As the Brand Development Manager here at Widen I’m constantly looking forward. Where are the markets going? What are the latest trends? What is the next Big Thing in rich media management that we need to be a part of?
So it was kind of a fun “looking back at looking forward” exercise I went through when Newsweek re-published an article that they had originally published in 1995 titled The Internet? Bah!.
In it, Clifford Stoll, the journalist who is unfortunately linked to his couldn’t-be-more-wrong predictions for life, laments against the value of the internet and how it will never be a big life-changer everyone wants it to be.
While I could pick nearly any sentence out of the article and show how Clifford was wrong (e.g. “The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper” – tell that to the newspapers of today!) the more interesting aspect was what Clifford got right by getting it all wrong. You see he came to those conclusions by considering the tools that were available at the time and to illustrate that he started it off with “Consider today’s online world.” That was his first mistake. If the online world stayed how it was in 1995 (think text based usenet groups and 2400 baud modems – a 30k image would easily take 30 minutes to download!).
If you consider the future based on the tools we have available today then the future will always look impossible. What he wasn’t considering was that cell phones of today would have 100x the power as the computers of 1995. Or that downloading a full movie today would take 5 minutes, when downloading a simple JPEG image in 1995 takes 30 minutes!
But in uncovering all these problems Clifford was uncovering opportunities – unfortunately he just didn’t know it or didn’t care to act on it. In the article he talks about the lack of social communities in 1995 – hello Facebook, MySpace, etc. He calls the internet a “wasteland of unedited data” – hello Google! And his rant against the future of ecommerce because of a lack of secure online purchasing (PayPal, Google Checkout, SSL, etc.) and lack of social feedback (Amazon rating system, review sites).
The point is that every single one of the problems he mentioned later became billion-dollar industries and, in many cases, companies in their own right. So Clifford was so right by being so wrong!
How does this all relate to DAM Asset Management? Well, just like Clifford I’m not sure yet.
We as a company and an industry have become comfortable with the markets we serve and the use cases from those markets. For example here at Widen we started off serving primarily the manufacturing and retail industries (via their Marketing departments), though more recently DAM software is catching on with Healthcare, Government, Education and other sectors.
We make some assumptions that our product is not the right fit for, say, an individual. Or a sole-proprietor. For all the reasons you might think and agree with—it’s too complicated. Individuals don’t need all those features. People prefer storing their images locally for speed reasons.
But after seeing Clifford’s 1995 example I have to challenge you and myself on these – how many of these are legitimate roadblocks, and how many are glowing opportunities waiting to be solved by the next Bill Gates?
I’d be willing to be bet that the 2025 version of us will kick ourselves for not acting on these ideas sooner.