I hear you all. What is Battelle on about, all this music stuff, all this non search stuff? I am sorry, but you have to trust me, it’s going somewhere. I’m following a hunch, of a sorts.
Today some bankers from Piper Jaffrey came by, and they asked me the same question I was asked by two or three reporters who were writing pieces on Google’s 10th anniversary. (When is it, anyway? I am sure it’s this year, depending on how you count…).
Anyway, the question is this: So what’s next? What might unseat Google?
I find the question interesting, mainly for its lack of historical perspective. The answer, I think, is pretty damn easy.
No company will unseat Google (though ultimately, one company will get credit).
Culture will. Unquestionably, inevitably, Google will be surpassed by a cultural shift it will be incapable of exploiting. And that will be OK.
Why am I so certain of this? Well, history, for one. And my own experience, for the other.
Allow me to explain.
It’s my theory that world-changing companies occur when one and only one thing happens: Our culture shifts its relationship to technology. It’s a complex set of parameters that allow for such a shift, but it’s happened three times in my professional life:
1. IBM and DOS. This is when computers became accessible to determined early adopters, and a democratized culture of digital information storage and retrieval began.
2. Microsoft and Windows. As much as I’d like to give this to Steve and the Mac OS, the winner was Gates and Windows. This is when we went from speaking the arcane language of computerese (.exe? .bat?) to the language of “hunt and poke” via a visual interface. A major step forward in how culture relates to information, and therefore, to itself.
3. Google and search. As I have argued many times, search is our latest interface to information, and it’s one based on natural language, albeit typed words, rather than spoken.
So, what might be #4?
Isn’t that the hundred billion dollar question?
I have (my own) pretty clear answer to that. Happy to tell you. But I have to write the post I promised here first. Damn. I really miss having the time to write….