As we approach the end of the year, let’s look back at the last decade. In 1997, I co-authored a publication for the European Commission called “The Future of Content”. We interviewed strategists and statesmen, artists and inventors, scientists and students … just about everybody really. It did more or less what it says on the tin: we asked them all to tell us where digital content was going. And they did. One contribution read:
“We must also recognise the social impetus that is building. Digital publishing gives every citizen the capability not only to consume but also to produce content. As hardware prices fall and marketing efforts accelerate, people are exposed to technology more and more and from a younger and younger age. Most of this technology comes in the form of devices for communicating, creating or accessing content: computers to surf the Internet, consoles to play interactive games, mobile phones to call your friends. With this exposure comes a technical maturity and a critical eye for good content. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and less passive and their influence on the commercial fate of new content services will be crucial”.
That probably could have been written today. It certainly applies today. But it was written before Facebook, Bebo, YouTube and even Google existed. The term social networking websites had not been invented at that time but that is exactly what we were talking about back then. 1997 was a good year for stargazing. As well as The Future of Content, Scott Adams also wrote a book about where things were going. His approach was slightly different but the sentiments were the same. It was called “The Dilbert Future – Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century”. In it he predicted that Internet capacity would increase indefinitely to keep up with the egos of the people using it. I wonder what he makes of Second Life. He also predicted a huge market for technology products that help workers “goof off and get paid for it”. He might have been talking about blogs, except as everyone knows, they don’t pay.
The point is there has been no serious evolutionary thinking done over the last ten years. That had already been done by 1997. What has actually happened over the last ten years relates more to emerging tools meeting predicted demand to create profitable opportunities for the founders of Google et al. This has been a decade of implementation, of accomplishment and of coming of age. The Internet equivalent of the Berlin Wall has come down and millions of people have become empowered to create user generated content. It has been a very consistent decade for me – I didn’t make money for writing the Future of Content, I didn’t make money on social networking and I’m not making money writing this blog. That is surely consistent. But I would do it all again. So I plan to write The Future of Content Ten Years On – or FOCX as I affectionately call it. If only Scott Adams will agree to be my co-author.