In 2007 this video began to go viral in the tech sector discussing the future of media and the role of a potential giant Googlezon. The potential merger of two giants of the internet age, Google and Amazon. If you watch the video it’s interesting to listen to what a potential future with these combined giants of the internet age could potentially accomplish. The video is very heavy in its tone and its predictions. As is always the case the future always looks dark and scary. It is also interesting to ponder that what is discussed is not really that far-fetched but closer to reality than one could have imagined. A future where machines play an increasing role it helping define who we are.
The main theme of the video is the algorithms used by Google and Amazon can be used to customize any information to a specific individual. That your daily news could be customized for you, without any human intervention. The search engines could literally browse the world-wide web and stitch the content together to provide you with your daily news, with your daily view of the world. In a world where so much of our information is consumed in a very narrow arena dependent on our tastes and political agenda I am not sure this has not already happened. But the notion that the content we desire can be created and pushed to us would take this to a new level. Our own MSNBC as liberal as we want it or our own Fox News as right-wing as we want it. It raises other concerns regarding the accuracy of the news information that we would receive. In a society that already seems on edge with anger, is this a welcome development?
Social media will also play a role, though the video is interesting in its notable absences of Facebook (Apple is not really a part of this either, but the video was created in 2007, the year the iPhone launched). Instead focusing on Friendster. Microsoft is mentioned as purchasing companies to stay a float in this arena and this has played true. It bought aQuantive and attempted to purchase Yahoo. None so far has succeeded. Social Media continues to play a large role in shaping and creating our online presence . A presence that players like Google, Amazon and Facebook are only to happy to manipulate to better serve and better profit from their customers. As the video aptly points out search is all about mapping users search patterns to meet customer preferences in whatever it is they are looking for, whether it be news, music, or online shopping. Today online stores based on user data can do user based pricing, knowing your shopping behavior and what you are willing to pay, a price can go up or down. Gone are the days of a “price tag”.
The newspaper we have known for sometime is dying. That the New York times would emerge as the last vestige of the traditional paper is not surprising, since they are one of the largest papers in circulation in the United States. I can only add that being a current subscriber to my local newspapers, The Seattle Times, I can only decry the lack of newsworthy content in the paper as I have watched through the years the paper dwindle while the costs have only gone up. I like the idea of a paper as it requires me to spread out the paper and dedicate time to reading the news. This differs from the news on the internet, thought much more current, I find like many things in technology it is not dedicated time, but passing time while I multi-task across the web. The video ends with the prediction that New York Times will go offline and be available only top those wishing to pay a premium or to older generations. This is not that far-fetched. But I believe the end of the traditional newspaper in print form is inevitable at this point. This is not news to anyone.
If you look at Amazon and Google today they are enormous giants in their respective arenas, arenas that seem to be converging with each passing second. That being said the idea of these two companies merging at this point seems a stretch as their respective market caps are $111 billion for Amazon and $230 billion for Google. It would be a huge merger. In addition Amazon and Google are becoming competitors in some areas. In tablets (though Amazon does use the Google Android OS for its Kindle Fire) and reports suggest down the road that Amazon will release its own SmartPhone. Big mergers are challenging, but at this point n time given both companies track record of success this I believe would be an unwelcome merger not just for the market place, but society as a whole. Probably the biggest flaw here is with tech giants like these the people at the top have colossal egos.
It is the “impact on society” comment that I spend the most time thinking about. Technology is creating changes in society at break neck speeds. If you think over the last ten years all that has happened, it has come quickly . We had search and then we had a verb called Google. We had friends then we had Facebook. We had read printed books for centuries than all of sudden they were digital. Alexander Graham Bell did not know about the iPhone when he created the first phone system in the United States. Nor did Craig McCaw envision the mobile internet, but Apple followed up the iPhone with the iPad. These significant cultural changes all happened in a tidal wave of excitement over the last ten years. The next ten years will hold even greater change as we close in on the speed of light in how are daily lives change.
Will there be one or two companies that get out ahead of these changes, like the GoogleZon video predicted? There will always be companies that manage to take a large lead in the tech sector. Some stay and some disappear. There was a time AOL was the king of internet access. Lotus123 were the spreadsheet kings if you want to go way back. However in the end it always comes down to a company having a strong leadership with a strong vision of the future. In today’s world I think that vision has to start with understanding the younger generations as they adopt technology first to meet their lifestyle needs. If you think about the great changes in the last decade it has been social media, smartphones, and search or the 3 S’ as I call them. Looking forward despite it’s bad IPO I see Facebook playing a large role in the future primarily because starting at the top with Mark Zuckerberg they have the type of leader that understands the role technology plays to the younger audiences. I also see that at Google with Sergei Brin and Larry Page. Taking chances without a care for the results.Only focused on the future role if technology.
In the end will this take us down a path as ominous as predicted in the GoogleZon video? There is no doubt technology has and will have a positive role to play in our lives that will save us and our country money (I am thinking healthcare when I think of the country). It will make our days more efficient. It will make businesses more efficient. However in a world where information is at our fingertips how that information is used and manipulated can have very negative results in how our society functions. It is happening now and in ways that five years ago were not imaginable. When you view the video you get a sense of Big Brother being upon us. That Orwell’s future is becoming reality, but it was not the communists that created Big Brother. We created it all on our own entrepreneurial spirit.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann December 28, 2012