Install Theme

The Next Big Thing Is Eating The Lunch Of Something That Was Big A Decade Ago

Someone who hasn’t fallen for George Orwell’s trope ‘whoever is winning now will always seem to be invincible.’

Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in the Next 5 Years - Eric Jackson via Forbes

In the tech Internet world, we’ve really had 3 generations:

  1. Web 1.0 (companies founded from 1994 – 2001, including Netscape, Yahoo! (YHOO), AOL (AOL), Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY)),
  2. Web 2.0 or Social (companies founded from 2002 – 2009, including Facebook (FB), LinkedIn (LNKD), and Groupon (GRPN)),
  3. and now Mobile (from 2010 – present, including Instagram).
We will never have Web 3.0, because the Web’s dead.

With each succeeding generation in tech the Internet, it seems the prior generation can’t quite wrap its head around the subtle changes that the next generation brings.  Web 1.0 companies did a great job of aggregating data and presenting it in an easy to digest portal fashion.  Google did a good job organizing the chaos of the Web better than AltaVista, Excite, Lycos and all the other search engines that preceded it.  Amazon did a great job of centralizing the chaos of e-commerce shopping and putting all you needed in one place.

When Web 2.0 companies began to emerge, they seemed to gravitate to the importance of social connections.   MySpace built a network of people with a passion for music initially.  Facebook got college students.  LinkedIn got the white collar professionals.  Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon showed how users could generate content themselves and make the overall community more valuable.

Yet, Web 1.0 companies never really seemed to be able to grasp the importance of building a social community and tapping into the backgrounds of those users.  Even when it seems painfully obvious to everyone, there just doesn’t seem to be the capacity of these older companies to shift to a new paradigm.  Why has Amazon done so little in social?  And Google?  Even as they pour billions at the problem, their primary business model which made them successful in the first place seems to override their expansion into some new way of thinking.

Social companies born since 2010 have a very different view of the world.  These companies – and Instagram is the most topical example at the moment – view the mobile smartphone as the primary (and oftentimes exclusive) platform for their application.  They don’t even think of launching via a web site.  They assume, over time, people will use their mobile applications almost entirely instead of websites.

We will never have Web 3.0, because the Web’s dead.

Web 1.0 and 2.0 companies still seem unsure how to adapt to this new paradigm.  Facebook is the triumphant winner of social companies.  It will go public in a few weeks and probably hit $140 billion in market capitalization.  Yet, it loses money in mobile and has rather simple iPhone and iPad versions of its desktop experience.  It is just trying to figure out how to make money on the web – as it only had $3.7 billion in revenues in 2011 and its revenues actually decelerated in Q1 of this year relative to Q4 of last year.  It has no idea how it will make money in mobile.

The failed history of Web 1.0 companies adapting to the world of social suggests that Facebook will be as woeful at adapting to social mobile as Google has been with its “ghost town” Google+ initiative last year.

The organizational ecologists talked about the “liability of obsolescence” which is a growing mismatch between an organization’s inherent product strategy and its operating environment over time.  This probably is a good explanation for what we’re seeing in the tech world today.

Are companies like Google, Amazon, and Yahoo! obsolete?  They’re still growing.  They still have enormous audiences.  They also have very talented managers.

But with each new paradigm shift (first to social, now to mobile, and next to whatever else), the older generations get increasingly out of touch and likely closer to their significant decline.  What’s more, the tech world in which we live in seems to be speeding up.

People forget how indomitable AOL seemed, and the promise of Netscape and MySpace, before they fell into the dustbin. As I have said before, Facebook is the new AOL, although Johnson is making a different case for that. I have been presaging the rise of social operating systems — which would invalidate Facebook’s near-monopoly on people’s social inclinations — while he points to the rise of mobile, and says

Considering how long Facebook dragged its feet to get into mobile in the first place, the data suggests they will be exactly as slow to change as Google was to social.

And that’s is not a good place to be.

I agree with Jackson: the rate of change is not slowing, so the monopolies of today are likely to be shorter-lived than those of even a decade ago. And the new world beaters are possibly companies that don’t even exist yet, but whenever they crop up we will first notice them when they start stealing users, market, and attention from the formerly indomitable killer apps of the preceding era.

Blog comments powered by Disqus
  1. williamjohngardner reblogged this from emergentfutures
  2. clifhirtle reblogged this from emergentfutures and added:
    Fascinating dissection of evolution of web/social/mobile eras…
  3. ckmontague reblogged this from emergentfutures and added:
    oh boy.
  4. eastofthebay reblogged this from emergentfutures
  5. emergentfutures reblogged this from stoweboyd
  6. teresaratnam reblogged this from stoweboyd
  7. asandlin reblogged this from stoweboyd
  8. perhakansson reblogged this from stoweboyd and added:
    Really excellent analysis.
  9. willowsgate reblogged this from stoweboyd
  10. obliterated1 reblogged this from stoweboyd
  11. digitalegesellschaft reblogged this from stoweboyd
  12. teachnology reblogged this from stoweboyd and added:
    Great Read! Best quote: ”We will never have Web 3.0 because the web’s dead”
  13. ahandsomestark reblogged this from stoweboyd
  14. stoweboyd posted this