About a million years ago, I owned a house in Philadelphia.
The New York Times had just bought VNI, which was based in Philly, and we had to move to NY.
(No great tragedy there).
The real estate market was depressed - there were 'for sale' signs up and down Chestnut Street, so the prospect of selling my house was thin, at best.
Instead, I decided to try and rent it.
One day, a guy came in to look at the house as a possible rental.
He had long black hair, a beard, wore a leather jacket.
At first I wasn't sure if he was there to rent the house or to rob me.
After looking at the house for a few minutes, he said he wanted it.
I was asking $2,000 a month.
He put a stack of brand new $100 bills on the table.
"Six month's rent", he said. "Can you be out by Monday?"
I stared at the pile of cash.
"Are you a drug dealer?" I asked.
"I'm gonna tell you three letters. If you're smart you'll take that money on the table and buy shares".
I had never heard of that.
"What is AOL?" I asked.
"America on Line," he said. "That's how I made all my money."
And so it was that I put $10,000 into AOL, and watched as the stock skyrocketed... and then collapsed.
Today, AOL is a joke. I do see it on the TV sets on the back of Manhattan taxis, but that's about it. If anyone has an @aol email account I immediately dismiss them as 'grandma'. Even my 80 year old mother has abandoned AOL.
The web giveth and the web taketh away.
Yahoo is already entering into AOL-land, and Microsoft is probably not far behind.
Microsoft. Once the undisputed king of the computer revolution could not make the transition to online, though they sure did try.
Web 2.0 is about to give way to web 3.0
And what is Web 3.0?
Here's a recent quote from Tim Cook, Apple's CEO: "through the last quarter, I should say, which is just 2 years after we shipped the initial iPad, we’ve sold 67 million. And to put that in some context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs and 5 years for that many iPods and over 3 years for that many iPhones. And we were extremely happy with the trajectory on all of those products. And so I think iPad, it’s a profound product."
iPads and iPhone. Particularly the phones. There are already 6 billion cell phones in 6 billion hands worldwide.
No one has to buy a computer to participate
No one has to tune into a cable channel, or get cable, or buy a TV.
If you think that Discovery Networks in 95 million homes is powerful, how's 6 billion homes?
But Facebook has an app!
Yes it does, but despite its market valuation of $100 billion+, it has yet to find a way to make money off of mobile, and its income of $3.5B last year is actually down this year. Its mobile application is but a shadow of its online website. Can it adapt?
The lesson of the past is that paradigm shifts in technology are ruthless.
New companies that are direct outgrowths of those new technologies tend to be far more successful than those that try and re-engineer.
And what is the underlying architecture of mobile?
In my opinion (for what it is worth), it is about participation as opposed to observation.
We use a phone to reach outward as much as we do to receive. It's a tool for a never-ending multilogue.
You use it to put stuff 'into' the discussion, as opposed to just 'watching' it.
And it's about text and voice and video and stills.
Instagram is just the tip of the iceberg.
But icebergs, as we know, can have unpredictable consequences when they strike previously thought unsinkable companies.