The Master Switch

The Rise and Fall of Information Empires


Hardcover, 384 pages

English language

Published Jan. 4, 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf.

OCLC Number:

View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (8 reviews)

In this age of an open Internet, it is easy to forget that every American information industry, beginning with the telephone, has eventually been taken captive by some ruthless monopoly or cartel. With all our media now traveling a single network, an unprecedented potential is building for centralized control over what Americans see and hear. Could history repeat itself with the next industrial consolidation? Could the Internet—the entire flow of American information—come to be ruled by one corporate leviathan in possession of “the master switch”? That is the big question of Tim Wu’s pathbreaking book.

As Wu’s sweeping history shows, each of the new media of the twentieth century—radio, telephone, television, and film—was born free and open. Each invited unrestricted use and enterprising experiment until some would-be mogul battled his way to total domination. Here are stories of an uncommon will to power, the power over information: Adolph Zukor, who …

1 edition

Why didn't I learn that in my degree??

4 stars

Every page of this book screams -- why didn't I learn all of this already?? Tim Wu does a great job of investigating the history of technology in the United States, and all of the regulatory intricacies.

I'd give this a 5/5 if it had a little more love on the character of all of these personalities. It sometimes reads a bit too much like a history book and so can get hard to follow, but the content is interesting and applicable enough to our current day to be a definite recommended read for anyone interested in the intersection between innovation and government policy.

Review of 'The Master Switch' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

On my list to reread -- Read this in the form of a somewhat scrambled audio book, due to the bother of working around DRM on an ebook I bought. This provided a delightful frisson as I read the book's accounts of other communication medias being taken over and locked down by corporations.

Anyway, I wish I could get everyone involved with say, Debian or Linux or general online free culture to read this. While it can be a bit of a slog in places, it provides a worldview that makes certain corporate maneuverings and ongoing shifts going on right now look very transparent. (Hello Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.) It shows how people trying to do what we're trying to do have failed, and failed, and failed yet again. This is valuable.

I was not fully convinced by its argument that the internet (and, though it doesn't mention it specifically, …

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  • Telecommunication -- History
  • Information technology -- History