Yesterday Fred posted about voice input over on AVC, and it reminded me how long it takes for consumers to adopt truly new behaviors, regardless of how enthusiastic we might get about a particular technology’s potential. As Fred points out, voice input has been around for a decade or so, and yet just a fraction of us use it for much more than responding to texts or emails on our phones.
While tens of millions of us have begun to use generative AI in various ways, its “paradigm shifting” impacts are likely years away. That’s because while consumers would love to have AI genies flitting around negotiating complex tasks on our behalf, first an ecosystem of developers and entrepreneurs will have to do the painstaking work of clearing the considerable brush which clogs our current technology landscape — and it’s not even certain they’ll be able to.
Some historical context is worth considering. When the World Wide Web hit in 1993, I was convinced this new platform would change everything about, well, everything. Culture, business, government — all would be revolutionized. 1993 was the year Wired first published, and we took to the technology with abandon. We launched Hotwired, one of the first commercial websites, in 1994- but quickly realized the limitations of the early Web. There was no way to collect payment, serve advertising, or even identify who was visiting the site. All of those things and more had to be invented from scratch, and it took several years before the entrepreneurial ecosystem ramped up to the challenge. Then, of course, the hype overwhelmed the technology’s ability to deliver, and it all came crashing down in 2001.
Fast forward to the launch of the iPhone in 2007, and once again, everyone was convinced the world was going to change dramatically. But Airbnb launched in late 2008, Uber in 2009, and both didn’t gain widespread traction until 2011 or 2012. It took another seven to nine years for these two stalwarts of the mobile revolution go public. Along the way tens of thousands of smaller companies were building apps, exploring new opportunities, and generally laying the groundwork for the world as we know it today. But to win, they learned that they had to play by the increasingly rigid policies of the dominant platforms: Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. The dream of “Web 2” — where the Internet would…