So many technologies. So few winners.

We know that in the 15 years since the iPhone went on sale, technology has permeated every crevice of our lives. Technology has changed politics, industry, leisure time, culture, and how people relate to each other—for better and for worse.

The technological march was also accompanied by this mysterious reality: hardly any technology of the iPhone era was an unqualified success.

I would argue that only one consumer internet company in the smartphone era has emerged as the undisputed winner in terms of popularity and financial viability: Meta with its Facebook and Instagram apps.

(The company was founded in 2004, but I put it in the iPhone era because Facebook really took off with smartphones.)

Every other consumer internet company of the iPhone era is under-appreciated due to relatively few users, questionable finances, uncertain growth prospects, risk of death, or all of the above. And even the Meta is worried that she might not stay healthy like my colleague Mike Isaac. wrote on Tuesday. In addition, Meta has contributed some serious problems in our world.

I know it sounds funny. Over the past 15 years technology has won everything. How can there be so few tech companies that we can be relatively sure will survive into middle age?

I’m going to spend the rest of this newsletter stating my case. Feel free to agree with me or yell (respectfully!) at ontech@nytimes.com.

First, I’m taking a big step forward to exclude Google web search, e-commerce sites like Amazon and Alibaba, and Netflix video streaming from my scoring. They are probably the long-term winners in technology, but they belong to the first generation of the Internet. I also don’t count technologies used primarily by businesses. I only look at consumer companies that were babies or not yet born when smartphones first hit our pockets and whose popularity was then boosted by these little supercomputers.

Apart from Meta, the most popular apps of the last 15 years are marked with giant stars.

YouTube is used by billions of people, but it’s not big business in relation to its size and influence. It’s entirely possible that YouTube wouldn’t exist today if Google hadn’t bought the video site in 2006, a year before the iPhone was released.

Twitter is powerful, but not as widely used and is a chronic underdog. Snapchat is a hotbed of creative online ideas that has been steadily copied by Meta and others. But that might not last long and it didn’t prove it was a competent company. Uber and Spotify are two examples good technology that is bad business. They don’t generate consistent profits, and some astute tech watchers think these business models simply won’t work.

Quirks in e-commerce come and go. Apps that are ubiquitous in China, such as WeChat and Meituan, will probably never go global. TikTok – let’s see if its popularity remains, if it can constantly earn money and if it can worries about his Chinese property will haunt the app forever.

Will these iPhone era stars still exist 10 years from now, or will they follow the path of Yahoo and Myspace? (For Gen Z readers, Yahoo and Myspace were popular websites not too long ago.)

This leaves us with Meta. Again, the company has its problems, but so far it has adapted to people’s rapidly changing online habits several times. The company is also very, very, very good at making money. Already.

You can’t be a winner without being able to monetize popularity and tie people to the app when their tastes change. Over the past decade, very few companies have been able to consistently do both.

How is it that we have so many technologies and so few successful technology companies?

It’s possible that the nature of innovation simply leaves a lot of roadkill in its wake. In previous eras of technology, there may have been only one or a few sustainable companies. Microsoft and Apple have benefited the most from bringing computers into people’s homes. Google, Amazon and Netflix were the stars of the first generation of the Internet. There were many other technologies and technology companies that were forgotten along the way.

And if you look not only at the technology that people use, but also at the technology for business, there have been more winners in the last 15 years. Cloud computing—short for digital tasks performed over the Internet rather than on specialized computers owned by individuals or companies—reshaped Internet services and corporate technology. Cloud computing has also made many technology companies richer, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Salesforce.

It is possible that new inventions in the field of artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and technologies that blurs the boundaries between the virtual and real world can spawn many thriving technology companies. But this did not happen in the technical reality that exists today.

The Internet and smartphones have changed the world. And the medium was more solid and powerful than any part of it.

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  • The technology is still rich. There are also lines of concern. Google as well as Microsoft reported slower revenue growth than companies in a crazy 2021. But my colleagues said companies were largely confident they could stay healthy as they grappled with a deteriorating economic outlook and other challenges.

    Counterpoint: Shopify, which helps businesses create online stores, she said. overvalued how many people will stick to the e-commerce habits they learned during the pandemic. Its financial results were disclosed on Wednesday were terribleand Shopify said it would fired 10 percent of its staff.

    Read more from DealBook.

  • Technology is changing the language for ASL even faster: My colleague Amanda Morris wrote about how video calls, smartphones and social media helped accelerate change in American Sign Language. Evolution, including tighter signs that fit on the small screen of a smartphone, has sometimes created a generational divide in deaf culture, she writes.

  • Farewell, “uh”: This is the sound when a character dies in the Roblox virtual world. But Roblox said on Tuesday that its signature sound had been removed due to a “license issue,” according to video game news site Kotaku. informed. Roblox fans have launched an online campaign to bring back the “ugh”.

At the food festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, very strange oyster mascot named Pearl. The oyster shell mascot costume has at least 13 eyes and dark red lips. I love it.


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