Book Review | The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath by Nicco Mele

If Thomas Friedman‘s thesis in his 2005 The World Is Flat is that globalization has led to a flatter playing field, then The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath tells the author Nicco Mele’s vision that the ultimate tool of that equalization is the internet. 

In truth, it’s not a hard argument to make.

A young tech geek when the Howard Dean for President campaign hired him to help with their online fundraising, Mele learned first hand how the internet could allow the little guy to compete with establishment forces, or what he calls the “big” of politics. Using broad strokes, as he calls it in the first chapter, Mele describes a world where, increasingly, the little guy can, by virtue of the internet, take on what is big, whether it be in politics, business, the news media, entertainment, education, government.

Its a fascinating picture. Whether he is citing use of online social media networks in the Arab spring or the rise (and fall) of illicit arms and drugs trade through the Silk Road, touting local communities outsourcing of government functions to minimize costs or sharing anecdotes about online retailers cutting out the middle man and creating their own business, or explaining the rise of bloggers and new media to compete with and disrupt traditional print and broadcast news companies, Mele provides a broad and interesting view of the world that the internet has made possible.

As interesting as that picture is, however, it does lead to one shortcoming of the book, which, to be clear, Mele owns and anticipates early on. Because he paints in broad strokes, covering so many large areas in general and with anecdotes rather than hard data, the book is perhaps more appropriate to the internet novice than the seasoned or even semi-experienced who have used the internet for more than a simple Google search or Facebook update. It’s a great entry overview, but lacks any specifics or guidance for how to reach the kind of success he trumpets.

If you’re new to the internet or perhaps looking to understand an area outside of your current usage, The End of Big is perhaps an interesting, and quick, overview that is worth a read. As a user’s guide, however, it is perhaps more useful as tales of successes than a course in attaining the skills to join the brave new world.

The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath Book Cover The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath
Nicco Mele
Non-fiction, technology
St. Martin's Press
April 23, 2013
320 pages

How seemingly innocuous technologies are unsettling the balance of power by putting it in the hands of the masses - and what a world without "big" will mean for all of us.

In The End of Big, social media pioneer, political and business strategist, and Harvard Kennedy School faculty member Nicco Mele offers a fascinating, sometimes frightening look at how our ability to stay connected - constantly, instantly, and globally - is dramatically changing our world.

Governments are being upended by individuals relying only on social media. Major political parties are seeing their power eroded by grassroots forces through online fund-raising. Universities are scrambling to preserve their student populations in the face of less expensive, more accessible online courses. Print and broadcast news outlets are struggling to compete with citizen journalists and bloggers. Our traditional institutions are being disrupted in revolutionary ways, some for the better. But, as Nicco Mele argues, the benefits of new technology come with unintended consequences.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.