In tech, everything moves fast. It’s hard to believe that less than a decade ago, we were witnessing the birth of industry giants such as YouTube and Facebook. A lot has happened since then, and today we’re going to focus on some of the most disruptive tech breakthroughs in this time period.
As with any list of this nature, it’s not all-encompassing, and will remain largely open to debate about the inclusions and snubs. Feel free to share those opinions with me in the comment section below!
YouTube was founded by three early employees of PayPal – Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim – in February of 2005. Just over a year later, the service was purchased by Google for $1.65 billion.
Depending on which of the original co-founders you ask, YouTube either started as:
- A dating service that inspired to be similar to a video version of the popular website (at the time) Hot or Not, or;
- A sort of video directory inspired by Jawed Karim’s struggles to find clips of Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 SuperBowl.
Ultimately it became (and still is) the most popular video sharing website online, and currently features 300 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute! Once you remove the annoying parts, it’s actually one of the better video hosts online for both uploading and viewing.
Facebook Opens Its Doors to Everyone
Facebook officially launched on February 4, 2004 but 2006 saw the rapidly growing social network open its doors to the public for the first time. Initially, the founders had limited the websites registrations to students of Harvard University, but later expanded to other Boston-area colleges, Ivy League Schools, and then Stanford University before allowing public registrations in 2006.
Myspace was the industry giant during Facebook’s initial days, but the platform ultimately removed Tom from your top 8 shortly after its public release. Since then, Facebook has achieved a meteoric rise that saw founder Mark Zuckerberg turn down at least two billion-plus dollar offers before taking the company public with a valuation of $104 billion. Facebook scams and privacy concerns aside, Facebook remains one of the most popular sites on the web with over 1.3 billion active users and (as of February 2015) a current market cap of $212 billion.
Twitter was created in March 2006, and officially launched in July of that same year. The website brought the term “microblogging” to the forefront due to its 140-character limit on text updates, called “tweets”. Before this time, blogs were the main form of short-form opinion and dialogue between users, but Twitter turned the world on its head by offering a service that allowed people to express quick thoughts or opinions, share links, and converse freely amongst one another without the need for the cumbersome personal blog that most of us has become accustomed to.
The most disruptive element to Twitter is the speed at which it can be used to circulate information. During revolutions or periods of conflict in Greece, Moldova, Iran, Liberia, Egypt, Tunisia and others, Twitter was widely used as a platform to relay information on the ground to major media outlets, and an organizational tool for the protestors and revolutionaries.
Twitter was arguably the most valuable piece of the Egyptian revolution due to media and Internet blackouts by the Mubarak regime that made organization and information sharing difficult.
iPhone and iOS
Riding the wave of the iPod release, Apple set out to – once again – disrupt the way in which consumers used their devices. While it wasn’t the first smartphone on the market, it was clearly the best of its time and to this day, each new iteration is wildly successful in terms of number of units sold.
Steve Jobs led the development of the iPhone along with a team of 1,000 Apple employees who started work on the device in 2004. “Project Purple” as it was referred to, saw secretive collaboration between Apple (who wanted – and received – full creative control over the production and implementation) and AT&T (then Cingular Wireless). At a cost of $150 million and thirty months of development time, the iPhone was announced at Macworld 2007, and released on June 29, 2007.
The first generation Kindle released on November 19, 2007 with a retail price of $399. It sold out in less than 6 hours, and remained out of stock until April of 2008. Possibly the most historically disruptive technology on the list, the Kindle completely changed the way most of us read everything from books and magazines to newspapers and trade journals. This, in and of itself isn’t an easy feat, as not much has really changed in the world of books and magazines in the last century.
The original Kindle featured a 6-inch screen and 250 MB of internal storage. The key selling point of the device was the Whispernet feature, which allowed you to download, read and store publications over a 3G connection.
Android had rather humble beginnings as an operating system that utilized location data and owner preferences in order to custom tailor a user experience to its owner as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach used by industry giants Symbian and Windows Mobile. The company struggled, and was eventually acquired by Google in 2005.
Fast forward to 2008, and Android released the first consumer product that utilized its operating system, the HTC Dream. The goal was to open standards for mobile developers to better utilize phone hardware in hopes of further breakthroughs in the mobile space. From its humble beginnings, Android grew into the most popular operating system in the world. As of 2014, devices using the Android OS made up 77.8 percent of the global market.
Google Maps Turn-by-turn Navigation
In-car and personal navigation systems had been around for a few years prior, but Google revolutionized the portable GPS market when they announced their public beta release for Google Maps Navigation on October 28, 2009.
What made the offering disruptive was the idea that instead of downloading and installing firmware updates featuring new maps, or CDs with updated navigation data, you could now do this wirelessly, over a mobile internet connection (3G at the time). In addition, this made the standalone navigation system rather redundant for smartphone users as yet another technology was swallowed by the all-encompassing smartphone.
We’ll stop there for now for the sake of brevity. Be sure to keep an eye out for part two of this post where we’ll discuss tech from 2010 to current, such as the iPad and Instagram. See you there!
As for this part, what’d I miss? Are there any notable snubs? How about any included tech that shouldn’t be here? Tell me what you think in the comments below.
Photo credit: Concrete Block Breaking Through Via Shutterstock, Youtube by Esther Vargas, Facebook Press Conference by Robert Scoble, Salesforce CEO Gets Twitter Religion by Robert Scoble, iPhone – 1st Gen by Ryan Tir, Reading Devices by Ronaldo Ferreira, Android Lineup by Rob Bulmahn, Latitude locates where we work by Bernard Goldbach, all via Flickr