Big trends have a way of sneaking past us. Consider the Web. In 2005 it may seem like an old story, but let’s pause to remember that as a commercial product the World Wide Web is just a mere decade old. (And if you lay claim to having surfed the Web during its beta years of 1990-94, either you’re an HTML geek or you’re fibbing.) In just ten years the Web has altered the way we grab information, manage our firms and organize our lives. China likely will surpass the U.S. this year in the number of Web surfers, a development few saw in 1995.
Still, the day is young! The Web in 2005 is like the airplane in 1913 or the television in 1954, when Edward R. Murrow fricasseed a sweating Senator Joe McCarthy before the cameras. (In 2004 bloggers gang-tackled Dan Rather.)
This year video Weblogs are sure to be the “it” thing. The shape of the v-blog trend began to emerge late last year during the election campaign. Example:A half-million people watched CNN’s Crossfire on an October night when comedian Jon Stewart happened to be a guest. Stewart played it mean and bitter, ripping apart hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. The segment made its way onto blogs, and there it was clicked by2.5 million unique visitors–five times as many as had watched it on TV. (Earlier this month CNN took Crossfire off the air.)
The Asian tsunami tragedy brought a secondary wave ofv-blogs. Sites such as the Australian Waveofdestruction.org were logging 1 million unique visitors per week at the peak. The curious clicked in to watch home videos of giant waves swallowing Thai hotels. Had John F. Kennedy been murdered in this day ofv-blogs and digicams, the Zapruder film would have been uploaded within hours for the world to see. Whether that would have been good for our souls is a separate issue. The Warren Commission, however, surely would have proceeded under different pressures.
Venture capitalist Roger McNamee in his book The New Normal (Portfolio) points out another huge trend underway. He tells us to observe how technology products now enter the market. It used to be that the coolest products (i.e., the most expensive) were those sold to businesses or to rich people who could afford them. Copiers, personal computers and cell phones entered the market that way. It would then take a few years for unit volume to kick up and prices to fall. Eventually the masses could afford to buy these products.
But now the coolest products are being aimed at the masses from the get-go–iPods, DVDs and gigabyte memory sticks, not to mention terabytes of Google-accessible free content. Even software is following this trend. A generation ago the Sabre airline-seat yield management system, written for a few dozen carriers, was the neatest trick in the travel industry. Now it’s Orbitz, aimed at billions of consumers.