From Anarchy to Power, by Wendy M. Grossman

Is the culture of the Web something genuinely new, or is it merely "human nature plugged-in"? The extreme points of view on this—call them the Huxleyan and the Luddite—consider the same phenomena, trends and evidence and invariably arrive at wildly different conclusions. Wendy Grossman, who is a freelance writer living in London, wrote an earlier book, net.wars, about the Internet in its infancy, to which the present volume can be seen as a sequel.

There is a lot to like about this survey, especially the diligent research and reading the author has invested in it. The endnotes are vast and informative. Yet because the book's aim is never clearly stated and the chapter titles are flip and obscure ("Free Speech, Not Free Beer," for example), even a careful reader will at first wonder what the author has in mind.

Fortunately, From Anarchy to Power gathers strength as it goes along. Grossman's later chapters on such things as shareware and hacking, copyright and privacy are particularly good. They usefully document how the often-conflicting interests of business and the general public have required grudging concessions from both.