitcoin was first described in a paper by Satoshi Nakamoto. And today the New York Times has finally run a profile of the cryptocurrency in its “paper of record” pages. In addition, TIME’s cover story this week is about the “deep web” and how Tor and Bitcoin facilitate it.

The fact is that Bitcoin is inching its way into the mainstream.

No. 14: Is fiber to the home (FTTH) the network of the future, or are there competing technologies? by Roslyn Layton, August 2013

There is no doubt that FTTH is a cool technology, but the love of a particular technology should not blind one to look at the economics.  After some brief background, this blog post will investigate fiber from three perspectives (1) the bandwidth requirements of web applications (2) cost of deployment and (3) substitutes and alternatives. Finally it discusses the notion of fiber as future proof.

No. 13: So You Want to Be an Internet Policy Analyst? by Adam Thierer, December 2012

Each year I am contacted by dozens of people who are looking to break into the field of information technology policy as a think tank analyst, a research fellow at an academic institution, or even as an activist. Some of the people who contact me I already know; most of them I don’t. Some are free-marketeers, but a surprising number of them are independent analysts or even activist-minded Lefties. Some of them are students; others are current professionals looking to change fields (usually because they are stuck in boring job that doesn’t let them channel their intellectual energies in a positive way). Some are lawyers; others are economists, and a growing number are computer science or engineering grads. In sum, it’s a crazy assortment of inquiries I get from people, unified only by their shared desire to move into this exciting field of public policy.

. . . Unfortunately, there’s only so much time in the day and I am sometimes not able to get back to all of them. I always feel bad about that, so, this essay is an effort to gather my thoughts and advice and put it all one place . . . .

No. 12: Violent Video Games & Youth Violence: What Does Real-World Evidence Suggest? by Adam Thierer, February 2010

So, how can we determine whether watching depictions of violence will turn us all into killing machines, rapists, robbers, or just plain ol’ desensitized thugs? Well, how about looking at the real world! Whatever lab experiments might suggest, the evidence of a link between depictions of violence in media and the real-world equivalent just does not show up in the data. The FBI produces ongoing Crime in the United States reports that document violent crimes trends. Here’s what the data tells us about overall violent crime, forcible rape, and juvenile violent crime rates over the past two decades: They have all fallen. Perhaps most impressively, the juvenile crime rate has fallen an astonishing 36% since 1995 (and the juvenile murder rate has plummeted by 62%).

No. 11: Wedding Phtography and Copyright Release by Tim Lee, September 2008

I’m getting married next Spring, and I’m currently negotiating the contract with our photographer. The photography business is weird because even though customers typically pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars up front to have photos taken at their weddings, the copyright in the photographs is typically retained by the photographer, and customers have to go hat in hand to the photographer and pay still more money for the privilege of getting copies of their photographs.

This seems absurd to us . . . .

No. 10: Why would anyone use Bitcoin when PayPal or Visa work perfectly well? by Jerry Brito, December 2013

A common question among smart Bitcoin skeptics is, “Why would one use Bitcoin when you can use dollars or euros, which are more common and more widely accepted?” It’s a fair question, and one I’ve tried to answer by pointing out that if Bitcoin were just a currency (except new and untested), then yes, there would be little reason why one should prefer it to dollars. The fact, however, is that Bitcoin is more than money, as I recently explained in Reason. Bitcoin is better thought of as a payments system, or as a distributed ledger, that (for technical reasons) happens to use a new currency called the bitcoin as the unit of account. As Tim Lee has pointed out, Bitcoin is therefore a platform for innovation, and it is this potential that makes it so valuable.

No. 9: The Hidden Benefactor: How Advertising Informs, Educates & Benefits Consumers by Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka, February 2010

Advertising is increasingly under attack in Washington. . . . This regulatory tsunami could not come at a worse time, of course, since an attack on advertising is tantamount to an attack on media itself, and media is at a critical point of technological change. As we have pointed out repeatedly, the vast majority of media and content in this country is supported by commercial advertising in one way or another-particularly in the era of “free” content and services.

No. 8: Reverse Engineering and Innovation: Some Examples by Tim Lee, June 2006

Reverse engineering the CSS encryption scheme, by itself, isn’t an especially innovative activity. However, what I think Prof. Picker is missing is how important such reverse engineering can be as a pre-condition for subsequent innovation. To illustrate the point, I’d like to offer three examples of companies or open source projects that have forcibly opened a company’s closed architecture, and trace how these have enabled subsequent innovation . . . .

No. 7: Are You An Internet Optimist or Pessimist? The Great Debate over Technology’s Impact on Society by Adam Thierer, January 2010

The cycle goes something like this. A new technology appears. Those who fear the sweeping changes brought about by this technology see a sky that is about to fall. These “techno-pessimists” predict the death of the old order (which, ironically, is often a previous generation’s hotly-debated technology that others wanted slowed or stopped). Embracing this new technology, they fear, will result in the overthrow of traditions, beliefs, values, institutions, business models, and much else they hold sacred.

The pollyannas, by contrast, look out at the unfolding landscape and see mostly rainbows in the air. Theirs is a rose-colored world in which the technological revolution du jour is seen as improving the general lot of mankind and bringing about a better order. If something has to give, then the old ways be damned! For such “techno-optimists,” progress means some norms and institutions must adapt—perhaps even disappear—for society to continue its march forward.

No. 6: Copyright Duration and the Mickey Mouse Curve by Tom Bell, August 2009

Given the rough-and-tumble of real world lawmaking, does the rhetoric of “delicate balancing” merit any place in copyright jurisprudence? The Copyright Act does reflect compromises struck between the various parties that lobby congress and the administration for changes to federal law. A truce among special interests does not and cannot delicately balance all the interests affected by copyright law, however. Not even poetry can license the metaphor, which aggravates copyright’s public choice affliction by endowing the legislative process with more legitimacy than it deserves. To claim that copyright policy strikes a “delicate balance” commits not only legal fiction; it aids and abets a statutory tragedy.

No. 5: Cyber-Libertarianism: The Case for Real Internet Freedom by Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka, August 2009

Generally speaking, the cyber-libertarian’s motto is “Live & Let Live” and “Hands Off the Internet!” The cyber-libertarian aims to minimize the scope of state coercion in solving social and economic problems and looks instead to voluntary solutions and mutual consent-based arrangements.

Cyber-libertarians believe true “Internet freedom” is freedom from state action; not freedom for the State to reorder our affairs to supposedly make certain people or groups better off or to improve some amorphous “public interest”—an all-to convenient facade behind which unaccountable elites can impose their will on the rest of us.

No. 4: Here’s why the Obama FCC Internet regulations don’t protect net neutrality by Brent Skorup, July 2017

It’s becoming clearer why, for six years out of eight, Obama’s appointed FCC chairmen resisted regulating the Internet with Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. Chairman Wheeler famously did not want to go that legal route. It was only after President Obama and the White House called on the FCC in late 2014 to use Title II that Chairman Wheeler relented. If anything, the hastily-drafted 2015 Open Internet rules provide a new incentive to ISPs to curate the Internet in ways they didn’t want to before.

No. 3: 10 Years Ago Today… (Thinking About Technological Progress) by Adam Thierer, February 2009

As I am getting ready to watch the Super Bowl tonight on my amazing 100-inch screen via a Sanyo high-def projector that only cost me $1,600 bucks on eBay, I started thinking back about how much things have evolved (technologically-speaking) over just the past decade. I thought to myself, what sort of technology did I have at my disposal exactly 10 years ago today, on February 1st, 1999? Here’s the miserable snapshot I came up with . . . .

No. 2: Regulatory Capture: What the Experts Have Found by Adam Thierer, December 2010

While capture theory cannot explain all regulatory policies or developments, it does provide an explanation for the actions of political actors with dismaying regularity. Because regulatory capture theory conflicts mightily with romanticized notions of “independent” regulatory agencies or “scientific” bureaucracy, it often evokes a visceral reaction and a fair bit of denialism. . . . Yet, countless studies have shown that regulatory capture has been at work in various arenas: transportation and telecommunications; energy and environmental policy; farming and financial services; and many others.

No. 1: Defining “Technology” by Adam Thierer, April 2014

I spend a lot of time reading books and essays about technology; more specifically, books and essays about technology history and criticism. Yet, I am often struck by how few of the authors of these works even bother defining what they mean by “technology.” . . . Anyway, for what it’s worth, I figured I would create this post to list some of the more interesting definitions of “technology” that I have uncovered in my own research.

Technology policy has made major inroads into a growing number of fields in recent years, including health care, labor, and transportation, and we at the Technology Liberation Front have brought a free-market lens to these issues for over a decade. As is our annual tradition, below are the most popular posts* from the past year, as well as key excerpts.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year. Continue reading →

As 2014 draws to a close, we take a look back at the most-read posts from the past year at The Technology Liberation Front. Thank you for reading, and enjoy. Continue reading →

The deadline for the Google Policy Fellowship is Friday, January 21 (at midnight PST). My new think tank, TechFreedom, just launched yesterday, is participating (as The Progress & Freedom Foundation, my former think tank, did for the last two years)—as are the Competitive Enterprise Institute (home to the TLF’s Ryan RadiaWayne CrewsAlex Harris) and Cato Institute (Jim HarperJulian Sanchez).

The deadline for the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program, run by the Institute for Humane Studies, is Monday January 31. TechFreedom, CEI and Cato are all participating, as are the Pacific Research Institute (Sonia Arrison), the Reason Foundation (Steve Titch) and the Washington Policy Center (Carl Gipson). Descriptions are available here (just select “technology” on the right). Also participating, for the first time, is the Space Frontier Foundation, on whose board I sit and for which I served as Chairman in 2008-2009.

If you look through each of our recent posts, you’ll get a pretty good idea of the diverse array issues we all cover, and who focuses on what. There’s certainly no shortage of interesting technology policy work to be done!

Both programs run 10 weeks and offer stipends. The Koch Program (which I participated in) is specifically geared towards those interested in free market ideas, and includes an excellent retreat, ongoing series of lectures, and group research project. As a “Koch-head” myself (class of 2000), I can attest to the quality of the program and the value of the alumni network. The Google program is in its fourth year and is already developing a valuable alumni network of its own.

Of course, most of our think tanks would probably be happy to have extra help around, so if you’re interested in an internship during the school year or over the summer, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of us. We may not necessarily be able to pay you but, hey, no one ever went into the think tank world to get rich!

This is the 5,000th post on the TLF.  We started on August 14, 2004 with this post, so we celebrated our fifth anniversary last August. As Adam Thierer explained back then:

The idea for the TLF came about after I asked some tech policy wonks whether it was worth putting together a blog dedicated to covering Internet-related issues from a cyber-libertarian perspective.  The model I had in mind was a “Volokh Conspiracy for Tech Issues,” if you will. I wanted to bring together a collection of sharp, liberty-loving wonks (most of whom worked in the think tank world) to talk about their research on this front and to give them a place to post their views on breaking tech policy developments.  It was to be a sort of central clearinghouse for libertarian-oriented tech policy analysis and advocacy.

At first, Tim Lee and I debated whether it even made sense to have that sort of narrow focus, but I think the passage of time and the rise of plenty of competition on this front shows that it was worthwhile.  And I’ve been very pleased with the tag-team effort of all our TLF contributors and the way—without anyone planning it, in true libertarian fashion—we’ve sort of developed a nice division of labor on various tech policy issues.

Our traffic level is roughly in the same place as it was last summer: hovering somewhere around 2600 active Feedburner subscribers measured on a rolling basis (see the little red box at the top right-hand corner of the page under the banner) and our PageRank is still a healthy 7, putting us in the same league (logarithmically speaking) with the Volokh Conspiracy, our model, as well as popular sites like TechMeme, my daily first-stop for tech news. Here are a few key traffic statistics:

Since last August, we’ve had three new bloggers join our merry band, now 21 strong! Continue reading →

It’s a great honor and pleasure for me to welcome Larry Downes to the TLF. Larry coined the term “Killer App” in his 1998 book, Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance. He’s written a few great pieces for CNET recently. And you can find our more about him at his website.

His latest book, The Laws of Disruption, was a rare bright spot in a decade of terrible books about technology and revived a venerable tradition of dynamist classics, including his previous book as well as Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail and Virginia Postrel’s 1999 The Future and its Enemies. The Laws of Disruption expresses both optimism about the capacity of ongoing disruptive innovation to improve our lives and a healthy skepticism about regulation—as Adam noted in his 10 Most Important Info-Tech Policy Books of 2009 review.

Larry’s taught technology law (Northwestern) and business (Chicago, UC-Berkeley) over the years and is currently a nonresident Fellow with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society. He’s a terrifically nice guy, a great writer, and a welcome ally in the fight for cyber-freedom.

Steve TitchIt is my great pleasure to welcome Steve Titch as a contributor to the Technology Liberation Front.  Like me, Steve has some journalism blood in his background but came to find that think tank hours were much better (even if the pay isn’t)! He has been a telecom and IT policy analyst for the Reason Foundation since 2005 and you can find a collection of his past work with Reason here.

Previously he was a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute and managing editor of Heartland IT and Telecom News. He has published research reports and editorials on a wide array of issues that are of interest to TLF readers, including: municipal broadband, network neutrality, universal service and telecom taxes.  We very much look forward to his contributions here.

Welcome to the TLF, Steve!

After over five years of blogging (since August 2004), 20+ TLF contributors have authored over 4,700 posts—creating an enormous repository of writing that provides free-market, market-oriented, skeptical, bottom-up, decentralist, cyber-libertarian, and/or Internet-exceptionalist perspectives on technology, communications, media and Internet news & policy.

To make it easier to sort through all these posts, and find material relevant to your quirkiest interests, just add our new search plug-in to Firefox. Firefox users, click here and then click on “Technology Liberation Front.” Check the box to “start using it right away,” and our custom search engine (powered by Google) will appear immediately in the drop-down of search engines under your search box (without having to restart Firefox), like so:

TLF Firefox search plug-in

You can change where our search engine appears by clicking on “managed search engines” at the bottom of the drop down (not shown here).  Please let us know if you have any problems with the search engine, but it should work exactly the same way the search engine on the TLF itself works (near the top of column 2 just under the clenched fist graphic).

You can create your own search plug-ins, accessible through Mozilla’s database, here. The process should take just a few minutes.

P.S. Microsoft will let users add a custom search engine to Internet Explorer 7 & 8 here (instructions), but hasn’t made it easy for people like me to add the custom search engines to the IE Gallery so that other users can easily find and add the search engine with a single click.

Google has just announced its 2010 Fellowships, open to students 18+ (as of January 1st, 2010) eligible to work U.S. Among the participating organizations are three think tanks home to TLFers:  The Progress & Freedom Foundation (Adam & I), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (Ryan Radia) and Cato (Jim Harper). Applications are due December 28th, 2009, so apply today to help us in the fight for real Internet freedom!

sf-logoTLF friends, I have an announcement: Today the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is launching a new Technology Policy Program, which I will be directing. Perhaps more exciting for TLF readers, though, is that we’re also launching a new blog and podcast.

The new site is called Surprisingly Free, and it will focus on the intersection of technology, policy, and economics. We’ll feature commentary from Mercatus and GMU scholars, guest bloggers, and aggregated posts from other academics around the country.

The podcast is imaginatively called Surprisingly Free Conversations and it’s modeled after Russ Robert’s excellent Econtalk. The format is a weekly in-depth one-on-one conversation with a thinker or entrepreneur in the tech field. The first episode is up and features TLF veteran Tim Lee on bottom-up processes, innovation, and the future of news. Check it out, and please subscribe in iTunes.

We’re looking forward to engaging the tech policy discussion online from a law and econ academic perspective, and we hope you’ll join us for the ride. I look forward to your feedback!