We admit, "disappear" may be too strong a word. But according to the article, these tech giants could be brought to their knees if they don't figure out how to do one thing well: Mobile.
Forbes contributor Eric Jackson weaves an interesting tale of tech companies over the last 20 or so years, grouping them into three different "generations" that each do one thing well but can't quite grasp the new and exciting concept driving business for their successors. For instance:
The Web 1.0 generation (1994-2001) such as Yahoo, AOL, and Google helped us organize the web and utilize it efficiently.
The Web 2.0 generation (2002-2009) such as Facebook and LinkedIn made our online experiences social.
And the Web 3.0 generation (2010 – present...and to be fair, Jackson doesn't even seem to think we should call this a "web" generation) sees the mobile device — not the website — as home base and designs accordingly. Case in point: Instagram.
The Web 1.0 companies didn't seem to understand the importance of building social communities around their services. Most notably, you can see it with Google+: It's there, it's trying really hard, but it just can't seem to get it the way Facebook and Twitter do.
Web 2.0 companies do social really well. But we speak from personal experience when we say that Facebook's phone app is just plain subpar. It seems to punish the user for accessing Facebook on a phone instead of on a computer by making certain features and actions unavailable. Why would you do that to your customers, when more than 100 million of them access Facebook on their smartphones?
And then, there are apps like Instagram. Facebook seems to at least understand the importance of apps like this for future success, since they bought it. The idea here is that home base is the mobile device, not the computer. With mobile usage by younger generations more prevalent than ever, it's clear Facebook and Google need to get on board with this concept or possibly recede into MySpace-like obscurity.
On the one hand, we think Jackson makes a very compelling argument. On the other, Google is a "Web 1.0" company, and it's still around.
Perhaps it's all about balance and efficient adaptability. The tech companies still alive and kicking are the ones that do one thing really, really well. For Google, it's search. For Facebook, it's social. For LinkedIn, it's social for professionals. Yes, they have to expand to include the next big thing (in this case, it's mobile). But what would ultimately "kill" these companies: doing mobile poorly, or deflecting resources from the core services that brought them success in the first place in order to do mobile well?
And then what happens when the next big thing after mobile comes around?
What do you think of Jackson's thoughts? Do you agree with the assessment in the Forbes article? Let us know in the comments.