The Technium

Never underestimate the web

The entire trajectory of technology (and its culture) from about 1970 to the end of the century could be summed up by the phrase “Never underestimate the power of chips.” All you needed to profit hugely in those 3 decades was to very firmly believe that computers would double in power and shrink in half in size and price every year — year after year for at least the next 40 years.

The first 40 or so years of this new century will be marked by a similar axiom:

“Never underestimate the web,”

Tim O’Reilly, reporting from the Google I/O conference, provides a neat anecdote illustrating this principle.

“Never underestimate the web,” says Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra in his keynote at Google I/O this morning. He goes on to tell the story of a meeting he remembers when he was VP of Platform Evangelism at Microsoft five years ago. “We believed that web apps would never rival desktop apps. There was this small company called Keyhole, which made this most fantastic geo-visualization software for Windows. This was the kind of software we always used to prove to ourselves that there were things that could never be done on the web.” A few months later, Google acquired Keyhole, and shortly thereafter released Google Maps with satellite view. “We knew then that the web had won,” he said. “What was once thought impossible is now commonplace.”

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