This week Leweb celebrate it’s ten year anniversary, having done from a small local conference in Paris with a couple of hundred attendees to Europe’s premier internet conference. I’ve had the pleasure of being along for around half of that ride, attending in 2009 for the first time. (See what some of the top people attending said then!)
But let’s rewind for a minute.
The development during the last ten years have happened so fast, it’s natural to feel like we have had Facebook, Twitter and Youtube forever. That how we do things today, isn’t much different from ten years ago. Because we forget fast.
The first years
2004, the first year of Leweb, was a tumultuous year for myself as well. I was working my final months as a CEO of Edita Publishing and Edita Communication, two companies in the Finnish Edita group. Under my stewardship, we had built Pointlex to the largest online news source for legal news in Scandinavia, and ran it through a locally produced CMS. The idea that others than professional publishers needed a publishing CMS hadn’t really taken root. While the first years of Leweb centered round blogging, it was still in it’s infancy. In fact, WordPress made its first release in May 2003. My constant companion in life was my shiny tiny little Nokia 8850 phone but even if the powers that be tried to push WAP, it didn’t really take off. A phone was pretty much a phone.
In 2004, I was also pregnant and gave birth to the Minigeek in mid-July. In early October we left for Cambodia to flee the boring Swedish winter weather. Much positive can be said about Cambodia, but intellectual stimulus isn’t one of them. I soon found myself making daily trips to an internet café and downloading my daily news fix into NetNewsWire. There I started to read about this new phenomena rising in the US called social media. I also hacked my first blog on pMachine, even though I had built sites with it before.
In 2005, I started to look into developing on Drupal and built a first simple website for a local charity. They were bewildered of the idea that ALL volunteers could logon and blog, and not just one person. I also started to look into if the family could stay in Asia and run some kind of commerce startup, selling Asian products like silk items and interior design to Scandinavia. My idea bombed at logistics. To keep delivery times reasonable, I either needed to by up stock in bulk and sending home in a container, possibly leaving me with a huge unsold inventory, or ship per item on air freight which added a huge cost to the retail price. I decided I didn’t know anything about either retail or logistics and not waste money on the idea. I still really haven’t seen anyone succeeding at that particular idea, probably for the very same reason.
The birth of the Bubble
In 2006, we returned home and I started to talk about my newfound knowledge about social media with PR agencies. They were all bewildered, none having heard about it. Since I couldn’t lunch my way through all of them hunting for freelance work, I started the Disruptive Media Conferences in 2007, a local version of the early Leweb. That year I also started working on a more intranet version of Basecamp, a startup called Dashnotes, similar to Podio today, but founder differences made me sell my shares later.
Nokia released N95 hich created a breakthrough in communications for many people, including me. Even though the web browser was horrible, it supported apps. In April 2007 I joined Twitter, had made it’s first public release in the summer of 2006. In the beginning it was mostly Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble tweeting every other second (I’m having lunch! I’m stuck in the bathroom!), announcing everything they did. Since Twitter in those days was mainly an SMS app, it was incessant pinging to say the least. The mute function was much appreciated!
I also joined Jaiku, which blazed to fame and on it’s own basically created the Swedish social media “bubble”. The fact that it was native on the N95 made all the difference. It also made me be less active on Twitter since I only had a few American friends there, while all Swedish friends were chatting constantly on Jaiku, on everything from lunches to deep long threads on religion, politics and the meaning of life. In fact, that group of friends still have sort of a home on a closed Facebook group.
The summer of 2007 saw Chris Brogan, Jeff Pulver and Chris Penn in Stockholm with Podcamp Europe, the first blogging unconference in Sweden, which got together the new-born Twingly with Martin Källström and Anton Johansson, Sorosh Tavakoli with the first embryo of Videoplaza, Richard Gatarski evangelising, Björn Falkevik (my then partner and father of the minigeek) wondering what the hell I had dragged him into, Johan Hedberg, Fredrik Stenbeck (later of Silverbakk) and Daniel Chow with Second Sweden, the premier Swedish Second Life community and consulting company, Lotta Holmström of Citizen Media Watch , Hans Kullin of Media Culpa, and may others I probably have forgotten. Together with Hej2007 in Stockholm and Reboot in Copenhagen, it was one of the definiing events that started the new swedish social media and startup boom.
The summer of 2007 also meant that Facebook was finally opened to everyone, and not just people with an .edu email address. It was a rush to join up among the social media crowd. In Sweden the usage exploded in September when the tabloid Aftonbladet featured it, only to turn around in November to declare that being on Facebook was as damaging to your life, career and reputation as getting a gangland tattoo. In December they basically declared the hype over and dead.
On June 29th 2007, the Iphone was launched in the US. Since it was only a 2G with no 3G version, it didn’t get much traction in Sweden, and that was probably also the reason that both Ericsson and Nokia choose to disregard it. We all know the rest.
The wait for the next Cambrian leap
Since the summer of 2007, I dare say that we have just been building and refining on the ideas that was set in motion in the post-dotcom bust. There is a reason why we feel that nothing new is coming out, that there is little excitement in the tech sphere. We are holding our breaths in wait for the next Cambrian tech leap that are already well in motion.
I think that in 2023, we will not comprehend that we ever could live without HUDs on glasses or contact lenses, that the small 3D printer in the corner haven’t always been there, that the chip in my arm haven’t always been there, syncing with my personal cloud and rendering most of my doctor’s routine questions and tests completely obsolete. And the apps to make my doctor obsolete for most visits. S/he will only be an obsolete and unnecessary hindrance on my way to a prescription drug. We will have hard to recall when we couldn’t manage large parts of our houses through our phones, even older houses like mine, or when things didn’t automatically talk to each other and sync without me having to do anything. We will feel that airdropped deliveries are quite convenient and news outlets will talk about “air traffic pollution”, not meaning actual particles but drone congestion.
We will start to see stronger class differences emerge, between the highly sought after tech savvy and the entrepreneurs vs. the low skilled service workers. Between those who split their personalities with one squeaky clean public persona and the true one disguised behind cryptos and hidden on black nets, vs the clueless who are constantly tracked by the authorities. Between those who have the knowledge and resources to maximise their mental and physical performance vs. those who live shorter and disease-ridden lives fed by industrial food.
But most of all, in a global world of free knowledge, what the next ten years will determine is the individual’s drive and capacity to create something new and valuable of that knowledge, regardless if s/he comes from a backwater village in Africa hooked up to the net through solar-panels and Google wifi balloons or a formally university educated Swede who needs to understand that education alone is almost worthless today.
Are you curious of what some of the world’s foremost entrepreneurs and net savants think of the next ten years? Buy a ticket to Leweb and join me, or join us through the live stream on Youtube from 9:30 AM on Tuesday 10th. Here is the program!
Top image: Amazon