Three World Flatteners According to Thomas Friedman: A Summary

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In the span of twenty years, the world went from being areas of isolation to an interconnected network of a global community. Thomas Friedman (2005) wrote a titillating version of significant historical occurrences that helped shape the 21st century and the global community. The first three world flatteners according to Friedman are explained in this essay – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the advent of the Internet, and workflow software. 

Friedman (2005) defined world flatteners through examples. The three examples explained within this essay pertain to world events and advances that served to bring the global world closer together, to move attitudes of foreign countries towards a more global-minded community. The first described world flattener was the fall of the Berlin Wall, November 9th, 1989. The fall of the wall wasn’t significant only for Germany. Friedman (2005) described this event as symbolic for many areas of the world, and had far-reaching effects felt across India, Asia, Russia, and Europe. It seemed to trigger a call for the end of dominating, controlling government to a world democracy. The USSR fell, along with many communistic models of governments who were quickly running out of money to support their structures. 

The Berlin Wall was a symbol of repression, and in Friedman’s (2005) eyes, were isolating areas of the world from each other: east from west, communism from capitalism, freedom from government control. Once the wall came down, it was more of an expression of a worldwide movement. All sorts of pathways opened up. Many world countries adopted a democratic model. Even attitudes towards historically repressed people seemed to open up, such as the way women are treated. Now that people were more open-minded to the idea of a unified planet, not a segregated or fragmented planet.

Friedman (2005) also pointed to the computer advances as a reason for the symbolic crumbling of the wall. He credits computer advances, faxes, and other ways to communicate with people across the world for breaking down barriers and bringing the world closer together as a community. This was the start of a series of advances in information technology that played their roles in flattening the world.  

Friedman (2005) explained, world event number two that perpetuated the world is flat commentary was the creation of Netscape and the advent and promotion of the World Wide Web (WWW). Until the WWW was created, some internets were up and running. They had limited ability, and computers had to be compatible to be able to communicate with each other. The WWW had begun as a place to exchange scientific information that the entire community could access, regardless of world location or computer type. Netscape took this concept and launched a mammoth sized, very successful corporation in the 1990s that brought the world closer together, creating a world-based culture and global marketplace. 

Stated Friedman (2005), the WWW enabled anyone with a modem to access information on any subject, regardless of computer codes and compatibility, and were a very important advance for the worlds’ corporations. Corporations had variable codes for their company intercommunications, and different companies could not communicate with other companies because of issues such as compatibility. The WWW offered a venue where corporations now had a single protocol that resolved any conflicts in compatibility and eased the paths of communication. Combined with Microsoft Windows, once the internet was introduced, it was an unstoppable force in the global community. Moreover, in a collective agreement for corporations to cooperate together, kept the internet accessible to everyone, corporations complying to Netscape’s wish to keep the internet open to anyone who wanted to be on it. This had a flattening effect because it created a level playing field, and no one was superior over another because no one was able to hold all the power. This was the basis for the next phase of revolution.

The third world flattener Friedman (2005) described was workflow software. At first, the WWW went through some growing pains. A world standard had to be established as a computer language to make all the applications and devices compatible with one another. Eventually, the compatibility issues with the WWW, all applications, and software in which Microsoft played a big part were equalized, and businesses could operate quickly and seamlessly from any computer anywhere in the world. Working with the already established languages of the internet, new languages were added that increased the effectiveness of communications and met consumer demand to provide a unified system all over the world. For corporations, this widened the place of employment, order fulfillment, and economic opportunities to be limitless worldwide. People could now have their pick and choose of the most efficient work pools in the world, the best and most cost-efficient supplies. No one really has to travel anymore. People can commute from anywhere in the world from the convenience of their computer. This flattened the world because it brought ways for companies around the world to communicate efficiently, work together seamlessly, and incorporate their company needs to work most efficiently.

The world flatteners as described by Friedman (2005) were driven by certain events in time, devices, and innovations that brought the world closer together. The falling of the Berlin Wall symbolically opened the channels of communication for the entire world. The internet and the WWW brought the world closer together by providing a way for people’s various devices to communicate with each other around the world through unified computer languages. The third world flattener, computer applications, promoted efficiency for the world’s corporate workplace. The driving ideals behind this growth and interest in worldwide connectivity were the human need to connect with other humans and the desire to have an open world society.


Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the 21st century. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux.