Social, Mobile and New Commerce — that doesn’t addup to the third wave of anything. It is the natural evolution of the Internet. It was obvious in 2002 that with more broadband, more devices and more people, the Internet revolution, which began in 1995 would continue.

I start each day by working out, but today, I made an exception –- I woke up and tuned into the live feed of TechCrunch Disrupt. I was hoping to see what one of my favorite Silicon Valley people had to say — John Doerr, who somehow has a way of encapsulating an era, a trend or a combination of technologies with just a few succinct words.

I mean this is the guy who uttered the memorable (and very true, in hindsight) lines such as “the largest legal creation of wealth on the planet” or “The old economy was about monopolies; the new economy is about competition.” And who can forget: “I have never paid so much for so little,” following his investment in Google.

This is also the man who invested in market-making startups such as Sun Microsystems, Intuit, Genentech, Symantec, Amazon.com, Netscape, Google and more recently, Bloom Energy. He was due to talk about the third wave, Michael Arrington had hinted in a post — and in light of the fact that he was the driving force behind @Home, the company that jump-started the broadband revolution — I was more than a little excited to hear what he had to say.

So I made myself a nice cup of peach-flavored white tea and sat down to watch the conversation Doerr was having with Charlie Rose, another one of my favorite people. Watching two people I admire that much talk about the future was so exciting that I forgot to call my parents, who were leaving to make their way over to the U.S. Oops!

What I got was a commercial for social gaming startup, Zynga, which Doerr described by saying: “We invested in Zynga 20 months ago, and it’s the fastest-growing venture we’ve ever had.” Then came his thesis about the third wave:

I think we’re on the verge of a third great wave of innovation. The first was the microchip and the PC in the early 80s. The second wave was 1995: the Internet. Marc Andresseen brought Netscape Navigator to the world. Then Amazon came. Then in 1999 we saw the 15th search engine called “Google.”

This third wave is social, mobile, new commerce. We don’t have a name for it yet. We could be on the verge of reinventing the web. It’s people, it’s places, it’s relationships. It’s exciting.

These smartphones change everything. They’re always connected, always on. It’s a powerful new platform. 85 million iPhones and iPod touches – we’re there. And now we have the iPad. It took just 28 days to sell a million of them. It’s not a big iPod. It’s a new paradigm. Imagine 10 years forward.

That was the extent of what he had to offer; even in a subsequent follow-up interview with TechCrunch TV he had little to add. But Social, Mobile and New Commerce — that doesn’t add up to the third wave of anything. That’s just the natural evolution of the Internet. It was obvious in 2002 that due to a growing number of broadband connections, more edge touch points (mobiles, laptops, connected televisions) and more people on the web, the Internet revolution, which began in 1995 — with Doerr providing the fertilizer — would continue to gain scale.

It was also obvious that more people and more always-on connections at higher speeds would mean more opportunities. Social — thanks to a determined kid named Mark Zuckerberg — is now part of the Internet fabric. More than 500 million have already signed on to be part a part of his social networking site, even despite the company’s privacy-related shenanigans.

Mobile? We’ve been a mobile society for the past few years — the iPhone only added fuel to the fire lit by the rollout of 3G networks in the middle of this decade. And new commerce? That’s an idea the South Koreans and the Japanese have been mucking around with since the 90’s and lately the Chinese. Zynga might be the darling today, but virtual currencies and gifts have been around an awful lot longer than that.

So if Social, Mobile and New Commerce are the third wave, we are way past the prediction stage. We’re already riding it. What comes next? That’s what I want to know. Especially from the one man whom I’ve have always counted on as being able to see the future better than everyone else.

P.S.: If you have thoughts about the next evolution of the web, leave a comment or feel free to drop me an email with your thoughts.

From GigaOM Pro: As Zynga Profits From Personal Data, Other Opportunities Abound and Is an iPhone- and Android-Only World the Best We Can Do?

By Om Malik

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  1. THE evolution really is mobile. I’m not sure why Doerr was so non-specific. Pick a horse… and mobile is the horse to pick. Mobile is re-defining commerce (Square, mobile payments, mobile donations), advertising (Google had to acquire Admob to catch up and Apple Quattro), devices… look at every new phone after the iPhone… UI rich, and app-tastic!

    I have been in the mobile space since 2003. Every year I hear the proclamation that it is the “Year of Mobile”…. but if you look around, the shift already happened. It happened so fast even Mr. Doerr missed it.

    The iPad has kicked off a tablet market that thrives on a user experience that is inherently mobile.

    If the third wave of the internet evolution were a hollywood blockbuster, the through line would be mobile.

  2. Om, I wrote a long post in April with my thoughts for the potential Billion dollar opportunities in the next decade – most of which aren’t pure “web” ideas but most of which do involve the pervasive Internet in some capacity (or pervasive & ad-hoc networks – not just “the Internet”)

    see http://shannonclark.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/billion-dollar-ideas-for-the-next-decade/

    I’d love your thoughts/reactions/feedback on my predictions – I’m certain I’ve missed some huge opportunities.


    1. nice post. I like some of your themes!

      I think the point of “waves” is that they are not billion dollar ideas but they are hundreds of billions of dollars over many years, So yes, Internet is a big wave and everything follows in its wake. So if the big “third wave” is really a wave, we are way into it.

  3. I agree with your observations. Very marginal comments from John. I didn’t get the feeling that he really understands the social movement all that well.

  4. hey om, i think charlie is awesome too. and john yep. but here’s the thing – sometimes charlie rose as an interviewer is like an ADD teenager. it’s like he’s not even listening sometimes. i mean what was that non sequitor question about “what is it with steve and adobe?” so I think part of what made this frame a little less crisp and sharp was that instead of doerr engaging with a technologist who gets it and can unpack the discussion and doerr’s thoughts like a pro we got what rose readily admitted was “a layman’s approach” to exploring these topics. I don’t think doerr is losing his edge or behind the curve; I think charlie didn’t bring out the best and deepest thinking in his kind of flitting questions and while I love charlie I think he doesn’t need to keep changing the subject – sometimes he should go deep…

    1. I saw the subsequent interview with a TC reporter and there wasn’t much said in that.

      As for Charlie — well he is Charlie.

  5. I think that the next wave will involve the relationships of data with genetics. computers and software is just part of it now! the manipulation of life will be bigger than the computer revolution.

  6. r0macdonald Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Om, the 3rd wave will be Semantic Web. We see early uses in the Zemanta and Thomson Reuter’s OpenCalais services. Twitter’s annotation feature and Facebook’s Open Graph will bring partial implementations to a much broader developer community and demonstrate the scaling value of Tim Berners-Lee’s vision.

    1. Can you explain a little more on what you mean. I want to make sure i understand your points and how you are thinking.

      1. Semantic Web refers to the inter-connectedness of websites and data portability.


        Also, did you catch this Smashing Mag piece? Very good stuff about future web trends: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/10/holistic-web-browsing-4-trends-of-the-future/

  7. What about 3D internet and the internet moving to mobile phones completely, net games over the phones??

  8. to come :
    – Augmented reality goes mainstream
    – Sensor detection in every device
    – Machine to machine > human communication
    – Artificial inteligence everywhere (like robot journalist)
    – new designe for mobile device (data > voice -> 6sens by MIT)
    – auto login with biometrie everywhere (using cam for eye recognition)

    But the main thing is that Internet gonna be used outside of the computer : mobile, car, terminal like surface or iPad.

  9. Nice post, Om. Well I think it is very hard to speak about future, as for me I think that next 10 years Twitter will be #1 position, and if google doesn’t change something and will not create a great service like youtube or something else Twitter can easily conquer them.

  10. I believe the most compelling big trend is the actual take off of the internet out of the computer coming to new set of devices. Setting the internet free from the computer and making it present everywhere is what is radically changing the game: the iPhone is the obvious part, but think of game consoles, tvs, tablets, cars,…The everything connected is in my mind the biggest thing ever happened to the internet since it was created (originally for computers)

    1. Great point — and this is one of the reasons I believe that we are way into the so called whatever is the third wave.


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