Making the World a Better Place

Spire Digital
Spire Digital
Jun 16, 2014

If you watched ‘Silicon Valley’, Mike Judge’s awesome send-up of the tech industry, you undoubtedly saw the running gag where essentially every company on the show is, “making the world a better place.” While the concept of doing so, “through constructing elegant hierarchies for maximum code reuse and extensibility,” is more than laughable, to a certain degree, we are making the world a better place, with the operative word being better.

We’re living in a time where everyone is an early adopter, a connoisseur, and a discerning critic. Consumers are telling technology companies that, in order to compete, they must continually develop better products. If they don’t, they’ll fail. Just look at how quickly dominant technologies, applications, and brands are being replaced by better technologies, applications, and brands.

Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers recently released her annual State of the Internet Report. In it, are some findings that clearly illustrate this:

– In 2013, digital track sales declined 6 percent to 1.3 billion tracks, the first ever down year. However, music streaming was up 32 percent.

– 22 percent of video watching globally is done on mobile devices. Americans aged 16 to 34 watch just 41 percent of their TV live.

– While most newspapers are struggling to stay afloat, Buzzfeed now has 130 million monthly visitors.

– Tinder makes 11 million matches of men and women a day, up 21 percent year over year, while Match and eHarmony are seeing declines in membership.

– Bitcoin counts 5 million users worldwide, an eight-fold increase year-on-year.

– Tablets are growing faster than desktops or laptops ever did. Shipments were up 52 percent compared with the previous year.

– Tumblr, Vine, and Instagram have all seen a downtick in monthly users. Meanwhile, Snapchat and WhatsApp users are increasing exponentially.

Obviously, there’s a pretty serious trend of dominance being replaced by better…

mp3s were better than CDs, with their portability and instant downloads. Now, streaming, with its always-accessible, virtually unlimited library and flexible pricing model, is proving to be better than mp3s, which explains its growth in the face of mp3s’ decline. Streaming is also a reason why video is being upended. Combined with time-shifting and mobile accessibility, there’s simply a better way to view videos than sitting in front of the family television and watching when and what the networks want you to watch.

Buzzfeed is succeeding because it studies what people want to read and in what way they want to read it (hence listicles). This is better than what traditional newspapers are doing — what they’ve always done. I haven’t been online dating lately (my new wife wouldn’t like that), but I hear that Match and eHarmony are clunky and expensive, while Tinder is easy, fun, free, and…better.

Bitcoin is probably not yet better than traditional currencies, but it most certainly is better for nerds, Libertarians, and those looking to purchase illegal goods on the Deep Web. Tablets had their naysayers. Nobody imagined that, in some ways, they would be better than laptops or smartphones. But they were. In this case, not only was a better product developed, but also a better category.

And, in the fickle land of social networking, it seems as if something better is always gaining momentum. Here though, the determination of better is more based on personal preference and peer adoption than technological innovation, which would explain the rise of Snapchat and WhatsApp in the face of declines from Tumblr, Vine, and Instagram.

So, in our constant quest for better, are we, in the tech industry, solving the clean water crisis? Are we curing cancer? Are we reversing global climate change?  Well…sometimes we are tackling problems just like these. Most of the time though, we’re just being capitalists, trying to outdo one another. Regardless, I couldn’t be more pleased to work in a world where fighting mediocrity is our daily mission. And that, friends, is my better place.

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