6. Blogs + Google Ads
Not long ago, if you wanted to be a publisher, you had to either be born into a rich family or become an HTML geek. Now, thanks to simple tools such as Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress, anyone can be a publisher or producer, no technical expertise (or talent) required. "Explosive" doesn't even begin to describe the growth of blogs, which surged from about 100,000 in 2002 to more than 70 million last year, according to Technorati.
The problem? At first, blogging wouldn't pay your bandwidth bills, let alone the rent. Enter Google AdSense: Introduced in 2002, this program makes adding pay-per-click ads to any site a snap. Google's search engine, meanwhile, offers a self-perpetuating marketing vehicle; the more sites that link to your blog, the higher it rises in Google search results, leading to more traffic, more clicks, more links, and so on. The top 50,000 blogs pulled in US$500 million in ad revenue in 2006 [PDF], according to a study by the University of Texas and blog-ad firm Chitika. Spread across all the sites in the survey, that amount is hardly a vast fortune, but it's a promising start. (Don't quit your day job--yet.) Overall, in 2007 Google shared more than US$5 billion in ad revenues with its partner sites, including traditional Web publishers and blogs.
Unfortunately, with disruption comes drawbacks. Roughly one out of four blogs are bot-created spam blogs (or "splogs"), according to WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. Click fraud generates bogus income for scammers, spyware infects users' PCs in order to drive them toward splogs, and search-engine-optimization consultants try to manipulate Google's PageRank algorithm to their own ends, skewing the results.
Disruption: Blogs give everyone a public voice, while Google gives bloggers a way to fund and market themselves--and the economy of the 21st century is born.
5. Cheap Storage + Portable Memory
When IBM invented the RAMAC hard drive in 1956, it stored 5 megabytes of data and cost US$50,000. We've come a long way, baby.
In 2005, Toshiba introduced the first 1.8-inch 40GB drive using perpendicular magnetic recording, which stacks magnetic charges on the disk's surface vertically instead of horizontally. Since then, density rates for hard-drive platters have increased 40 per cent annually. Last October, Western Digital introduced a perpendicular drive capable of storing 520GB per square inch, enabling multiplatter hard drives 3 terabytes in size.
As densities have risen, the costs have dropped to between 30 and 40 cents per gigabyte--cheap enough that companies such as Google and Yahoo can give storage away, enabling free Webmail, online photo and video sharing, and other cloud-computing services.
At the same time, improvements in flash memory allow people to carry vast amounts of music and video on iPods and mobile phones, freeing everyone from the bonds of their TVs and stereos, and gradually turning wireless telecoms into broadband entertainment providers.
Meanwhile, a promising new nanotechnology called programmable metallization cell (PMC) could produce drives that are a thousand times more efficient than flash at a tenth of the cost, says Michael Kozicki, director of Arizona State University's Center for Applied Nanoionics, where the technology was created.
"A thumb drive using our memory could store a terabyte of information," Kozicki told Wired News. "All the current limitations in portable electronic storage could go away. You could record video of every event in your life and store it."
Disruption: Where would we be today without cheap, capacious, portable storage? No iPods. No YouTube. No Gmail. No cloud computing.