NYT: The Tangled Web We Weave review

Margaret O’Mara, reviewing The tangled web we weave by James Ball, for The New York Times:

The internet’s greatest strengths — its nonhierarchical architecture, its scalability — allowed it to quickly expand after American regulators opened the network up to commercial activity in the early 1990s. Yet the pace of expansion overwhelmed the organizations tasked with its maintenance and oversight, such as ICANN, the registry of domain names, and revealed the difficulties inherent in having a global network born in and governed by America.

Although Ball does not go into great detail about the broader political dynamics, his tale demonstrates how very much this timing and context mattered. Emerging as a commercial platform at a moment when Reaganite conservatism gave way to Clintonian centrism, the internet became a system where deep-pocketed industries prevailed over a public sector withered by four decades of austerity politics and an increasingly laissez-faire approach to corporate regulation.

The result was something that one Silicon Valley investor once termed “the largest single legal creation of wealth we’ve witnessed on the planet.”

Another book for my once-again-burgeoning reading list.1


  1. It was almost at a humane size, my reading list. Not because I got through it. I just looked at a few bookshelves and, you know, gave up.