Software Will Eat The World May 23, 2012

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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Photo: Nigel Parry (from Wired)

Every few weeks I read an article that inspires me and it becomes the thing I talk about to everyone that will listen. On a recent plane ride I got caught up on my reading and found that latest inspirational article. It’s the cover story of the most recent Wired. Wired is doing a series of regular profiles of icons that have changed the world. The first one is an interview with Marc Andreesen, the man who co-invented the first web browser, pioneered cloud technology, and invested in companies like Facebook, Groupon, Twitter, and Zynga.

Read this article if you want to get a glimpse into where technology is headed. Below are some of my favorite quotes, but I highly recommend you read the entire article here:

Marc Andreessen: Technology is like water; it wants to find its level. So if you hook up your computer to a billion other computers, it just makes sense that a tremendous share of the resources you want to use—not only text or media but processing power too—will be located remotely. People tend to think of the web as a way to get information or perhaps as a place to carry out ecommerce. But really, the web is about accessing applications. Think of each website as an application, and every single click, every single interaction with that site, is an opportunity to be on the very latest version of that application. Once you start thinking in terms of networks, it just doesn’t make much sense to prefer local apps, with downloadable, installable code that needs to be constantly updated.

[Wired Editor-in-Chief] Anderson: Assuming you have enough bandwidth.

Andreessen: That’s the very big if in this equation. If you have infinite network bandwidth, if you have an infinitely fast network, then this is what the technology wants. But we’re not yet in a world of infinite speed, so that’s why we have mobile apps and PC and Mac software on laptops and phones. That’s why there are still Xbox games on discs. That’s why everything isn’t in the cloud. But eventually the technology wants it all to be up there.


Andreessen: The application model of the future is the web application model. The apps will live on the web. Mobile apps on platforms like iOS and Android are a temporary step along the way toward the full mobile web. Now, that temporary step may last for a very long time. Because the networks are still limited. But if you grant me the very big assumption that at some point we will have ubiquitous, high-speed wireless connectivity, then in time everything will end up back in the web model. Because the technology wants it to work that way.


Anderson: [Edited]  For every million that Craigslist made, it took a billion out of the newspaper industry. If you transform these big, inefficient industries in such a way that the value all accrues to a smaller software company, what’s the broad economic impact?

Andreessen: My bet is that the positive effects will far outweigh the negatives. Think about Borders, the bookstore chain. Amazon drove Borders out of business, and the vast majority of Borders employees are not qualified to work at Amazon. That’s an actual, full-on problem. But should Amazon have been prevented from doing that? In my view, no. Because it’s so much better to live in a world where that happened, it’s so much better to live in a world where Amazon is ascendant. I told you that my childhood bookstore was something you had to drive an hour to get to. But it was a Waldenbooks, and it was, like, 800 square feet, and it sold almost nothing that you would actually want to read. It’s such a better world where we have Amazon, where everything is universally available. They’re a force for human progress and culture and economics in a way that Borders never was.

Again, read the whole article here, and, if you get as inspired as I was, definitely check out this video of a fireside chat Marc did with Wired’s Chris Anderson at a recent Wired Business Conference.

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