Ultimately, every great power wanes. Growth gives wealth, wealth creates decadence, decadence builds into stagnation, and stagnation leads to decline. Whether over centuries like the Roman Empire, or in the blink of an eye like MySpace, a position of power is temporary. Sooner or later, someone will come along with something better, be hungrier, and take their place at the top.
At some point in the future, three things will happen:
- The way in which we store data will change and we will no longer need Microsoft to build PC software
- The way in which we access information will change, and we will no longer require Google to organise it or find things for us.
- The dynamic of our interpersonal relationships will change, and Facebook will become an anachronism.
The End Of Windows
Integrated cloud based devices using services like ChromeOS or iCloud will mean that we simply don’t need to run heavy weight software locally or save more than a couple of megabytes of information locally and because the business models behind these solutions are not based on a large investment to buy an operating system or productivity software, then are more consumer friendly than Microsoft. People change. When the majority of people at home are using something other than Windows OS to interact with technology, business will follow. We’re simply not in an era where the business use case is making the decision about what people use at home any more.
Microsoft is a big company, but they can’t act like a start up. They can’t change their business model overnight. the shareholders would have kittens.
The End of Google
To predict the end of Google, you need to recognise why we needed it in the first place. Information was disorganised, irrelevant, and as the web grew, it became more and more difficult to find things. Google organised the web, made it useful. Things are changing, citizens of a digital age are not as interested in generic information as they were. The online world is maturing, becoming sure enough of itself that a list of machine ordered links is not enough as a means of organising information.
Google can try to add a social layer to their search as much as they want, but like Microsoft, they’re a public company. What if social results are less profitable for their shareholders, what if they fragment usage patterns and reduce advertising revenue. What if the things I recommend to other people do not result in paid search ads? Google make less money. They can’t change because their own business won’t let them.
The End of Facebook
So what of Facebook, the third pillar of the web, how will it fall? Facebook has grown because right now people are happy to sign over their privacy in return for an advertising supported world in which the reward is the ability to tag photos of your friends. That won’t last forever. We’ll get to a point where people will become uncomfortable sharing enough information for Facebook to advertise to them effectively. Facebook is not cheap to run. Massive data centres that can handle 700 million user accounts and billions of photographs cost a shit load. If they can’t make money from advertising, Facebook will not be able to keep everything forever. Throw in a bit of anti competition legislation from the EU to force Facebook to share interconnectivity between users with third party websites, and you see a revenue struggle.
So it’s all negative then…
Well no, of course not, new champions will emerge, there will always be something cool and exciting going on, and the fact is that while Microsoft, Google, and Facebook may have represented the last 3 decades, they haven’t done so alone. They have achieved ubiquity because they’ve executed phenomenally well. Other people will do the same.