The Master Switch

The Master Switch

The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

eBook - 2010
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Random House, Inc.

New Yorker and Fortune Best Book of the Year

Analyzing the strategic maneuvers of today’s great information powers–Apple, Google, and an eerily resurgent AT&T–Tim Wu uncovers a time-honored pattern in which invention begets industry and industry begets empire. 

It is easy to forget that every development in the history of the American information industry–from the telephone to radio to film–once existed in an open and chaotic marketplace inhabited by entrepreneurs and utopians, just as the Internet does today. Each of these, however, grew to be dominated by a monopolist or cartel. In this pathbreaking book, Tim Wu asks: will the Internet follow the same fate? Could the Web–the entire flow of American information–come to be ruled by a corporate leviathan in possession of "the master switch"? Here, Tim Wu shows how a battle royale for Internet’s future is brewing, and this is one war we dare not tune out.



Baker & Taylor
A history of the industrial wars behind the rise and fall of the 20th century's leading information empires traces how such giants as Hollywood, the broadcast networks, and AT&T introduced major new mediums that were eventually centralized in ways that profoundly shaped America's communications practices.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0307594653 (electronic bk.)
9780307594655 (electronic bk.)
Branch Call Number: eBOOK 384.041 WU
Characteristics: 1 online resource (x, 366 p.) : ill

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1aa
Aug 11, 2015

An interesting and sometimes nauseating recounting of the history of the power plays within the American media industry. The suggestions at the end are, for the most part, plausible. The book tends to downplay the deeper criticisms of media, and makes no suggestion to assuage those concerns.

s
StarGladiator
May 30, 2015

Fundamentally, Prof. Wu is wrong on the Big Picture, although a fantastic researcher and writer - - he just reasons within a prescribed box - - the information presented by Tim Wu, along with the wonderful books, The New Prophets of Capital, by Nicole Aschoff - - and The Utopia of Rules, by David Graeber - - presents the paradigm shift in thinking back to reality away from indoctrination. [Prof. Wu accepts at face value the // destruction aspect \\ which indepth forensic research would disprove [so-called break up of Standard Oil, highly tenuous break up of AT&T - back together and much more powerful], while missing that the major government research projects were basically responsible for the most advances. And now there is some strong suggestion of government // interference \\ in bringing Google into being!]

s
StarGladiator
Jun 15, 2012

This is one of those must-read books, where crucial historical facts are mentioned; rarely read by most people. The important aspects which led to the creation of the Internet/Web of today. How incredible advances were buried at Bell Labs thanks to the godawful stupidity of corporate management at AT&T [Google "breakages, ltd." to grasp the corporate anti-progress attitude], and the original financing of that company by JP Morgan (a little know, and often ignored fact, although later in the early 1900s it appears to have become a Rockefeller trust --- not included in this excellent book). And how Sarnoff of RCA fame stole not only the TV from Phil Farnsworth, but FM radio from Edwin Armstrong --- a great read! (While reading Tim Wu's outstanding book, at the same time or concurrently one should read "Laser" by Nick Taylor - - the attitude towards both Bell Labs, and the anti-progress march of capitalism, will be greatly enhanced by reading these books together!) [Interesting financial aside: AT&T, Apple and Intel are Rockefeller companies.]

d
danielestes
Mar 16, 2012

The Master Switch by Tim Wu is a fascinating study of the contradictory cycles of information and communication corporations, from creation to their eventual diminishing. The main subject for most of the book is AT&T, which began quite modestly in the laboratory of Alexander Graham Bell and over time grew to ruthlessly dominate the industry it created.

In addition to the phone, this book takes us on a tour of the 20th century through the invention and developments of radio, film and television. And ultimately, the internet. In many ways the internet is changing (and challenging) the old information empires more drastically than those mediums before it, but it's still too soon to tell what the full historical impact will be.

Wu also proposes a solution to limit the monopolist's inherent need to sabotage the upcoming research and development that threaten their company's power. He describes a kind of constitutional separation of powers, only in this case for businesses.

This isn't light reading, but I recommend this book because it's important to understand some of the darker nature of the information industries that surround us in the 21st century.

debwalker Dec 08, 2010

Finding patterns in the fates of information empires.

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