Internet RIP: A History of the Web in 540 Words (and why Facebook investors should watch out)

15 May 2012

Moore’s law, first described in 1965, suggested that the number of transistors placed on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, with each improvement dramatically enhancing the performance of digital devices. Pixel development follows a similar path, while network capacity expands faster still, with Butter’s law observing that data volumes double over the same fibre every 9 months.

These advances in fundamental science underpin the increasingly rapid development cycles of digital devices, digital networks and, therefore, our use of digital media.

The great achievement of indexing the Internet and turning disorder into data occurred between 1994-2004, during what is now called Web 1.0. The social phenomenon took off in 2004 during Web 2.0, creating addictive social media behemoths, which are only now in the process of going public. 2010 signalled our entry into another paradigm, with the start of the most dynamic phase to date (and the first with the capacity to touch almost everyone on the planet) - not Web 3.0, but what is now referred to as the Mobile phase.

Mobile benefits from both miniaturizing and HD pixel technologies, but currently operates over existing data networks. We have yet to see the impact of Mobile combined with G4 and faster networks.

So, how long will the Mobile phase last? If you take Moore’s law as a yardstick, perhaps not as long as some think. My hunch is that Mobile will be superseded by a Connected Age; by which time we won’t be thinking about the Web or the Internet at all. Everything will be connected, everywhere. This will take bandwidth, lots of it, including spectra that haven’t yet been used for 2-way communication, like the now redundant analogue TV spectrum (which has the benefit of easily travelling through walls).

As Eric Jackson recently conjected on, the rate of change is so fast that even the greatest companies find it hard to migrate from one phase to another (think AoL, MySpace, Yahoo) and draws into question whether even today’s “super-platforms”, Google and Apple, will be around in such dominant form in 5 years’ time, let alone Facebook, which is rooted in Web 2.0 and has yet to establish itself as a revenue-generating mobile “super-platform”. While this is hard to contemplate, it’s also hard not to contemplate against a backdrop of history and rapid change.

The Web has, therefore, been entirely consistent with the converging world of computing. Hermann Hauser observed that no corporate leader has led more than one wave: with the 1st wave of mainframes led by IBM; the 2nd, mini computing, led by DEC; 3rd came workstations, led by Sun & HP; 4th came the PC, led by Microsoft. Apple and Android lead the 5th wave of ‘Mobile Computing’.

In this context, leadership longevity is almost a contradiction in terms, so can Apple and Android break the mould and maintain their momentum into the Connected Age? Will Facebook prove it’s not another Yahoo by spending its vast new capital wisely? Only time will tell, albeit sooner than ever before...

Peter Matthews
Nucleus Founder & CEO
May 2012

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