The Internet without Google or Facebook

Make even general predictions about the future is hard. Making predictions about the future of technology is very hard. Making predictions about the future of the Internet is, well, extremely hard. This piece by Eric Jackson on Forbes goes for the extremely hard, and tries to be specific as well.

We think of Google and Facebook as Web gorillas. They’ll be around forever. Yet, with the rate that the tech world is moving these days, there are good reasons to think both might be gone completely in 5 – 8 years.

The brief history of Internet companies has many examples of companies that were Web Gorillas, but failed to adapt the the rapid changes: Netscape, MySpace and Yahoo.

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.

We’re now in the middle of a mobile revolution where the current Web gorillas are talking about mobile while doing little to embrace it.

Mobile 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.

Like all predictions about the future, there’s a good chance this one is wrong, but before concluding that, if you remember, think back to the days of Netscape, Alta Vista and AOL. Predicting their demise would have met lots of skepticism as well.

The key of course is to innovate, stay flexible, stay close to your users, and ride the technical wave as it moves forward. Small to medium sized companies have a distinct advantage over the current gorillas. A few of them are in fact likely to displace the current set.

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