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So Much Tech. So Few Winners.

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We all know that within the 15 years for the reason that iPhone went on sale, technology has seeped into every crevice of our lives. Tech has reshaped politics, industries, leisure time, culture and folks’s relationships to at least one one other — for higher and for worse.

The march of technology has also include this puzzling reality: Hardly any technologies of the iPhone era have been an unqualified success.

I might argue that only one smartphone-age consumer web company has emerged as a no-doubt winner in popularity and financial vitality: Meta, with its Facebook and Instagram apps.

(The corporate was founded in 2004, but I’m classifying it as iPhone age because Facebook really took off when smartphones did.)

Every other consumer web company of the iPhone epoch gets an incomplete grade due to relatively small numbers of users, questionable funds, uncertain growth prospects, the danger of dying or the entire above. And even Meta is nervous that it won’t stay healthy, as my colleague Mike Isaac wrote on Tuesday. Also, uh, Meta has contributed to some serious problems in our world.

I do know this sounds ridiculous. Prior to now 15 years tech won every thing. How can there be so few tech firms that we could be relatively confident will stick around to middle age?

I’m going to spend the remaining of this text making my case. Be happy to agree with me or shout (respectfully!) at ontech@nytimes.com.

First, I’m making an enormous leap to exclude from my assessment Google web search, e-commerce sites like Amazon and Alibaba, and Netflix streaming video. They’re probably long-lasting tech winners, but they belong to the web’s first generation. I’m also not counting technology used mostly by businesses. I’m looking only at consumer firms that were toddlers or weren’t born yet when smartphones first hit our pockets and whose popularity was then supercharged by those little supercomputers.

Beyond Meta, the most well liked apps of the past 15 years have giant asterisks.

Billions of individuals use YouTube but it surely’s not an ideal business relative to its size and influence. It’s possible that YouTube wouldn’t exist today if Google hadn’t bought the video site in 2006, the 12 months before the iPhone got here out.

Twitter is influential, but it surely isn’t that widely used and is a chronic underachiever. Snapchat is a hotbed of creative online ideas and has been relentlessly copied by Meta and others. However it won’t last, and it hasn’t proved that it’s a reliable company. Uber and Spotify are two examples of excellent technologies which might be bad businesses. They don’t generate profits consistently, and a few astute tech watchers imagine those business models simply won’t work.

Fads in e-commerce come and go. Ubiquitous apps in China comparable to WeChat and Meituan will probably never go global. TikTok — we’ll see if its popularity endures, if it will possibly consistently earn cash and if worries about its Chinese ownership will haunt the app eternally.

Will these iPhone-era stars even be around in 10 years, or will they go the way in which of Yahoo and Myspace? (For Gen Z readers, Yahoo and Myspace were popular web sites not so way back.)

That leaves us with Meta. Again, the corporate has problems, but it surely has to this point adapted multiple times to people’s fast-changing online habits. The corporate can be very, very, superb at earning profits. To date.

You’ll be able to’t be a winner without the power to show popularity into money and keep people glued to an app as their tastes shift. Only a few firms have been capable of consistently do each previously decade.

How did it occur that we’ve got a lot technology and so few winning tech firms?

It’s possible that the character of innovation simply leaves behind numerous roadkill. In prior epochs of technology, perhaps just one or just a few lasting firms emerged. Microsoft and Apple were the large winners from the shift of computers into people’s homes. Google, Amazon and Netflix were stars from the primary generation of the net. There have been many other technologies and tech firms which were forgotten along the way in which.

And if you happen to look beyond the technologies that individuals use to those for businesses, the past 15 years have minted more winners. Cloud computing — a shorthand for digital tasks performed over the web as a substitute of on specialized computers owned by people or firms — remade web services and company technology. Cloud computing made numerous tech firms wealthy(er), too, including Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce.

It’s possible that emerging inventions in artificial intelligence, driverless cars and technology that further blurs the lines between the virtual and real worlds may produce many flourishing tech firms. But that has not happened within the tech reality that exists today.

The web and smartphones were world-changing revolutions. And the medium has been more enduring and powerful than any single a part of it.

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  • Tech continues to be wealthy. There are also worry lines. Google and Microsoft reported slower revenue growth than the businesses had in a bonkers 2021. But my colleagues reported that the businesses were mostly confident that they might stay healthy as they face a dimming economic outlook and other problems.

    Counterpoint: Shopify, which helps businesses arrange online shops, said it overestimated how much people would follow the e-commerce habits they learned in the course of the pandemic. Its financial results disclosed Wednesday were awful, and Shopify said it will lay off 10 percent of its staff.

    Read more from DealBook.

  • Tech is changing language much more quickly for ASL: My colleague Amanda Morris wrote about how video calling, smartphones and social media have helped speed up changes in American Sign Language. The evolutions — including tighter signs that slot in a small smartphone screen — have sometimes created a rift between generations of Deaf culture, she wrote.

  • Goodbye to “oof”: That’s the sound when a personality dies within the Roblox virtual world. But Roblox said on Tuesday that its signature sound was removed due to a “licensing issue,” the video game news site Kotaku reported. Roblox fans began an internet campaign to bring back the “oof.”

A food festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, contains a profoundly weird oyster mascot named Pearl. The mascot oyster shell costume has at the least 13 eyes and dark red lips. I like it.

We wish to listen to from you. Tell us what you’re thinking that of this text and what else you’d like us to explore. You’ll be able to reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

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