The Inevitable happened…in a hurry


Om Malik

The 2001 downturn turned telecom and cable giants into the Internet’s gatekeepers. Microsoft emerged victorious with its Internet Explorer. During the 2008 financial crisis, when cash was king, the big banks — JP Morgan Chase, for example — became more prominent and more pervasive. In a similar fashion, the present pandemic is making big tech bigger. And it is not just that their coffers are overflowing. They suddenly have a much larger and more receptive audience…

Over the past few months, we have experienced the mainstreaming of technology-enabled behavior previously thought of as being on the fringe. Shopping for groceries online and having them delivered, for example, was something of coastal luxury. Now, it has been experienced and used by millions across the country. Instacart has boasted of hiring another 250,000 shoppers. Amazon is hiring an additional 175,000 delivery people. Food-on-demand services are going through a boom like none other — Doordash saw its revenues jump over 20% in March. Uber Eats is saving Uber’s bacon. There is no reason to expect these new behaviors to change.

In a conversation this week, Wired editor Nicholas Thompson marveled at the growth in telemedicine and online education, two technologies (for lack of a better term) that have been around for so long that we often overlook them. Khan Academy has seen 20 times as many registrations. The Silicon Valley investors who viewed remote work and the distributed company as a net negative, and penalized companies that didn’t have a physical presence in their backyard, are now “work from home” gurus…

Together with data, cloud, and automation — companies are going to be looking at a more resilient future, one that sits on top of a network. It is not as if they had a choice. COVID-19 has exposed one harsh truth: digital channels are more flexible and faster to adapt to change than physical channels. And now, the world is almost entirely running on the network. This affirms my long-held beliefs. It is a testament to the inevitability of the Internet, which I wrote about in 2008 — and again in 2013.

And as the thoughtful and farsighted Om Malik said at the end of this article, “Now, the inevitable has happened.”

2 thoughts on “The Inevitable happened…in a hurry

  1. nicknielsensc says:

    “The average download speed in [your town] is 9.34 Mbps. This is 85.5% slower than the average in South Carolina and 564.1% slower than the national average.”

    So much for that idea, eh? The mobile hotspot on my phone is faster than my home internet. If only the U.S. had sense to regulate ISPs as utilities.

    • eideard says:

      One of the questions I still have to ask my ISP [Comcrap] is how and what measure do they offer for throughput? Yes, we have nice speed. Rated for 50/60mbps and usually runs faster. But, still liable to act clogged up daytime hours, now and then. Especially with so many folks in my neck of the prairie streaming TV instead of relying on straight-up cable or satellite.

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