The Third Wave by Steve Case — My 6 Lessons and Takeaways

Every business idea, every business, is threatened by what is coming next. This book helps us understand that.
from my synopsis handout for The Third Wave –  (I presented my synopsis at the June, 2016 First Friday Book Synopsis)


Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, wrote his book The Third Wave, published in 1980. Steve Case, the co-founder ofCase The Third Wave AOL, gave credit to Mr. Toffler in his new book called The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future.

Here’s how Mr. Case describes the three waves of the Internet:

  1. The First Wave of the Internet was all about building the infrastructure 
and foundation for an online world
  2. The Second Wave was about building on top of the Internet. Search 
engines like Google. …Amazon and eBay turned their corner of the 
Internet into a one-stop shop.
  3. Everything and everyone is “connected.” (moving from “the Internet of 
Things” to the “Internet is Everything”).

And, here is is his more complete description of this third wave:

The Third Wave is the era when the Internet stops belonging to Internet companies. It is the era in which products will require the Internet, even if the Internet doesn’t define them. It is the era when the term “Internet-enabled” will start to sound as ludicrous as the term “electricity-enabled,” as if either were notable differentiators. It is the era when the concept of the Internet of Things—of adding connected sensors to products—will be viewed as too limiting, because we’ll realize that what’s emerging is the much broader Internet of Everything.

This book is a wonderful short, substantive history of the early days of the internet. And, there are many quick observations that reveal how quickly the modern technological world has developed, like:

We had to beg PC manufacturers to consider shipping their computers with built-in modems.

And here’s a great observation from the Hawaiian born Mr. Case:

“There’s only one thing you need to know,” he said. “When the wave is cresting, you’re either in the tube or you’re in the sand.” The Third Wave is cresting. And whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to embrace it or a corporation trying to brace for it, this is not an event you can afford to ignore. 

And, here’s a hint on why entrepreneurs and start-ups can have such great impact:

Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPRIZE nonprofit, put it, “It isn’t that entrepreneurs are smarter than companies, it’s that they are trying more crazy ideas, taking more shots on goal.” 

A couple of observations from the book:

The three “Cs” (from the original AOL – applicable today, in this third wave) 
– Content; Context; Community
The three “Ps” – Partnerships; Policy; Perseverance “My view is simple: Government is going to be central in the Third Wave. Full stop.”

And, here are my lessons and takeaways:

#1 — Those “overnight stories of success” took some luck, some great timing, and some very hard work. And, some incredible people connections.
#2 — We have now left the “oh, look, it’s the internet” era. It is simply all part of the internet – everything!
#3 — The future belongs to partnerships that will ride the waves as they come.
#4 — It is time to embrace the “invest for impact, with great meaning” movement.
#5 — Be paranoid; be constantly curious, with a perpetual “try this” mentality; and, work very, very diligently!
#6 — The future will indeed be better. But, work very diligently to be part of the better future.

This is a wonderful book to read because of its short and substantive history of the modern technological era, and for its clear vision of the future. It is, as I said in my synopsis, an optimistic book! I’m glad I read it. I strongly recommend that you add it to your reading list.

And, just for fun, a walk down memory lane:


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