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A History of the Internet and the Digital Future Paperback – 1 Feb 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books; Reprint edition (1 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780231121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780231129
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Ryan describes a fundamental shift and dispersion of power from traditional centres of power to the networked individual. This is a must-read for both governments and companies who need to fully understand this shift in power and the implications it has on how they interact with the networked individuals who represent their citizens, customers, suppliers."- Susanne Dirks, Leader, Global Centre for Economic Development(IBM Institute for Business Value)

--Susanne Dirks

"Thanks to the proliferation of cloud services, ubiquitous, low-cost bandwidth, and new devices like smartphones and the iPad, there are fewer obstacles to innovation than ever before. In the next decade, the 'office' need not be much more than an Internet connection. Johnny Ryan takes us through the history of the Internet to demonstrate how it has changed everything. But that's not all; he also identifies what's to come in the future.We are in a new era of transformation that has been powered by the Internet. Understanding the trends driving this revolution is pivotal to success. Consider this book your road map to getting there."-Marc Benioff, Chairman and ceo of

--Marc Benioff

"Johnny Ryan has admirably captured the sweep of the Internet's development from its earliest days, showing us how its profound impact is in part an accident of history, a phenomenon whose most interesting and liberating aspects could fade without reinforcement of its core values."- Jonathan Zittrain, author of "The Future of the Internet - And How to Stop It"

--Jonathan Zittrain

"Ryan understands the power shift that the Internet is. If you see the Internet as Ryan does, you will understand how Craigslist kills newspapers, how Facebook rises from nothing and why everything is being invented anew."--Phil Madsen, online politics pioneer (campaign manager of Jesse Ventura, 1998)

--Phil Madsen

"Both an enormously useful work and a great read. Read it and understand what has made the Internet different."-TimWu, Columbia Law School

--Tim Wu

About the Author

Johnny Ryan is Senior Researcher at the Institute of International and European Affairs, Dublin, where he leads the Digital Future programme.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
Johnny Ryan has managed to gather the respect of millions in this new book A HISTORY OF THE INTERNET AND THE DIGITAL FUTURE: the near mystical aspects of the discovery that has changed our lives in countless ways over the past decades is in this book explained with a humanist approach to the history, the mystery, the benefits, the emergence of an entirely new manner of communication, and some solid speculations about where this technology to beat all technologies may take us. The beauty of this book is just how accessible it is. Ryan writes in a near conversational manner about technical matters that to many of us are floating around in the ether that is being somehow transmitted to most of our fingertips and screens. And at the same time that he addresses issues and shares facts in language easily digested, he simultaneously offers information to the more advanced computer geeks, making his book as democratic a transfer of information as any book written on the subject.

In what may seem a redundant means of upgrading our knowledge of where we all are in the digital age, Ryan elects to open his book with a very detailed history of the birth of the computers, taking us back sixty years to the 1950s discovery of the possibilities of transmitting information and storing it on machines. His journey explains the military's use and polish of the computer, through the concept of dissemination of information over the Internet, to the age of personal use of the computer and all forms of digital transfer of information. This is far too brief a way of describing how Ryan explains the derivation of each term applied to this topic (these definitions alone are worth the investment in this book!
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Format: Hardcover
Toward the end of Johnny Ryan's "A History of the Internet" he relates an account of a terrorism trial in 2007. The defendents have been charged with inciting terrorism using internet chatrooms, video and forums. At one point in the proceedings the presiding judge pauses the trial to say, "The trouble is I don't understand the language. I don't really understand what a website is". This book is for him and for those of us who, like him, have found engaging with complex and fast changing digital world a daunting experience. Where do you start? How do you get get a handle on it? What is needed is what David Garland, in his book "The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society" called a "history of the present". What events preceded this to bring us here?

From the antecedents of the internet, through the emergence of the world wide web and rise of social networking to present day issues of net neutrality, Google in China and the work of hacktivists Johnny Ryan shows a firm grasp of his material and understands the need to keep the subject accessible, the glossary was really useful.

The digital world tends to attract writers who either evangelise or demonise the web. Ryan does neither. Finally concluding that the freedoms we currently enjoy from the internet are neither fixed or certain, Johnny Ryan has given us an excellent guide to the immediate past with some timely warnings for the future.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it was first published in 2010 and then re-read Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor (first published in 1999) and strongly recommend that both be read in combination. The three defining characteristics in the title of this review are what Johnny Ryan has in mind when noting that Berners-Lee "came to realize the potential of a system that would allow a loose arrangement of ideas and data unconstrained by hierarchies or categories."

Berners-Lee had developed a piece of software called "Enquire" in the 1980s to map relationships between and among the various people, programs, and systems he encountered at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland and the world's largest particle physics laboratory. "Enquire marked the first step in his invention of the World Wide Web."

Ryan explains that there were three phases of the development of the Internet: its emergence (discussed in Chapters 1-4); the maturing of its technologies and culture of networking between and among communities (Chapters 5-9); and finally, he examines "how the defining characteristics of the Internet are now transforming, culture, commerce and politics (Chapters 10-13). Ryan also explains the three characteristics "that have asserted themselves throughout the Internet's history, and will define the digital age in which we must all adjust: the Internet is a centrifugal force, user-driven, and open.
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Format: Hardcover
We live in such an exciting age and yet we seem to take the Internet for granted. We visit sites like YouTube, Google, MySpace, Wikipedia, WordPress, Netflix, iTunes, Twitter and Facebook on what seems like a daily basis. But what made these sites possible? This book presents the history of the Internet in great detail. Johnny Ryan did an incredible amount of research! He also answers the following questions:

Who sent the first email?
What was the first book sold on
What did Al Gore really say about the Internet?
When did spam officially appear online?

I personally found this book to be absolutely fascinating. Not only will you know a lot more about the history of computers you will understand exactly what it took to reach the stage at which we all became able to go online. There are also some tasty tidbits about amazon.

If I had to pick one book about the Internet, this would be it!

~The Rebecca Review
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