FORTUNE -- With "net neutrality" back in the headlines after Tuesday's federal appeals court ruling, I thought I'd check in with Tim Wu, the Columbia law professor who coined the phrase.
"I know the Internet was designed to resist integration, designed to resist centralized control," We said, "and that design defeated firms like AOL and Time Warner. But firms today, like Apple, make it unclear if the Internet is something lasting or just another cycle."
What exactly did he mean by that?
"I think the answer to this relies on reading The Master Switch," Wu told me, referring to his 2010 history of modern communications that suggested information technologies tend to move from open systems to closed. "Basically the question is whether vertical integration and consolidation will be where the Internet goes."
Wu also talked to the Times about Steve Jobs, who was still alive at the time of the interview:
"Steve Jobs has the charisma, vision and instincts of every great information emperor," he said in November 2010. "The man who helped create the personal computer 40 years ago is probably the leading candidate to help exterminate it."
What did Wu mean by that? Did he think Jobs could exterminate the Internet? That seems unlikely. Exterminate the personal computer? Coming eight months after the iPad was released, that seems almost prescient.
"I meant the personal computer," Wu says. "Via the iPad and iOS, and a move to what you might call something more like an appliance model of computing, or I guess you could call it a terminal model."
The author responds to our Scott Woolley's review of his new book, "The Master Switch."
By Tim Wu, contributor
"Time has upset many fighting faiths" – Oliver Wendell Holmes
My book, "The Master Switch" asks a simple, age-old question: Is history destined to repeat itself? Is the great revolutionary medium of our times, the Internet, destined to follow the path of its ancestors, radio and the telephone, a path of MORENov 22, 2010 11:58 AM ET
How network neutrality's biggest advocate misreads history
If you want to understand why Tim Wu -- the Columbia Law professor who invented the term "net neutrality" -- is such a fanatic about open networks, consider the sorry state of cellular phones a mere four years ago. Back then, phone companies exercised total control over handsets, blocking customers from downloading any software to customize their phones, except perhaps for a few over-priced, MOREScott Woolley - Nov 19, 2010 1:21 PM ET
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