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About Nick Bilton
British born Nick Bilton is Special Correspondent at Vanity Fair, where he writes about technology, business and culture, and a contributor at CNBC. He was a columnist for The New York Times for almost a decade. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and dog, Pixel.
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In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything—drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons—free of the government’s watchful eye.
It wasn’t long before the media got wind of the new Web site where anyone—not just teenagers and weed dealers but terrorists and black hat hackers—could buy and sell contraband detection-free. Spurred by a public outcry, the federal government launched an epic two-year manhunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, with no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. All the investigators knew was that whoever was running the site called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.
The Silk Road quickly ballooned into $1.2 billion enterprise, and Ross embraced his new role as kingpin. He enlisted a loyal crew of allies in high and low places, all as addicted to the danger and thrill of running an illegal marketplace as their customers were to the heroin they sold. Through his network he got wind of the target on his back and took drastic steps to protect himself—including ordering a hit on a former employee. As Ross made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren’t sure even existed, searching for a needle in the haystack of the global Internet.
Drawing on exclusive access to key players and two billion digital words and images Ross left behind, Vanity Fair correspondent and New York Times bestselling author Nick Bilton offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It’s a story of the boy next door’s ambition gone criminal, spurred on by the clash between the new world of libertarian-leaning, anonymous, decentralized Web advocates and the old world of government control, order, and the rule of law. Filled with unforgettable characters and capped by an astonishing climax, American Kingpin might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction. But it’s all too real.
The San Francisco-based technology company Twitter has become a powerful force in less than ten years. Today it’s everything from a tool for fighting political oppression in the Middle East to a marketing must-have to the world’s living room during live TV events to President Trump’s preferred method of communication. It has hundreds of millions of active users all over the world.
But few people know that it nearly fell to pieces early on.
In this rousing history that reads like a novel, Hatching Twitter takes readers behind the scenes of Twitter’s early exponential growth, following the four hackers—Ev Williams, Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass, who created the cultural juggernaut practically by accident. It’s a drama of betrayed friendships and high-stakes power struggles over money, influence, and control over a company that was growing faster than they could ever imagine.
Drawing on hundreds of sources, documents, and internal e-mails, Bilton offers a rarely-seen glimpse of the inner workings of technology startups, venture capital, and Silicon Valley culture.
The world, as Nick Bilton—with tongue-in-cheek—shows, has been going to hell for a long, long time, and what we are experiencing is the twenty-first-century version of the fear that always takes hold as new technology replaces the old. In fact, as Bilton shows, the digital era we are part of is, in all its creative and disruptive forms, the foundation for exciting and engaging experiences not only for business but society as well.
Both visionary and practical, I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works captures the zeitgeist of an emerging age, providing the understanding of how a radically changed media world is influencing human behavior:
• With a walk on the wild side—through the porn industry—we see how this business model is leading the way, adapting product to consumer needs and preferences and beating piracy.
• By understanding how the Internet is creating a new type of consumer, the “consumnivore,” living in a world where immediacy trumps quality and quantity, we see who is dictating the type of content being created.
• Through exploring the way our brains are adapting, we gain a new understanding of the positive effect of new media narratives on thinking and action. One fascinating study, for example, shows that surgeons who play video games are more skillful than their nonplaying counterparts.
• Why social networks, the openness of the Internet, and handy new gadgets are not just vehicles for telling the world what you had for breakfast but are becoming the foundation for “anchoring communities” that tame information overload and help determine what news and information to trust and consume and what to ignore.
• Why the map of tomorrow is centered on “Me,” and why that simple fact means a totally new approach to the way media companies shape content.
• Why people pay for experiences, not content; and why great storytelling and extended relationships will prevail and enable businesses to engage with customers in new ways that go beyond merely selling information, instead creating unique and meaningful experiences.
From the Hardcover edition.