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Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195152661
ISBN-10: 0195152662
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is the Internet truly "flattening" the modern world? Will national boundaries crumble beneath the ever-increasing volume of Internet traffic? Goldsmith and Wu, both professors of law (Goldsmith at Harvard, Wu at Columbia), think not, and they present an impressive array of evidence in their favor. The authors argue national governments will continue to maintain their sovereignty in the age of the Internet, largely because of economics: e-businesses-even giants such as Yahoo, Google and eBay-need governmental support in order to function. When Yahoo, an American company, was tried in French court for facilitating the auctioning of Nazi paraphernalia in violation of French law, the company was eventually forced to comply with local laws or risk losing the ability to operate in France. As eBay grew into an Internet powerhouse, its "feedback" system could not keep up with cunning con artists, so it hired hundreds of fraud prevention specialists (known as "eBay cops"). Goldsmith and Wu begin with an overview of the Internet's early days, replete with anecdotes and key historical chapters that will be unknown to many readers, but their book quickly introduces its main contention: that existing international law has the power to control the Internet, a conclusion web pundits, cyberlaw specialists and courts across the globe will inevitably challenge. Wu's and Goldsmith's account of the power struggle between the Utopian roots of the Internet and the hegemony of national governments is a timely chronicle of a history still very much in the works.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu, two of America's leading scholars of cyberspace, have written an engaging, fluent first draft of Internet history.... Beautifully written and intricately argued, the book is likely to become a classic of Internet politics and policy." --Patti Waldmeir, Los Angeles Times

"A timely look at the ways that governments make themselves felt in cyberspace. Goldsmith and Wu cover a range of controversies, from domain-name disputes to online poker and porn to political censorship. Their judgments are well worth attending."--David Robinson, Wall Street Journal

"Goldsmith and Wu have written a concise, compact, and highly readable book canvassing more than their basic question of 'who controls the internet?'. It is a sweeping review of all of the key concerns of internet history, lore and law over the last 20 years."--Melbourne University Law Review

"In the 1990s the Internet was greeted as the New New Thing: It would erase national borders, give rise to communal societies that invented their own rules, undermine the power of governments. In this splendidly argued book, Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu explain why these early assumptions were mostly wrong: The Internet turns out to illustrate the enduring importance of Old Old Things, such as law and national power and business logic. By turns provocative and colorful, this is an essential read for anyone who cares about the relationship between technology and globalization."--Sebastian Mallaby, Editorial Writer and Columnist, The Washington Post

"It is time that America learn an important lesson about the Internet--that however cyber the space is, it is also real, and subject to real space governments. This is the very best work to make this fundamental point. Goldsmith and Wu have made understandable and accessible an argument political culture should have realized a decade ago." --Lawrence Lessig, author of Code and Free Culture

"Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu are among the most creative and provocative legal scholars of their generation. In this surprising, unsentimental, and ultimately optimistic book, they reject romantic abstractions about the globalizing and transformative power of the Internet. National laws, traditions, and customs are just as important in controlling cyberspace as they are in real space, they argue. And that's a good thing because decentralized control can encourage freedom, diversity, and self-determination. Combining realism with idealism, Who Controls the Internet? offers an adult manifesto for the future of freedom in an interconnected world." --Jeffrey Rosen, author of The Naked Crowd

"Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu have written an informative, engaging and provocative book that will undoubtedly challenge most people's preconceptions of the Internet. This is the most important book about the politics of the Internet since Lawrence Lessig's Code." --Daniel W. Drezner, University of Chicago and danieldrezner.com

"A major contribution to literature about the internet....an excellent addition to academic law libraries as well as other academic, firm, or large county libraries with collections that emphasize cyber law, intellectual property, digital copyright, and international law."--Law Library Journal

"Goldsmith and Wu have written a concise, compact, and....an highly readable book canvassing more than their basicas question of 'who controls the internet?'. It is a sweeping review of all of the key concerns of internet history, lore, and law over the last 20 years."--Melbourne University Law Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195152662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195152661
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,252,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Who Controls the Internet?" by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu offers a clear-eyed assessment of the struggle to control the Internet. Starting with a discussion of the early vision of a borderless global community, the authors present some of the most prominent individuals, ideas and movements that have played key roles in developing the Internet as we know it today. As Law Professors at Harvard and Columbia, respectively, Mr. Goldsmith and Mr. Wu adroitly assert the important role of government in maintaining Internet law and order while skillfully debunking the claims of techno-utopianism that have been espoused by popular but misinformed theorists such as Thomas Friedman.

The book has three sections. Part One is "The Internet Revolution". The authors discuss the early days of the Internet through the 1990s, when Julian Dibbell and John Perry Barlow articulated a libertarian vision that gained wide currency in the public imagination. The Electronic Frontier Foundation worked to protect the Internet from regulation in the belief that a free online community might unite people and melt government away. However, Jon Postel's attempt to assert control over the root naming and numbering system in 1998 was short-lived, as the U.S. government flexed its power in order to protect its national defense and business interests.

Part Two is "Government Strikes Back". Users in different places with widely varying cultures and preferences want information presented in their local language and context, the authors explain. Governments use a number of techniques to pressure or control local intermediaries to restrict Internet content that a majority of its citizens find unacceptable, such as the sale of Nazi paraphenelia in France.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was very disappointed with this book after seeing all of the high reviews here, and reading the description for the book. I thought I was going to be reading an in-depth analysis of the technical, legal, and political means by which governments control, censor, and surveil the Internet, what the sociopolitical effects of this are, and how people around the world are resisting invasion of privacy and deprivation of autonomy.

Instead, I discovered that it was actually a poorly reasoned apology for government surveillance, censorship, and control of the Internet. Bringing out those trusty old substitutes for rational analysis and debate -- child porn, Nazi hate speech, and computer fraudsters -- Wu and Goldsmith repeatedly attempt to show us how grateful we should be for our governments "protecting" us from "villains", and how we were all so "naive" for thinking that we wanted to be able to have a democratic, uncensored electronic communications medium, and how silly we were for thinking that we would actually be allowed to have one.

They discuss issues within inane framings such as "uninhibited debate vs. order", and talk about how it's great that governments are censoring and monitoring the public, because that's what people need to keep them safe from all of those Nazis and child pornographers. They of course, superficially touch upon the Chinese surveillance state, and how in *extreme* and *rare* situations like China, government surveillance, censorship, and control might *possibly* lead to political repression -- but other than that, they keep on the velvet gloves, hardly discussing government violations of liberty and privacy, and not touching at all upon the extensive surveillance apparatus in the United States or Great Britain.
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Format: Hardcover
Jack and Tim made one thing dramatically clear: The Internet is no lawless enclave in our world. Their journey from the very beginning to the modern Internet is full of clear examples and anecdotes describing the "rude awakening" of idealists and patient people who participated in the development of the globe-consuming web.

When I read that the authors come from the dry plains of law science I was sceptical if the book would be worth to read. I imagined that their approach would be as dry as the 1000 ft law books in the libraries.

But, when I opened it and started reading I first put it down after page 186, the very last page of the remarkable work. Their writing is so gripping, so light to read, that even a none-English person like me could easily understand and enjoy it.

After working with the Internet since the beginnings of the 80's I thought I knew a lot about it and how it is screwed together, but I got surprised. Their view from a complete different angle, threw light on hidden aspects I honestly never thought about. In a modern world full of economical interests and its enforcement all makes absolute sense and even dramatic events like the Napster case fall into their logical place in this big puzzle.

Every part of the book is filled with cross-references and hints to further readings. All cases and examples are deep researched and very neutral presented.

Buy it, read it and give it to a dear one.
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Format: Hardcover
This well-written, smooth-flowing text has the capacity of keeping even the laziest reader reading without pause. Please, note that its essence does not include IT technologies like HTML, CSS, JAVA, and so on. Rather, the business of this book is based entirely on attempts (by both individuals and organisations) to bring sanity to the 'world-wild-net'!
Each argument seemed logical regardless of which side it is inclined to. At the moment, signs of change could be seen at the online horizon; yet, it may still take years (if not decades) for the holes to be completely plugged and monitored. But until when the future arrives, the Internet will remain a borderless world occupied by a flock of fly-free birds, many of which will continue to evade caging.
The chapters of this book did a good job in determining and weighing the pros and cons of effecting Internet controls. And, the most gruesome aspect is that the world wide web runs the risk of being balkanized into 'territorial waters'. And judging by Google's experience in China, this sort of control would cause professionalism to be compromised with the view of gaining market-shares.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that some measure of Internet sanity would be nice. However, absolute or high-handed governmental controls may serve to rob the Net of its flavors. Traditional online businesses would be the biggest gainer if this ever happens, whereas the biggest losers would include internet entertainment and leisure-oriented industries.
Most of the issues raised in this book are real-world. They constitute very good guiding principles. But as the Internet continues to grow and evolve, the validity of these principles may not be all that future-proof. Only time will tell. But until then, border will continue to mean nothing when control is non-existent.
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