The Four: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Divided and Conquered the World by Scott Galloway

The Four: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Divided and Conquered the World

The acclaimed NYU business professor's tour-de-force on the true nature of technology's titans, and what happens next in their struggle to dominate our lives. Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are in an unprecedented race towards a $1 trillion valuation--and whoever gets there first will exert untold influence over our economy, public policy, and consumer behavior. How d...

Title:The Four: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Divided and Conquered the World
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The Four: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Divided and Conquered the World Reviews

  • Blake

    Glad this book was a very short read, since it’s not worth much of anyone’s time. I tend to not write my thoughts up on books I’ve read in a formalized fashion, but this one can’t slip by. 

    Galloway’s writing style is insufferable, and right off the bat in the introduction demonstrates himself to be an egomaniac misogynist who has a chip on his shoulder for everything wrong that has happened to him over the course of his career. Yes, things happen to him that cause problems in his life (many busi

    Glad this book was a very short read, since it’s not worth much of anyone’s time. I tend to not write my thoughts up on books I’ve read in a formalized fashion, but this one can’t slip by. 

    Galloway’s writing style is insufferable, and right off the bat in the introduction demonstrates himself to be an egomaniac misogynist who has a chip on his shoulder for everything wrong that has happened to him over the course of his career. Yes, things happen to him that cause problems in his life (many businesses he’s been a part of have been crushed by the likes of Google and the others), not problems from how he acts in the face of the cards he’s dealt. To paraphrase: 

    I can’t work in big companies — they don’t listen to my superior opinions so I had to become an entrepreneur.

    🙄 🙄 🙄

    He’s clearly done well for himself financially over the years and has a cushy job teaching at NYU that he seems to loathe, and he can’t escape the fact he was on the losing end of lots of tiny (irrelevant) skirmishes in the broader battlefield of the Big Four’s rise to power. 

    Here is the premise of the book: these companies are always written about and studied, but Galloway is in his mind the first to think of them in a unique and new way. The groundbreaking take, paraphrased: 

    Apple/Amazon/Facebook/Google accumulated capital and advantage and recognized what they had going for them and how to leverage it for money and power. 

    Not only is he so “whip smart” in his own view, but his writing is a bizarre mix of facts melded with with opinion and ridiculous statements explicitly designed to provoke any reader capable of reason. One example:

    “People are drawn to the brand of Apple in order to appeal to the opposite sex and to feel closer to god, or to become more godlike themselves”

    There is simply so much salt in his writing, you’d expect him to be trying to preserve food before refrigerators came around. He’s clearly smart (not as smart as he thinks he is) and pithy, but wholly unlikable by any and all conceivable measures. 

    When mentioning companies often build on ideas from other firms missing a key way of bringing something to the market (think of where Apple and Microsoft are compared to Xerox), he snidely adds that “inspiration from others” is “Latin for theft”. Red herrings abound in his writing, where there is clearly some backstory as to why he is upset about some facet of society, but is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. On the topic of Apple, he writes “the world needs more homes with engaged parents, not a better fucking phone”. Sure, and remind me where Apple comes in to the rescue for that problem? 

    He’s also bitter that when he consulted the NYT on how to save their failing business that he couldn’t convince the powers that be to have Google acquire them. He makes sure you don’t forget that this would have been brilliant, and it was his idea, and everyone else was too stupid to realize it. Finally, he makes a Bruce Jenner trans joke while talking about LinkedIn in the context of its acquisition by Microsoft. What? 

    I’ll let this verbatim excerpt speak for itself, since it is emblematic of how the entire book reads: 

    “Drive a Porsche, even at fifty-five miles an hour, and you feel more attractive — and more likely to have a random sexual experience. Since men are wired to procreate aggressively, the caveman in us hungers for that Rolex, or Lamborghini — or Apple. And the caveman, thinking with his genitals, will sacrifice a lot (pay an irrational price) for the chance to impress.” 

    He claims Facebook is always listening with the microphone in your phone with the most sinister of intent and has a citation to back it up. When you check that citation, it is an article that states that this claim is likely not completely true, but provides steps on how to revoke microphone access to the Facebook app just in case. This article also links to Facebook’s official press site that (of course) states they only use the microphone when you are actively using the app for a feature that requires audio capture, such as live streaming, and that captured audio does not contribute to the ads you are shown. That Galloway doesn’t caveat this in his writing directly instead of relying on the reader to flip through his footnotes is completely irresponsible, and he knows exactly what he’s doing by sowing FUD to get you to nod your head with him as you blithely read on. 

    Given that this is a 2-Star Book in my opinion, and not a 1-Star Book — here’s why: there are some decent bits in here, but not many. I’ve tried to separate the wheat from the chaff, and here’s where I’ve landed:

    - History favors the bold, and compensation favors the meek 

    - Benjamin Button economy: a concept by which companies like Facebook and Google and their products age in reverse, getting better and better with more usage, quite unlike your Nike running shoes. Invest in Benjamin Button companies, and you’ll build a nice nest egg

    - Here are the 8 key factors that explain why Apple/Amazon/Google/Facebook have risen to power in such an astounding manner: product differentiation, visionary capital, global reach, likability, vertical integration, AI / lots of user data, accelerant for careers as a talent draw, and desirable geography 

    All told, I cannot recommend anyone contribute to the success of this book, or the goober behind it. He says that these companies are so commonly known and written about by armchair pundits who think they’re on to something new that no one’s ever thought of before, and he’s partially right. 

    🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄

  • Quintin Zimmermann

    Scott Galloway equates the Big Four - Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon - to the Four Horseman of god, love, sex and consumption respectively.

    The author proceeds to examine and deconstruct the strategies that the Four employed in becoming the present giants of industry, the exploitation of their own mythologies and consumer habits as well as their overt and covert anti-competitive techniques to stifle their competition.

    This is all extremely illuminating, but there isn't much new here that you

    Scott Galloway equates the Big Four - Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon - to the Four Horseman of god, love, sex and consumption respectively.

    The author proceeds to examine and deconstruct the strategies that the Four employed in becoming the present giants of industry, the exploitation of their own mythologies and consumer habits as well as their overt and covert anti-competitive techniques to stifle their competition.

    This is all extremely illuminating, but there isn't much new here that you aren't able to read elsewhere. The prominence of these ubiquitous companies in our daily lives means that they are already subject to extensive research and analysis in many books, publications, research papers and articles.

    Scott Galloway does make a concerted effort to draw business lessons from the Four, but I find this part unconvincing as you cannot extrapolate success from the unique circumstances and individuals that birthed the Four. Great success requires ingenuity, not imitation.

    However, it is seldom that you have the convenience of all Four being the subject matter of one singular book. It is further interesting how these four divergent companies are slowly, but inexorably encroaching upon each other's special areas of expertise in the race to become the first trillion dollar company.

  • Susan

    Not particularly new information, but a nice clear analysis of how these companies came to be as big and successful as they are. On the one hand Galloway seems to be primarily impressed by their succes, on the other hand, luckily, he's also critical:"The world needs more homes with engaged parents, not a better fucking phone."

    I was disappointed coming to the end of the book where Galloway gives career advice on how to be as successful as these companies. Apparently it would be worth it to work a

    Not particularly new information, but a nice clear analysis of how these companies came to be as big and successful as they are. On the one hand Galloway seems to be primarily impressed by their succes, on the other hand, luckily, he's also critical:"The world needs more homes with engaged parents, not a better fucking phone."

    I was disappointed coming to the end of the book where Galloway gives career advice on how to be as successful as these companies. Apparently it would be worth it to work at least 80 hours a week. I sincerely hope our youth realizes there is more to life. "Only hire A-s, because A-s only hire A-s, while Bs hire Cs. Winners recognize other winners; while also-rans can be threatened by competitors."

  • John Plowright

    ‘The Four’ considers the enormous power accrued – for good and for (tax-avoiding, job-destroying, fake news-propagating) ill – by the big four technology giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

    This examination takes place at a very interesting time for, as author Scott Galloway makes abundantly clear, the only competition the Four face is from each other, and the race is now on between them to become the premier operating system.

    The first half of the book looks at the history of retail and th

    ‘The Four’ considers the enormous power accrued – for good and for (tax-avoiding, job-destroying, fake news-propagating) ill – by the big four technology giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

    This examination takes place at a very interesting time for, as author Scott Galloway makes abundantly clear, the only competition the Four face is from each other, and the race is now on between them to become the premier operating system.

    The first half of the book looks at the history of retail and the business strategies of each of the Four (such as the inspired decision to transition Apple from a tech to a luxury brand and to move into retail), whilst the second half chiefly considers the Four’s relations with governments and competitors and suggests future trends.

    Galloway most definitely knows what he’s talking about. Now Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, he previously founded or co-founded nine firms, some of which foundered at the hands of the Four. These experiences have not embittered him. On the contrary, he writes not only with great insight but also with considerable humour, not least about the origins of our consumerist cravings.

    In so doing, Galloway occasionally overstates his case, as when he writes that, “At its core, Apple fills two instinctual needs: to feel closer to God and be more attractive to the opposite sex.” The bald facts are already sufficiently astonishing - Apple has “a cash pile greater than the GDP of Denmark, the Russian stock market, and the market cap of Boeing, Airbus and Nike combined” - for there to be any need for this kind of hyperbole.

    This book is by turns frightening and funny, depressing (on the demise of quality print journalism) and visionary (on the possibility of a tuition-free university).

    I cannot recommend it too highly, as it is both a superb eye-opener and an entertaining page-turner.

  • stef

    Engaging and interesting but the humor might not be for everyone.

  • Donna

    This is a nonfiction/science/technology book. The author focuses in on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google and does a nice little analysis on how these monsters have managed to corner the market. My inner geek found this kind of fascinating. It was amusing, and I enjoyed the sarcastic humor. That part was 4 stars.

    Now this did feel a little long, and towards the end, it unravels a bit....so 3 stars.

  • Ilinca

    It's such an interesting topic, and he's such a brilliant guy - I'm disappointed this was not a better book. It's worth reading, but it's such a weird jumble of fact and opinion, with advice thrown in for young entrepreneurs or who knows who, that it's hard to pinpoint what it's good for.

    I loved his recent interviews on how heavy regulation is coming for Google and Facebook, and on Facebook and its ad screening potential. He seems a genuinely smart guy. And yet - I can't even remember what the b

    It's such an interesting topic, and he's such a brilliant guy - I'm disappointed this was not a better book. It's worth reading, but it's such a weird jumble of fact and opinion, with advice thrown in for young entrepreneurs or who knows who, that it's hard to pinpoint what it's good for.

    I loved his recent interviews on how heavy regulation is coming for Google and Facebook, and on Facebook and its ad screening potential. He seems a genuinely smart guy. And yet - I can't even remember what the book was about. The chapter on Apple is more or less a rant (and I'm not in the Apple camp, not even with the tip of a toe, but even I thought he was a bit heavy-handed there), and there is very little argument about what Google and Facebook are if they are not platforms, so I don't know, I guess he's better in short form, where he has to be concise and to the point, than book-length, where he gets lost in details and misses the mark.

    Still an interesting read, just wish it were better.

  • Mehrsa

    This is terrifying and hilarious and necessary. Everyone should be reading this—especially policy makers and young people. The horsemen of the apocalypse will not be faceless nameless terrifying beasts. They’ll be the friendly trustworthy platforms we all use. What do we even do as consumers? That’s the most depressing part. We need the ease and speed of amazon because we’re too overworked to sown our days at Target. As for apple, he’s got my number. Why have I been holding on to the fancy boxes

    This is terrifying and hilarious and necessary. Everyone should be reading this—especially policy makers and young people. The horsemen of the apocalypse will not be faceless nameless terrifying beasts. They’ll be the friendly trustworthy platforms we all use. What do we even do as consumers? That’s the most depressing part. We need the ease and speed of amazon because we’re too overworked to sown our days at Target. As for apple, he’s got my number. Why have I been holding on to the fancy boxes my iPhones come in? They know our primal instincts and are cleverly exploiting them. As for Google as God, that was spot on.

  • Minwoo

    Glad to have read, though wouldn’t say a must read to everybody.

    Quite contemporary and relevant, healthy dose of sarcasm and criticism, and helpful yet sad affirmation of the state of socioeconomic games played by bright minds of our generation

  • Nick

    Scott Galloway is a bad-ass business school prof (at NYU) and he's got the goods on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are taking over the world. This is either a good thing, or the final hours of the apocalypse. depending on how you think about these companies. Galloway gives you evidence for both views, and in more detail than I've seen anywhere else. There aren't really a lot of surprises -- it's just a little more thoroughgoing. But you've read most of this stuff before in pieces if you keep

    Scott Galloway is a bad-ass business school prof (at NYU) and he's got the goods on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are taking over the world. This is either a good thing, or the final hours of the apocalypse. depending on how you think about these companies. Galloway gives you evidence for both views, and in more detail than I've seen anywhere else. There aren't really a lot of surprises -- it's just a little more thoroughgoing. But you've read most of this stuff before in pieces if you keep up with the news. The most interesting section of the book is the analysis of the 8 factors Galloway says the Four use to rule the world: product differentiation (adding or removing complexity), visionary capital (bold vision attracting capital), global reach, likability (good corporate citizenship), vertical integration, AI (data), accelerant (attracting top talent by being perceived as a career accelerator), geography. He then uses the factors to predict what other companies might join the Four, or even dethrone them. And he has a nice little section on the personal qualities you need (aimed at his students, I'm guessing) to thrive in a world dominated by these all-powerful companies. If you're one who thinks all progress is good and the Four are completely benign wonders bringing delightful technological advances to us, a happy customer base, on a daily basis, you should probably read this book and sober up a bit.

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