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Headlines: The More Things Change, the More Things Stay The Same (sometimes)

Most people overestimate the amount of change that will occur in two years and underestimate the change that will occur over ten years” – Bill Gates

In 2001, the future was over already! Slow growth was sure to follow!

That’s a phrase that I often use when opening a keynote. When I’m on stage, about to blast into a high velocity 45 minute presentation that links fast-paced trends to the need for various types of innovation, whether with business models, customer support, skills access or new forms of revenue where revenue hasn’t existed before — I need an effective hook to grab the attention of the audience.

With the phrase from Bill Gates put out to the audience, I sometimes reach into the past in order to put the future into perspective. After all, it is very true that most people really don’t think about how quickly their world is changing around them.

With that in mind, let’s go back to this week in the year 2001. It was an innocent time — pre 9-11. The dot.com world had just collapsed, and the world was in the midst of another economic downturn.

The Internet? It was over, folks! We’d just witnessed the flameout of a huge number of dot.com startups — and people had convinced themselves that technology had run its course. And yet others knew that something big was still yet to come. It’s fascinating to compare the different perspectives of the time with the reality that resulted today.

(By the way, Apple’s market cap in March 2001 was about $10 billion US. Microsoft? $319 billion US.Today, Apple is over $300 billion, while Apple is about $228 billion.)

Just ten years ago this week, this is what you would have seen:

Internet access in cars? If you want to go online, get the (beep) off the road!
The San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 March 2001

  • the implication being, of course,
    that we would never see anything so silly as having Internet access in automobiles. Today, of course, virtually every car company in the world is working feverishly to provide an enhanced dashboard experience involving a vast array of sophisticated technologies including, of course, all kinds of links to Internet-oriented data.

MLB to Start Charging For Audio on Internet
The San Francisco Chronicle, 28 March 2001

  • early on, it was apparent that major brands that had loyal followers could invent and build new business models which would reach out directly to their fan base. MLB has always been spot on in this regard. Ten years after charging for audio, they’ve launched an extremely sophisticated, flat-fee iPad application that allows streaming access to a full range of live and archived video. Innovators don’t fight the future — they adapt to it and discover opportunity.

Michael Jackson TV goes on the Internet
The Globe and Mail, 27 March 2001

  • back in the day, you had to be a global entertainment superstar to dump some video up on the Internet. It took megabucks to do it, and megageeks to figure it out. Ten years later, everybody has their own personal TV channel on YouTube, and the entire concept of TV has been forever reshaped.

Nortel Networks Teams to Create High-Performance Internet Village in California
Reuters Significant Developments, 30 March 2001

  • Nortel — and a few other tech companies — blew up in spectacular fashion just a few years later, a victim of bad business decisions, an accounting fraud or two, and a basic inability to keep up with furious rates of technologiical and market change. Key message: today’s heroes can often become tomorrow’s zeros, faster than you might think. Do any of today’s fast social media startups know that they could soon too be in the dustbin? Complacency is a dangerous thing, especially in the context of history.

Many teachers find Internet of little use
Milwaukee Sentinel Journal30 March 2001

  • well, this might still be true today in some cases, but certainly not in many other cases. Demographically, we’re just a few years away from a time when almost every teacher will have grown up with the Internet from their teens. And certainly students find the Internet to be of use – most studies show that it is the most important source for homework research!

Microsoft warns of problems with Internet Explorer
Associated Press Newswires, 30 March 2001

  • well, maybe some things just don’t change over a decade!

Sign of the times: Companies call for Internet appreciation day
Associated Press Newswires, 31 March 2001

  • put this headline in context. We’d just witnessed the great dot.com collapse. All kinds of dubious Internet startups were shutting down; there was gloom throughout Silicon Valley and other tech-hotspots. I remember one reporter calling me: “Since the Internet is now over, what’s next?” The mainstream and business media convinced themselves in this state of gloom that the Internet would have little to no impact on politics, business and society in the future. And so some folks thought it was important that we just sit back and consider how important the Internet might still be. Quaint.

Railroads, Like the Internet, Once Steamed the Economy
International Herald Tribune, 31 March 2001

  • the implication being, of course, that in this state of doom-and-gloom, the Internet would no longer have an impact on the global economy. Oops! Then the world went flat — the Internet proved to be the backbone which steamrollered business models, provided the genesis for the birth of entire new industries, had a major influence on marketing and branding, caused global revolutions, and led to a few new multi-gazzillionaires (Facebook, Twitter, MyTube didn’t come along till many years after this headline.)

Napster, CD Burning, Internet Retail Are Hot NARM Confab Topics
Billboard, 31 March 2001

  • back then, people stole music and burned it onto CD’s. Today, the music industry business model is all about the cloud, with systems like RDIO, Spotify and, maybe, Apple’s forthcoming cloud initiative set to continue to reshape the future. Ten years ago, the music industry was busy battling the future. Ten years later, many in the old music industry are still battling the future, while the new business models that will sustain music over the long term are being built today by faster, fleeted footed youngsters.

Any Patient Can Now Send Internet Messages Directly To Their Doctor’s Fax Machine
Internet Wire, 30 March 2001

  • some braniac dreamed up a new business model, except they forgot to realize that within a decade, 75% of American doctors would carry some type of mobile or PDA device with them while working. History has shown us that many folks often miss the signs of massive technological shift — the result being that a great idea is often out of date before it gets to go mainstream

Struggling eMachines cuts 16% of jobs Computers The new CEO also eliminates most Internet advertising ventures.
The Orange County Register, 30 March 2001

  • the beginning of the end of the “personal computer.” eMachines still exists, busy manufacturing low-end computers. 10 years later, technology growth is all about mobile devices, tablets / iPads, embedded technology, and who knows what else is yet to come?

Internet Is Dominated By the Rich World, Says Mando.
All Africa, 29 March 2001

  • to be fair, it was difficult to get onto the Internet 10 years ago in many third-world countries. It still is today. And yet, we’ve witnessed throughout the Middle East and northern Africa the impact that the network can have upon autocractic regimes. In terms of numbers, the Internet is no longer dominated by the ‘rich world,’ and in terms of democracy, it’s having its biggest political impact far beyond that world.

The great Internet firewall of China
The Nation (Thailand), 26 March 2001

  • ten years on, it is kind of chilling to realize that the nation has now spent a decade learning how to make the firewall work better. Here’s your challenge of the day: what will the headline of 26 March 2021 have to say about the ‘great Internet firewall of China?” Will they have succeeded, or will have it become the most massive FAIL of the century?

So that’s a look back at headlines involving the Internet but a mere ten years ago. What if we go back 20 years? In my news service, I could only find one for this particular week in which the word “Internet” was mentioned in the headline:

General Atomics, Performance Systems International, UUNET Technologies establish first Commercial Internet Exchange
BusinessWire, 27 March 1991

  • in other words, but 20 years ago, today’s Internet was but a glimmer in the eye of but a few thousand geeks worldwide. A few networks were beginning to realize they could do something awesome if they plugged together. I was one of them. By 1991, I had already been online for some 9 years, starting out with early BBS systems, services like the Source and BIX (Byte Information Network). Yet all of a sudden, in 1991, visions were crystallizing of an opportunity to use a fast-paced emerging standard known as TCP/IP to link together all the computers in the world. Many of us thought the results would be astonishing. That’s an understatment.

So let me ask this: what are the headlines that you think you’ll see this week in 2021?

How small is your world? How big is your thinking?

So what do you do with the information you learned from this post? Go and read, “How small is your world? How thinking big could save you in the 21st century economy

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