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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The World Is Flat As An Extensible Wiki

The World is Flat wins the first Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award. Thomas Friedman has a vision for the final edition of The World is Flat: anybody will be able to update it. He is looking at actually turning the book into an open-source product - like putting it up on the web like Wikipedia and let people manage it. It may be a concern for its publishers besides the risk that opponents of the book or its message about the benefits of globalisation will try to hijack the wiki edition. But it is a vision that is perfectly in tune with the picture of a globalised and interconnected world that Mr Friedman outlines. The rapid evolution over the past year of what is known as "Web 2.0" - a flowering of internet companies and strategies, based on the growing availability of cheap or free software online - has made it possible for budding entrepreneurs and big companies to experiment with strategies without having to "bet the firm".

A version of the book that can be constantly updated may also be the only way to guarantee that it remains current. The book's premise is that, at the beginning of this century, the world entered a new phase of globalisation, based on disruptive social, political and technological events ("flatteners", as Mr Friedman calls them) during the latter part of the 20th century.In this flatter world, companies and individuals will be able to collaborate and compete more successfully, whatever their size and wherever they are. Those that fail to adapt will suffer, he says. Mr Friedman says the evolution towards an interconnected, flatter world has accelerated since the book was completed nearly a year ago.This month, for instance, the audio version of The World is Flat became the top-selling podcast album on Apple's iTunes audio downloading site, says the author.He notes that when he started this book in March 2004, podcasting didn't exist.

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