In 2011, I penned The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business. To my knowledge, it was the first book to look at the four most influential companies of the day. I suspected, however, that it wouldn't be the last.
I was right.
In the years since my book's publication, there's been a veritable explosion of platform books. I've read a few of them but The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by NYU Stern marketing professor Scott Galloway is by far the best of the lot.
Galloway isn't lacking for opinions, knowledge, facts, and data. Galloway jumps right into the crux of these company's strengths, challenges, and opportunities. That is, those looking for comprehensive histories on how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have arrived will find the book wanting. As someone who has paid attention to each member of "the four horsemen" since their inceptions, I found this approach refreshing. I didn't need a history lesson. I doubt that the book would have resonated with me if Galloway had taken this approach.
To be sure, Galloway's willingness to call out high-profile will doubtless offend many readers. (Yeah, you, Travis Kalanick.) The author isn't afraid to question the actions of our tech deities, some of which have become increasingly questionable (if still legal).
Throughout the book, Galloway pulls few punches and never holds back a controversial opinion. As is the case with his videos, I found myself agreeing with him 90 percent of the time because he supports his views with strong research, oodles of data, and some pretty compelling data visualizations. (As W. Edwards Deming said, "In God we trust; all others bring data.")
One minor quibble: Towards the end of the book, Galloway offers advice to students about how to succeed in our new tech-dominated world. I understand why a college professor would do this, but as a reader I wish that he spent more time analyzing Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and the next wave of potential competitors.
Brass tacks: The Four is a fantastic, provocative book about where we are now and where we are going.