A little over a month ago, I wrote about the new changes that Netflix was making to its streaming video and DVD service. Less than a month after my original post went live, Netflix axed the DVD-only service briefly known as Qwikster. Then it lost a ton of subscribers. Then its stock plummeted. It just goes to show you that the Internet – or tech and media startups that rely heavily on the Internet – is one fickle beast.
I’ve written about the ever-evolving nature of the web a couple of times now. In Internet-land, what one is fact one day can be a complete and total falsity the next. In 2004, Bill Gates claimed that Spam would be a “thing of the past in two years’ time.” Seven years later, we have an entire folder dedicated to these messages.
This got me thinking about what other tech and Internet predictions have been completely off. Here are some of my favorites:
- In 1966, Time magazine stated that “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop – because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.” This year, 1/3 of people will spend more online than in-store, according to data privacy research company, the Ponemon Institute.
- In 1977, Ken Olsen, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, claimed that “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” That was only 34 years ago. Now we have computers not only in our homes, but in our vehicles, pockets and even in our bodies.
- In 1995, Robert Metcalfe – who holds a PhD from Harvard and co-invented Ethernet – said that the Internet “will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” Riiiight.
- Again, in 1995, Newsweek published an article by US astronomer and author Clifford Stoll titled The Internet? Bah! In the article, Stoll states that “Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.” This was only 16 years ago.
- In 2005, Sir Alan Sugar, founder of electronics company Amstrad, predicted that “Next Christmas, the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput.” Today, iTunes, alone, brings in over $4.3 billion dollars per year.
These are some of the biggest and most incorrect predictions about the use of computers, the Internet and technology that have ever been made. That doesn’t discount, however, the less significant claims about these topics that get made on a daily basis. There are leaders of the industry who obviously have more insight about Internet-related trends and companies, but the web is still an elusive entity that can never really be tamed completely.
Thank goodness Bill Gates wasn’t right about the spam situation; with these split ends, I could really use that offer for free hair conditioner for a year.