Jane Jacobs

The end of Internet history?

November 22, 2010: 11:58 AM ET

The author responds to our Scott Woolley's review of his new book, "The Master Switch."

By Tim Wu, contributor

"Time has upset many fighting faiths" – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Picture of Tim Wu

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My book, "The Master Switch" asks a simple, age-old question: Is history destined to repeat itself? Is the great revolutionary medium of our times, the Internet, destined to follow the path of its ancestors, radio and the telephone, a path of increasing consolidation and uncompetitiveness, leading over time, to slow stagnation? Or is there something fundamentally different about our times that will keep the network open and competitive for the foreseeable future?

It's a critical question for any investor, manager or interested citizen of our times, and one that, I think is hard to answer. The design of the Internet truly was revolutionary and we're much more suspicious of centralized power than Americans were in, say, the 1930s. But on the other hand, neither the laws of economics nor human nature has changed, and both of those elements lead to industry consolidation and empire-building. In short, I think that fifteen years into Internet history, the question remains open. More

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