The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

by Tim Wu

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The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
GShuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very long and dry, however gained many insights. He describes the history of how radio, film, television and telecommunications all started out full of hope and openness with many players only to grow into a closed monopoly of a few until a disruptive technology comes along to change everything. He outlines many ways monopolies and government regulations negatively affected innovation and free enterprise. He then applies the past patterns to the internet. Worth reading for it exposes the darker side of these industries, however almost didn¿t finish it due to it being so dry.
Dangraham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! Wu gives an historical account of the large communications empires (phone, film, radio), their rise over competition, partnerships with the government to achieve monopoly status and their general strategy and tactics. He then relates those historical cycles with the Internet and provides guidance and warning on how to avoid the stagnation of our "open" progress moving forward. Definitely 5/5 stars
bweegenaar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Superb book, must write a very good blogpost on this book on Blogmania.nl Wu has written a tragic story on the power of arrivals against innovation. It's strange to see how powers in America are working the same as in socialist countries. So long democracy.
rivkat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This excellent book suggests that I might have been wrong. In clear, engaging prose, he offers the histories of a number of communications industries¿telegraph, telephone, movies, radio, broadcast TV, cable, and then the internet¿arguing that each reveals the influence of a cycle in which an entrenched industry is disrupted by a new technology. The disruption starts with poor quality but innovative products, in contrast to the old technology¿s very nicely designed and profitable versions. The threat to the survival of the old models, and the messiness and uncertainty of the new ones, means that government can often be persuaded to intervene on behalf of the old, sometimes delaying them by decades. Wu argues that centralized control produces beautiful products and services, but suppresses free expression and experimentation. He argues that government should intervene, not on behalf of industries, but on behalf of separation¿making sure that industries don¿t get too big or too vertically integrated to crush the next innovation that comes along. This means net neutrality, but it also means potentially blocking the merger of cable companies with movie studios. There are counterarguments I wish he¿d engaged more with¿in particular, people often defend consolidation as the only way to save and cross-subsidize things like local newspapers¿but it¿s a really good read.
as85 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting overview of history of AT&T, film, radio, and television, although discussion of recent telecommunications history is blighted by cheap attempts to demonize (e.g., he cites MCI falling into hands of Verizon, when it was Worldcom's fraud and bankruptcy that caused that particular fall). He believes information industries are particularly prone to monopolization, and terms this trend toward monopolization "the Cycle", and argues that government intervention is required to break the cycle. While this appears to be true for many of his examples like film, radio, and the first break up of AT&T, his discussion of local telephony competition is botched because the government intervention to break the monopoly fundamentally didn't work, and he completely ignore the role that real competition in the form of wireless and cable telephony had in demolishing the importance of traditional landline telephony. His extensive historical overview is a build up to a discussion of the internet, in which he focuses on Apple versus Google, with Apple representing a closed system and Google representing an open system. While the cautionary message certainly has merit given the tremendous importance of the Internet to our society, his proposed solution - allowing no vertical integration in information industries is poorly argued, and is awkwardly bolted on to the book.
Daniel.Estes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
DKappy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love reading business histories and this one is definitely at the top of my list. Highly readable, superbly organized... I find myself referrencing things I learned from the book constantly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More than just an ancestry chart of how we use information technology, Tim Wu's account delves into the human psyche to demonstrate why certain types of information technology are more appealing than others, and further examines how communication methods correlate to the sociopolitical climates of the time. A good read for anyone interested in this topic in even the mildest manner.
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Brainylainy More than 1 year ago
Everybody should read this. Excellently researched. Very well written. An expose of how Americans have been victims of censorship as bad as that of Hitler and Stalin through the collaboration of information suppliers forming monopolies and the FCC. He shows that the present free state of the Internet is threatened by the de facto monopolies of cable companies who own the broadband and fibre optic lines essential for the Internet. Also, since movies and television rely on cable access, the cable providers are poised to control them as well. This is not a fantasy or science fiction. It happened with the telephone, radio, and movies during the Studio Era, and it can happen again.
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goofy166 More than 1 year ago
See how the lives of radio, TV and telephone pressage the PC, internet and social networks.
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RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Innovation has been a serial killer in the information industry since the advent of the telephone doomed the telegraph. Great advances in communications technology herald the start of new industries, but the corporate history of such breakthroughs shows a cycle of fragmentation followed by concentration, followed by another breakthrough and another splintered set of small companies chasing that innovation's promise. The Internet may defy this cycle. Whether control of the web will consolidate or remain diffuse remains to be seen. However, historic patterns suggest that today's major Internet companies may become part of larger media empires, thus centralizing control of online content. Columbia University professor Tim Wu offers a rich saga tracing the evolution of telecommunications industries, technology and regulations, and explains what these patterns portend. He says policy makers must limit corporate control of the web because open online information now is essential to society. getAbstract recommends Wu's book to readers interested in the future of the information industry and its centerpiece, the Internet.
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