Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet

Posted 03 Feb 2021
Previously posted elsewhere 17 Sep 2012

Review of Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet by Andrew Blum

Oh, what a tangled worldwide web Blum weaves. And he’s not even practising to deceive. He’s merely spinning out the story of all the travelling and interviewing he did for this book. Unfortunately, information on what he actually found out from the network engineers at the Internet exchanges he visited is thin on the ground (and underground and undersea and in the ceiling).

Here is a book about the physical connections and the geography of the Internet with no diagrams, no maps, and no photos. Anyone who is going to try to make this subject comprehensible using only words had better use very concrete language. But Blum often uses abstract language. The net result is that I couldn’t visualise what he was talking about and got bored. There are occasional nuggets of information, but I had to resort to skimming whole sections and only slowing down when my nugget detector was set off. However, if you want to know what colour shirts the network engineers wear and what they have for lunch, this is the place to come.