Billionth Unique User
The World Public Library Blog Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 14
Thursday, June 30, 2011
by Michael S. Hart
Founder, Project Gutenberg
Inventor of eBooks
Billionth Unique User
In this, the last Newsletter before we reach the 40th Birthday of eBooks on July 4th, we review some of those landmark events that have taken place this past few days, weeks, months, years and decades since that first eBook of July 4, 1971.
This week Google announced its billionth unique user.
This seemed to have taken place in almost that same historical moment that the Internet is said to have had its 2 billionth.
Hard to believe that only half of all Internet users have used Google at some time or another, isn't it?
However, there are reasons that these two events took place at about the same time that are worth us looking into if we would like to predict the future of the Internet and computing.
When the world saw one billion active computers the first time just a very few years ago, many pundits noted with disdain the very slow rate of increase at that time, compared to the early days of the various booms in computers, Internet use, and what was later called the "Dot Com Bubble," and few would have been willing to predict that the Internet would have 2 billion user accounts by now and the half would have used Google.
The reason is that that even though Steve Jobs had already had major breakthrough successes with the iPod, iPhone and iPad it was not obvious enough for the professional pundits that these kinds of devices would be powering the next Internet boom, and there lies the rub, and why the current predictions fall short of what is actually going to happen.
This is due to yet another landmark event that has taken place this past year, the five billionth active cellphone.
What the pundits never realized, and many still don't, is that cellphones and other mobile devices are what will power a next generation of Internet growth. . .not computers.
This change is what Steve Jobs had already foreseen years ago, when he was first planning the iPhone, and one of the things I say marks him as one of the major geniuses of our time, or, in fact, of all time, as he continues to be one of the underrated innovators of the world. Remember, Pixar just released a 12th hit movie in a row without anything close to a failure, a feat not really matched by any other movie studio in history.
Five billion cellphones are turning out to be a powerful force now overshadowing one to two billion active world computers.
More and more Internet traffic is generated by such devices at the present time and soon it will be recognized that these are going to power the future of the Internet and World Wide Web.
Let us not forget that the world measures such things by buyer dollars that are spent through such devices as well, and these mobile devices are representing a larger and larger portion of the entire economy of the Internet while the Internet, itself, is representing a larger and larger portion of world economies from the richest nations on down.
As this factor grows it will become more and more obvious from the professional pundits point of view that mobile devices are indeed the wave of the future, and have been for a few years.
The day is coming when you can walk past most Coke machines in major countries and buy a Coke with your cellphone.
Not only that, but the day after that we will see coupons from companies that appear on your cellphone screen that you put in front of such machines to use the coupon, even at the checkout in your physical stores.
Various vendors will send you updates on what you are near, as you walk down the street, or look for a place to eat, and more and more of this will take place, until you would hardly think to make any such decisions without consulting your phone for a quick overview of what is available nearby at what prices, and to see if there are any specials or sales on at the moment.
"Impulse buying" will take on a whole new meaning, not just in the current sense of the small items you see at the registers, but in terms of more and more products from wider store ranges from all scales, eventually to include the Tiffany, Chanel and Gucci, as well as the rest of the upper echelon. Yes there is going to be some holding out, some will take pride in the fact they don't do such things, but take my word for it, the number of such places will shrink every year as their competitors get more and more of the business.
Each and every year the Internet sets records for more dollars and greater percentages of the entire economy, and I predict a continuing trend of this until over half of all exchanges will be done via the Internet in terms of the total economy.
Of course, at the same time, I predict that once again pundits will forget that once you reach about 50% of the economy, then you can never double your percentage again, and we will see if there isn't yet another "dot com bust" when they realize after it's too late, that this can't happen, just as these failed to see that once the United States had reached the 50% saturation level of Internet usage that the bubble had to burst when they couldn't double even more more time much less over and over as they had for the past decade.
So, hold on to your hats, and to your senses, as this happens, and try to warn people so we don't have another dot com bust.
Meanwhile, enjoy the ride to the top of the rollercoaster that is bound to take place, but don't think it will go on forever.
Even our own efforts at making eBooks will settle down to more moderate growth after we have half of the public domain eBooks created and translated into the languages of half of the world population. . .but don't expect this to all slow down all that much until there are many more millions of eBooks available.
In fact, until there are a billion eBooks available which will take another decade or two or three, depending on translations becoming more and more automated.
Until then, look forward to more and more eBooks of such kinds as are presented here.