Friday, May 18, 2012

Why I won’t be buying in the Facebook IPO

I was asked by a publisher recently where the most innovation would come from in the next three years.  My answer – it hasn’t been invented yet.  Sure, it sounds like a cop out, but  when you look at the exponential rate of change in the digital environment, predictions become unreliable and giants (even the mighty Facebook) seem less solid.

Consider these facts on the speed of adoption:

(the G+ reference is a bit of a misnomer – as Google migrated current users rather than building an audience from scratch).

So, if speed is anything to go by the current leaders should be invincible right?  Actually it could be their downfall.  George Anders describes it well in this post on Forbes.  He talks about something called the ‘liability of obolescence – a growing mismatch between an organization’s inherent product strategy and its operating environment over time’.

When ‘time’ becomes compressed, such as in the accelerating speed of change in digital, companies operating in that space have a much shorter natural lifecycle (AOL, Myspace, Bebo anyone?).  Sure there are companies that have survived, thrived even (Amazon, Apple), but will they be able to continue to adapt as the pace of change quickens? 

To look at it another way – the Pinterest example shows a subtle shift: from the social graph (who people care about) to the interest graph (what they care about) [paraphrasing Josh Constine, Tech Crunch].  It’s a distinction not many commentators have picked up, but an important one.  To look at the Anders example, where he pits Web 1.0 against Web 2.0 against Mobile – what happens when the change isn’t linear?  As it splinters into ever more directions, it gives more credence to  Anders’ thesis –

Those who own the future are going to be the ones who create it. It’s all up for grabs. Web monopolies are not as sticky as the monopolies of old.

So I won’t be buying in the Facebook IPO: the digital world order could be in for an overhaul sooner than we think

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