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The Third Wave of the Internet – Steve Case Book Review

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The book “The Third Wave of the Internet” by Steve Case tells about the development of one of the largest American Internet companies AOL and that a new era is coming soon, which will change the usual network and the telecommunications market.

The book is recommended by such famous people as Walter Isaacson (author of Steve Jobs’ biography), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO and author of books), Colin Powell (former US Secretary of State) and many others.

Steve Case is one of those people who made the Internet a part of most people’s daily life. In 1985, he and a group of like-minded people founded the Internet company AOL, which a few years later became one of the most profitable companies in the United States. At the time, Steve felt like he was part of an industry that hadn’t really taken shape yet. However, he had a feeling that after a while the Internet would radically change people’s lives. In The Third Wave of the Internet, the author, drawing on more than thirty years of experience as an Internet entrepreneur, shares ideas and valuable advice to help build a successful career or business in the new wave era.

What is the third wave? What are the conditions for successful business in the new era? Let’s consider in more detail in our review.

Third wave ideology

As a student, Stephen Case was fond of novels by futurist writer Alvin Toffler. In 1980, one of his most popular novels, The Third Wave, was released. In it, Toffler identifies three main waves of human development – agrarian, industrial and post-industrial. A wave is a breakthrough in science and technology that leads to significant shifts and changes in society. Five years later, when Steve went from an employee to an entrepreneurial path and founded AOL, one of the first Internet companies in the world, his instinct told him that the Internet would change this world. In his book, Steve Case, inspired by Toffler’s ideas, writes that the development of Internet technologies is like waves. The first wave was characterized by the beginning – the launch of the technology, the limited and incredibly slow connection, the first Internet companies. The second wave was characterized by a sharp increase in the number of users, which was fueled by the development of smart phone technology and applications for them. The Second Wave era saw the emergence of companies like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. These companies developed not thanks to huge financial infusions, but due to breakthrough ideas and the enthusiasm of a small number of employees. The third wave will be characterized by the global Internetization of society. During this period, the Network will be integrated into all aspects of our life and, above all, into business.

Business in the third wave

Stephen Case warns that building a successful online business in the third wave will be much more difficult. Increasing competition will contribute to this. However, with the help of the business model proposed by Case – Partnership, Politics and Consistency, young companies will be able to succeed. Partnerships are all about joining with other services and companies to form useful relationships and the ability to have greater market impact. Politics implies constructive interaction between entrepreneurs and many state institutions. Consistency is patience and perseverance in creating and developing a product. Steve Case believes these three are the keys to the success of the entrepreneurs of the future.


Contrary to expectations, “The Third Wave” practically failed to reveal an important question outlined in the subtitle of the book – “What qualities should an entrepreneur of the future have?” This is even despite the fact that Steve Case is personally acquainted with Walter Isaacson, a talented writer, author of bestselling biographies of Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci and many others.

However, the story of how Case and his partners founded AOL, how it, through trial and error, became one of the most successful Internet companies in the 90s and early 2000s, is quite interesting to read. It is worth noting that AOL at the very beginning of its journey was not a garage startup, like Apple. This company initially had connections with investors and funding quite powerful for a young company. Nevertheless, AOL’s path at the very beginning was rather thorny – few believed in the technology, there were few users. And when the number of users began to grow, competitors appeared with even more funding. But AOL, thanks to several unique technologies, was able to quickly outflank its competitors. In the 2000s, the company’s services accounted for half of all US Internet traffic. And after a while, the company became so large and successful that it was able to acquire the Warner group of companies, which allowed for another tremendous leap in development.

Who will benefit from Stephen Case’s book?

First of all, for those who are interested in the success stories of the largest companies and famous people. The book will also be of interest to entrepreneurs who have not yet fully realized the enormous potential of the World Wide Web.

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