Tag Archives: Innovator’s Dilemma

2020 Challenge: Completely re-invent how we process data (or grow our brains 30x!)

matrix-200pxOn Friday, Russell Garland of the WSJ wrote about the “Data Tsunami” that is coming due to increased volumes of data being generated from everything from the Facebook Social Graph, the next Interest Graph and genomics (just to name the most obvious growth driver). “Tsunami” is probably too small of a word (unless you are talking about Jupiter-scale growth). Take a look at these interesting numbers:

  • The average human brain can take in and remember about one byte per second (two gigabytes over an average life time, including sleep)[1]
  • The amount of data storage in the world in 2000 was rough 300,000 terabytes—about 0.03 “brains’ worth” of storage for every person on Earth[1,2]
  • This amount grew at to approximately 1,200,000 terabytes by 2010—about 90 “brains’ worth” of storage for every person on Earth.[2,3] No wonder we feel so over-loaded with data!
  • By 2020, this will get even more outlandish. We will have 36,000,000,000 terabytes of data—about 2,400 “brains’ worth” of storage for every person on Earth.[2,3]

Managing storage of this volume data will be an interesting challenge for companies like EMC, IBM and Oracle (one aided greatly by Moore’s Law). However, being able to understand it will require complete reinvention of how we process, explore and analyze data.

These new technologies will be as advanced when compared to today’s data warehousing and reporting technologies as the spreadsheet was when compared to manual ledgers. They will use non-linear rule engines and artificial intelligence to find trends and determine which data are most important. They will use new data visualization techniques, leveraging everything from 3D to augmented reality (AR) technology to enable human-scale brains to explore results and conduct analyses. This, in turn, will drive new physical interfaces from the desktop to mobile to even wearables.

It should be a very interesting ride!

[1] “How Much Information is there in the World?”, Michael Lesk
[2] “World Population”, Wikipedia
[3] EMC-sponsored IDC study, “The Digital Universe Decade – Are You Ready?”

Could GeoCities have become Facebook?

GeoCities-140pxhMany have argued that GeoCities was the first online social network and would have gone on to become as big as Facebook if had now switched gears after being acquired by Yahoo! for USD $3.57 billion—in 1999!

GeoCities let people develop and publish pages about themselves. It developed many of the technologies intrinsic two Web 2.0. It was one of the Top 5 destinations on the Internet. Its users were deeply loyal to its online community…

My first Facebook Page at Harvard, 1995 (Click to enlarge)

So could it have become what Facebook has become—a decade (i.e., five software generations) earlier? No, it could not.

The reason has nothing to do with technology. (While Facebook is leveraging many new web and mobile advances to grow like mad, the core technologies required for online social networking were available in the 1980s.) The reason has nothing to do with the management team at GeoCities. (They were brilliant and forward thinking.) The reason has nothing to do with the idea of a “Facebook” either. (For decades, Harvard has been printing these to let people network when they arrive on campus.) The reason is entirely societal.

Social networks are about connecting people (they have been around forever). The rise of online social networks over the past N years (where N is: five, if you count the first billion-dollar valuations; three if you count analyst coverage; and one, if you count making a movie about it) could not have occurred until two elements about how society uses and views the Internet were firmly in place…

First, Internet access had to become truly ubiquitous

In 1999, the Internet was still considered a new technology to non-techies (even though it had been around for decades). For most people it was an extremely complicated activity; one that was slow and prone to failure. (Remember this horrible sound?)

It took an additional 5-10 years (depending on where you lived) for Internet access by millions of everyday people (i.e., techies and their aunts and grandparents) to become as easy as using the television or telephone. Until the Internet became a dependable, always-on utility for everyday people, the online social explosion could not have occurred.

Second, everyday use of the Internet had to become pervasive across generations

In 1999, most people did not dial-up and log in to the Internet daily, let alone several times each day to seek or share information (except techies). For most people, accessing the Internet was still considered a special activity, not an everyday one.

dieout_280pxNow every generation uses the Internet (most several times every day). People under age 25 do not even remember life without it. Grandparents share vacation photos with their grand kids. Churches use the Internet to coordinate activities and fund-raising. Until seeking and sharing information on the Internet became pervasive to the everyday lives of all generations, online social media would never have explored beyond early adopters.

This takes nothing away from the achievements of today’s social media leaders

While the time is finally right for social media, it does not mean creating a successful online social network is easy. Many have tried and failed. Only a few leaders have become the social media equivalents of ABC, NBC and CBS (or Coke and Pepsi, or Ford, GM and Chrysler).