The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

Author: Tim Wu
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by barmstrong   2022-01-11
Really liked this post - brings up some great points, and I consider Moxie a friend.

Here are a few notes that came to mind though...

1. For NFTs, some keep their data in IPFS (decentralized file storage) or in the smart contract itself for procedurally generated images. We (as a community) should probably move more to solutions like this over time, since it is indeed more decentralized to build them that way.

2. I agree with the overall point that clients don't behave like full nodes. However, there has been quite a bit of discussion about "light clients" in the crypto community even going back to the early days of Bitcoin/Ethereum, so i wouldn't say it hasn't been an area of focus.

3. I agree there is an overall move toward using platforms. But there is a big difference between using a platform that also owns all the data also (web2) and a platform that is merely a proxy to decentralized data (web3). In the latter, if a platform ever turns evil, people will switch. Not owning the data counts for a lot.

4. There are more options than Infura and Alchemy. Access to simple blockchain data will be relatively commoditized. Which is good for decentralization.

As Moxie points out, it's still difficult to build things in a decentralized way (nascent tools), so you are seeing various apps/companies revert to using more centralized web2 techniques when they run into a hairy technical problem. As a result, there are a lot of "hybrid" web2/web3 apps during this phase of web3 development. That doesn't mean the overall trend is bad though. I think it's great that more and more web3/decentralized technologies are being developed.

I do agree that all networks tend toward centralization over time. Great book on this

I don't think crypto is anywhere near this end stage though. We are still seeing a lot of new technology and players enter the space. It's not "already centralized" as much as it is "still using some web2 components".

These points aside, the post is great and I basically agree with the overall premise.

by cs702   2021-12-04
On one side, we have people who want decentralization and unrestricted markets in the metaverse, protected by distributed consensus protocols. On the other side, we have corporations like Meta, who want centralization and regulated transactions in the metaverse, protected by winner-take-all economies of scale. Quoting from the OP:

> "What Facebook is doing with a 'fake metaverse,' unless they actually have a real description as to how we can truly own it," ... "Until then, it's just Disneyland. It's a beautiful place to be, but we probably don't want to really live there. It's not the kind of place that we can actually build a business."

IMHO, this is just a new chapter in an age-old battle between dominant players building "Disneylands" and those who want "The Wild West" to remain, well, wild. This battle been ongoing since the emergence of the earliest information/communication networks. Tim Wu, who has studied the subject extensively, has written a good book about it: "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires."[a]


by jamestimmins   2021-03-10
If you haven't read his book The Master Switch, it's a fantastic read on the history of communication technology.

by ctoth   2019-07-12
Argue about immigration and whose country is best while they gather the torches.

Reduce the 'techlash' to another front in the forever culture war without considering how your hacker birthright is under attack.

Associate yourselves with megacorps and money, nice cars and 401(k)s.

Ally with those who hate privacy. [0]

Ally with those who practice psychological manipulation on a global scale. [1]

* Stallman warned us. [2]

* Wu warned us. [3]

* Doctorow warned us. [4]

* Schneier warned us and tried to explain it to everyone. [5]

> Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind.

> On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. [6]



[5] (He has another better article about the start of the new crypto wars but I can't find it)


by nakedrobot2   2018-11-30
OH these fresh young naive minds, who think censorship never happens. Censorship happens ALL THE TIME. The Radio, TV, and Film industries in the USA - they have all been censored, from the very beginning.[1] So it was self-censorship at the behest of the government. What's the difference? Censorship is all around us.

Americans self-censor tits and genitals, Europeans self-censor violence. Censorship is everywhere.

I think this whole discussion is extremely naive.


by merryandrew   2017-08-19
If you want an interesting perspective on this idea, check The Master Switch, written by Tim Wu.

Amazon Book Description: 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"?

Analyzing the strategic maneuvers of today’s great information powers–Apple, Google, and an eerily resurgent AT&T–Wu uncovers a time-honored pattern in which invention begets industry and industry begets empire. He shows how a battle royale for Internet’s future is brewing, and this is one war we dare not tune out.

by twistedpair   2017-08-19
The Master Switch by Tim Wu [0] goes into great detail about how AT&T invented this racket 120+ years ago and has been perfecting their fleecing tactics since. I particularly enjoy the opening of the book at a 1916 top hat banquet celebrating just how filthy rich their monopoly has become under Theodore Vail.

The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner [1] however asserts that the AT&T monopoly allowed Bell Labs to essentially invent the entire information age, but that without the official monopoly, we no longer see the huge investments in basic research, and commensurate major break throughs.

Damn if you do. Damned if you don't.