What if the Internet is just getting started?

Even though we’re less than two decades into public use of the internet, there is plenty of evidence that we’re still in the very early stages of what’s possible. As Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker points out on TechCrunch, we’re only in Spring Training when it comes to the “re-imagination of nearly everything.” Her examples are excellent, from 125 years of land line telephones eclipsed by mobile phones in 2002 to Encyclopedia Britannica going out of print in 2012 after 244 years.

There are great examples of disruption all around us. We’re living in a very fast-changing world led primarily by the rapid connection of the entire planet through the Internet. This wave is taking us:

  • From diaries hidden from prying eyes to public timelines on Facebook
  • From scrapbooks to Pinterest and from flea markets to Ebay
  • From books and magazines controlled by publishers to blogs by anyone and everyone (like yours truly)
  • From professional sports commentators to anyone-as-contributor
  • From coupons to pull customers to personalization to push information to buyers
  • From sifting through what you know to figuring out what others know (Big Data)

The picture that’s being painted is one of remarkable re-imagination of nearly everything associated with how life is lived.


This disruption of nearly everything can be seen as a threat, and it is to many business and a number of people. It can also be a massive opportunity to those willing to be part of the re-imagining. Some of the change is driven by very visible, human activity and hands-on technology.

The rest is being figured out by very behind-the-scenes, hands-off machines as the inputs and outputs of algorithms…math formulas. Kevin Slavin does a great job explaining how algorithms are literally shaping a new world and becoming, “The Physics of Culture.”

How far can we take this re-imagination? As far as both people and machines can stretch and as quickly as can be tolerated by the marketplace. Keep in mind that there’s a generation behind us that is much more ready to accept wholesale change than those of us who grew up in a world fundamentally the same as that of our grandparents. For them, the acceleration will be even greater than what we’ve experienced. Exciting, scary, and inevitable.


Categories: Data Analytics / Big Data, Disciplines, Disruption

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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10 Comments on “What if the Internet is just getting started?”

  1. Putcha V. Narasimham
    May 31, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Chris: I have been reading your blogs as they appeared and randomly responded…blog to blog. Now I find that you have some deeper themes and you are piecing together profound thoughts.

    This piece is very inviting and compelling… I can’t wait to hear Kevin Slavin but I want you to know you have done a great job in this blog. Keep at it or similar stuff!


  2. June 1, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    Chris, I would be real interested to hear the speculations of some others about where they think things are going. My view of “the Internet” is that it is just plumbing. We have roads. They started as dirt two-tracks and now we have superhighways. We had open drains and now we have huge underground drainpipes as big as houses.

    As time goes on, our infrastructure gets…well…bigger. This has already begun to happen with the Internet as we started using copper phone lines with dial-up connections and now we use fiber and wireless. Much of what we can do today is limited by the size of our pipes. In the future, our pipes will be much larger. Computer interfaces will connect directly to our brains and our scientists will have enough information to be able to provide us with full (five) sensory input/output.

    When that happens, we will no longer need to leave our homes. Our world will exist digitally as much as it does physically. I realize this smacks of The Matrix, but sometimes life does imitate art. It seems we are on an inevitable march towards that objective. I could cite all the research and development that is moving us in this direction already, but that would take more space than I should allot here.

  3. June 1, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    I had a conversation with Tim Berners-Lee [inventor of the world wide web] about this topic. We both agreed that no one could predict how people will be using the internet 10 years from now.

  4. June 1, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    I think the impact of the internet goes beyond plumming – at least in the amazingly rapid impact on virtually all industries and existing common human artifacts. The examples in the presentation are powerful for both their variety and sheer numbers.

    By rapid impact, take the case of encyclopedias – they continued along for 300+ years in qualitatively the same form, with the same general industry rules (or rules that changed rather slowly). Then, in the space of 20 years, virtually all of the incuments are replace and the product itself is vastly different than the previous product.

    Or books – same basic product for 600 years, with incremental improvements. Same basic business model and dominant players over last couple of centuries. Yet this is being massively disrupted in the last 10 years with iPads, Amazon, etc.

    What’s interesting is that this same type of change is hitting so many industries at once. I think this is indeed different than all but a few of the previous inventions. For example – the telephone was a big invention and it was incorporated into and used most businesses and households. However, it didn’t cause the same widespread, rapid disruption of so much of the business landscape.

  5. June 1, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Tom’s observation and summary explains persistence of certain products / systems and sudden changes.

    Many of the features of mobile telephones were actually specified in a Brainstorming Session and compilation of desirable features of telephones (Video of Session conducted by Russell Ackoff’s at AT&T in 1952…sorry I am not able to get the link right now).

    So this kind of discussion and analysis may lead to superior possibilities or speed up the progress. Semantic Web and meaning related precision FETCHING (not SEARCH), No-cost best education to the needy everywhere, knowledge-on demand for ready use (without long prior education), Ad-FREE Commerce (all the intrusive, high cost advertising should disappear within a year), Rapid and uniform Justice, Litigationless settlements…are some of the superior possibilities…some soarly needed right now (feasible).

    Let’s start…let’s accelerate…wisely and fairly.

  6. June 3, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    The “Internet as Pipes” discussion while appealing to some, ignores at least one other dimension — protocols. The rapid evolution of protocols (and protocol levels) that make sense of the bits moving through over the ever-increasing bandwidth is what makes the Internet open and adaptive. Contrast what we have now, versus what we had in 1994, and what those difference have enabled. Want a glimpse of the future? Look no further than the RFC’s for the next generation of protocols being suggested for the “pipes,” be they wire, fiber optic or wireless.

  7. June 3, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    Thanks, Richard. Protocols are certainly a huge part of what’s changed. Moving away from proprietary and into standards is a huge part of the success.


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