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Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy Paperback – 22 Mar 2018
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Taplin wields his axe mercilessly...by the end of this book you will agree with Taplin that the tech firms are abusing their monopoly power to rip us off and debase our culture - breaking the world as he sees it...It is time for consumers to break back. This manifesto is a punchy start. (The Sunday Times)
A bracing, unromantic account of how the internet was captured…Move Fast and Break Things is a timely and useful book (The Observer)
Taplin is angry as hell about the immense size and power of the tech giants, and has a compelling pitch for why we should all be worried too (The Evening Standard)
Comprehensive…Where Taplin excels is by putting all this into the context of the changing global economy (The Times)
A new analysis of the dark side of the digital revolution...Taplin goes beyond familiar critiques (Financial Times)
Taplin’s sense of outrage is palpable and his case is often compelling (The Guardian)
A radical remedy (The Economist)
A nuanced look at the downside of what is glibly tossed around as "disruption" by various cyber-messianic blowhards. Taplin is hunting big game; it is his contention that the giants of the cyberworld-from Google to Amazon-are threats to the fundamental foundations of democracy and that they also cement inequality into our systems in new and dangerous ways (Esquire)
Jonathan Taplin's Move Fast and Break Things argues that the radical libertarian ideology and monopolistic greed of many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs helped to decimate the livelihoods of musicians and is now undermining the communal idealism of the early internet (Walter Isaacson, New York Times Book Review)
Mr Taplin brings an informed perspective to his task (Wall Street Journal)
Fake news. Digital monopolies. Stealth Marketing. This is the story of how the internet, which began as a dream, has become a nightmare.See all Product description
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But the bleakest picture focuses on the high tech industry: Google which has 88% market share in on-line searches and advertising; Amazon has 70% share in e-books; Facebook has 77% share of mobile social media. (Apple is given a pass because it has many competitors and is therefore not a monopoly.). Taplin paints a gloomy picture of increasing high unemployment because of the internet.
Google, the largest company in America, makes so much money it is now worth three times more than every US Airline combined and has $75 billion on its balance sheet. FB has soaked up so much advertising revenue as to put local newspapers and a large portion of the music industry out of business, among others. Amazon’s effect on the book trade has unfairly reduced author’s and publisher’s earnings by forcing down prices. These three companies are the new colonial powers, Taplin argues, gobbling up Startups like Instagram, Twitch and WhatsApp, so that the wealth of Silicon Valley is now greater than Wall Street and the US government. Not since the turn of the 20th century when Theodore Roosevelt took on the monopolies of Rockefeller and JP Morgan, has the US government faced such a threat to its democracy.
The author, who worked with Bob Dylan and The Band, has lots of groans about the detrimental impact of these three monoliths on the music business and quotes many examples about You Tube (owned by Google) where copyright rules fail because the company relies on consumers to police their site.
My qualm with this book is that it fails, despite piling data upon data, to highlight the positive side of the internet revolution. Google gives me knowledge and knowledge gives me power; You Tube gives me masses of entertainment; Amazon has raised consumer services to a level not known before and forced other retailers to follow suit; Facebook has brought people together who would never otherwise meet, albeit in cyberspace. The high levels of unemployment that Taplin warns us is coming as a result of the internet revolution will, I believe be countered by many more jobs in the digital sector, and this book loses some gravitas by omitting these benefits.
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Network effects lead to 'winner takes all' rather than the choice expected when the internet was first popularised, and the power of the winning firms means they can lobby effectively to stop actions to break their online monopolies. The author does not offer compelling solutions, but being aware of the extent of the problem is a good start for all of us.
It is a must-read for anyone interested in the Digital Revolution, although I personally do not agree with some of the positions Taplin argued. Plus, it provides some curious insights on the creative industries of the past decades, so it is definitely worth a try.
Enjoyable read overall!