Starting from the end‐to‐end principle, a founding element of the internet's technical architecture, the paper aims to discuss its extension and effects at the social level. It shows how the internet moves power from governments and private entities to individual citizens, restructuring our societies and creating a new global stakeholder class – individual users of the internet. It connects the advent of this stakeholder class with a traditional principle of internet governance, “rough consensus”. It discusses advantages and risks of this change, suggesting that this shift of power might be beneficial to solve deadlocks in the governance of global phenomena and to ensure that solutions pursue the global public interest. Finally, it discusses how this social evolution can be protected from opposing forces, countering the opinion that the freedom of the internet is intrinsic and not needing regulatory supports.
The paper builds upon observation of case studies, such as the struggle between the industry and users over peer‐to‐peer music downloads, and upon the author's first‐hand experience in global internet governance processes.
The paper formalizes a social expression of the end‐to‐end principle and demonstrates the need for such principle to be recognized and protected by regulation, to preserve the social model described in the paper and its benefits.
The paper explores the connections between the technical, economic and social architectures of the global network, providing support for understanding the political dynamics of the internet and other global phenomena, and for designing effective governance processes to address them.