My answer to my own click bait headline (which in and of itself is a recent “innovation”):
It sure fucking seems like it.
Technology, for all its speed and seemingly rapid change, is in reality mostly a bunch of incremental steps and improvements. Like software updates, Version 5.4.1 is better than Version 2.1.1 and usually that progress can be tracked along with the version number. Of course, this isn’t always the case and sometimes new versions are true jumps forward, but by and large our lives are being changed not by moon shots but the day-to-day testing that is occurring on the International Space Station (which itself was built in stages).
The iPhone, was one such huge leap forward. After years and years of hearing about the “mobile revolution” – something promised in the US but was mostly occurring overseas in Japan and other markets – the iPhone actually made that revolution a reality. And then others like Google and its Android platform pushed it further. But for me, the iPhone was the real domestic beginning of the sea change…
Data proof point: the iPhone was released in the Summer of 2007, and…
Facebook, mobile apps, more recently the rise of streaming music and movies, all of these are big, Rockefeller-sized industry crushing and rebuilding changes.
But at a certain point the well runs dry.
And the end of the thread is reached. Regardless of what the social tech echo chamber says.
Let’s look at the first of those jumps forward – the rise of social networks. It will be exceedingly hard for a new social network, from scratch, to ever reach one billion users again like Facebook did. That model, of connecting with a large of amount of real or imagined friends and pushing out content to them, is one based in the past, not future. Private messaging and niche social networks are where things are and will remain for the time being. The space is becoming more fragmented and more specialized, not less so. It will take a big leap forward in technology or purpose to attract the scale that Facebook has achieved.
Could it happen? Sure. Virtual reality will go mainstream at some point (and ironically, Facebook could be the company that brings it mass market) as could things like Holograms, AIs, Will Smith-style robot utopia…I mean, who knows?
But what I’m pretty sure doesn’t fall in that category is the hot social company of the past week – Ello – which bills itself as the “Anti-Facebook.” This is mainly because they are apparently anti-ads and pro-privacy, the latter of which is actually a real consumer trend. The former though, isn’t a differentiator. It’s a flag that any startup out of the gate can easily fly. Because this is my blog, I will quote myself and I will do so without embarrassment:
It's easy to be anti-ad when you're a new company. Harder 2-3 years in when you are burning cash and investors are banging table. #ello
— Aaron Dodez (@aarondodez) September 29, 2014
There is nothing new as far as I can tell with Ello. Maybe that will change, but being anti-ad or anti-Facebook, IMO, isn’t a technological differentiator any more than it is an innovative business model shift – it’s simply a tagline.
Another company I’ve heard a lot about this week is Talko, which is a, wait, let me quote an article about this innovative next-gen company: “Talko sends the equivalent of text messages in the form of a spoken word.” I mean holy shit! Next thing you know we will be picking up the phone and actually talking to each other. And then the tech circle shall be complete.
Again, this is incremental (to be kind) progress on top of an existing activity (texting). Texting = game changer. Spoken word text messages, not so much.
When I look around mobile app space too, it’s all delivery and logistics – groceries delivered, booze delivered, weed delivered, um, “dates” delivered, laundry picked up and then delivered. Are these mass appeal products, or are they everything an unmarried tech geek in his 20s living in San Francisco and stays inside and programs all day needs?
(To be fair, meals/food delivery is awesome. Big fan.)
So, we’ve pulled and pulled and pulled – and now the sweater is gone and there is nothing left. Except the end of the thread, and a hope for something truly, truly innovative.