UPDATED: September 5, 2014, at 12:02 p.m.
TripAdvisor co-founder and CEO Stephen Kaufer ’84 and internet expert Susan P. Crawford agreed that government policies can both fuel and inhibit internet entrepreneurship while speaking at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics on Thursday.
The forum marked the start of an internet policy symposium that continues Friday morning on the Kennedy School of Government campus and is hosted by the IOP, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and the Internet Association. It was also the first forum event of the academic year and the first under the IOP’s new director Margaret A. “Maggie” Williams, who filled the position after C.M. Trey Grayson '94 stepped down last spring.
Kaufer began by saying that the government’s enforcement of software patents can inhibit the birth and success of online businesses such as his own website, which hosts customer reviews of hotels, restaurants, and travel destinations, among other topics.
At the same time, Crawford—who served as special assistant for science, technology, and innovation policy to the president of the United States—emphasized the government’s role in the growth of the world wide web.
“The idea of the internet is so rich, it’s so interesting, it is the ultimate level playing field,” Crawford said. “That idea could not have swept the world without government research and assistance.”
Kaufer said that websites like TripAdvisor, which rely on the freedom of the press through its user-generated comments, reflect the future of websites.
“I think the world has spoken that the TripAdvisor model of crowdsourcing always just yields better results than...the one person, professional guide book,” Kaufer said.
Looking forward, Crawford said that certain internet-related areas may demand additional government regulation.
In an interview before the forum, Internet Association CEO and president Michael Beckerman said that universities like Harvard can also play an important role in propogating internet growth.
“We want to make sure that policy makers understand that the next great idea is going to come from a dorm room here or some other university,” Beckerman said. “And you want to make sure that the regulatory policy landscape is such that allows the next great idea that you have to take hold.”
The forum was moderated by Archon Fung, who assumed the position of academic dean at the Kennedy School this summer.
Friday’s events will feature two roundtable discussions with more than 30 Internet industry stakeholders, including eBay Vice President Tod Cohen and Google Director of Public Policy Adam Kovacevich.
The discussions will be livestreamed on the IOP website and later aired on CSPAN, Williams said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: September 5, 2014
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Kaufer's opinion of the impact of the government's enforcement of software patents on online businesses. In fact, he believes that the enforcement of software patents can inhibit internet entrepreneurs and did not contribute to the growth of TripAdvisor.