The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

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by Tim Wu

Published 2010

(384 pages)

Book club topics include Computing.

Tagged as net neutrality (1), media (1).

goodreads rating 3.95 (3245)

This book picked for the March 2011 meetings.

Added by Tom Erickson on February 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM

Members who read this book:
Dan Frankowski John Riedl Erik Jordan Tom Erickson Jamie Thingelstad 

Considered for 1 meetings: March 2011.

Club voting 3.5 (1 votes)

Club rating 4.8333333333333 (3 ratings)


Powerful read.

Tom Erickson portrait 2 sq 256pixels.jpg

I now think about policy and history very differently.


Gave me a very different view of what is happening in the history of the Internet, that affects how I think about policy decisions.

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A veteran of Silicon Valley and professor at Columbia University, Wu is an author and policy advocate best known for coining the term net neutrality. Although the Internet has created a world of openness and access unprecedented in human history, Wu is quick to point out that the early phases of telephony, film, and radio offered similar opportunities for the hobbyist, inventor, and creative individual, only to be centralized and controlled by corporate interests, monopolized, broken into smaller entities, and then reconsolidated. Wu calls this the Cycle, and nowhere is it more exemplary than in the telecommunications industry. The question Wu raises is whether the Internet is different, or whether we are merely in the early open phase of a technology that is to be usurped and controlled by profiteering interests. Central in the power struggle is the difference between the way Apple Computer and Google treat content, with Apple attempting to control the user experience with slick products while Google endeavors to democratize content, giving the user choice and openness. This is an essential look at the directions that personal computing could be headed depending on which policies and worldviews come to dominate control over the Internet.

Tim Wu is now serving in an advisory role for the FTC. That seems like a good thing!


Very well-written history of the past century of evolution in social media (telegraph, radio, telephone, television, Internet). The overall story is that after an initial period of unfettered creativity, monopolies/oligopolies and government work together to grab control of the new media type and intentionally restrict innovation and prevent others from entering the marketplace. The story has some limitations, in that some of the media evolved differently from the main story, but the overall perspective is compelling -- and chilling. Further, it seems like the Internet is being taken over in just this way, right now!