A Brief History of Personal Computing -Part III

The PC Bible – Mathew 7:7-8
Tweet and ye shall receive; Google and ye shall find; join Facebook and the world shall be yours.

While Apple and Microsoft where busy reinventing themselves to stay in business, others were busy reinventing the world as we know it. Born of the information/communication revolution, men like Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey created companies so innovative, most people still don’t understand what they actually do, let alone how they made their fortunes. But fortunes they made; incomprehensible, obscene fortunes, at a staggering pace.

Google earns $100Million per day. Cofounder Larry Page’s (39) personal wealth is $17.5Billion.

Facebook, at its public listing in March 2012 was valued at $104Billion, making Mark Zuckerberg (28), $19Billion in the process, if briefly. Stock went south in a serious way shortly after and poor Mark is now only worth a paltry $14Billion.   

Twitter is projected to earn $1Billion a year by 2014. Apparently, cofounder Jack Dorsey (35) is acutely embarrassed by that number and desperately trying to figure out how to make more, much more. He has just crossed the $1Billion personal fortune threshold, no doubt another source of embarrassment for him.

Ok, so I am guilty of hyperbole, claiming these three gentlemen changed the world as we know it.

But boy, they did shake things up a bit! Their success is definitely not a fluke. They didn’t just stumble onto a good idea and the rest was down to pure luck.

Remember MySpace? Not many do! It was a very successful social media site not unlike Facebook. Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp snapped it up in 2005 for $580Million and sold it off 6 years later for a bit of small change ($35Million)*. Now, you may say that Rupert Murdoch is no good, but you can’t say he is no good at making money. So how come an old fox like Rupert made such a hash of running MySpace?

Because he didn’t know how to make money in the New Economy, that’s why! Because the New Economy doesn’t need printing presses or factories! It can exist almost entirely in cyberspace and still make more money than most “real” companies. Just compare NewsCorp’s market capitalisation of $58Billion to Google’s $219Billion!!!

So, will our three intrepid entrepreneurs and their buddies come to dominate the information/communication economy and write the next chapter of the history of personal computing? Only time will tell. Right now, social media engagement by brand name companies is a must. But recent attempts by some companies to manipulate social media sites by deception have backfired spectacularly.  It seems, Facebook and Twitter users are equipped with very sensitive bullshitometers and punish unscrupulous companies mercilessly. But they are just as likely to punish the very social media sites they rely on if their needs are ignored.

As social media traffic increasingly moves to mobile devices (with small screens), Facebook, Twitter and even Google are finding it harder to get users to look at, let alone click on the ads they rely on to make money. Consequently, click through rates, i.e. the percentage of people who click on an ad on a given website, have fallen. What’s more, the price Google and others can charge advertisers for each click has also decreased.

Only one thing is certain, regardless of the relative success of its major players, the information/communication economy will continue to grow and continue to evolve in unpredictable ways.

* For some no doubt perverted reason, I seem to enjoy seeing Rupert Murdoch lose money.