According to a Forrester Research study, more than six billion text messages are sent each day in the US. Six Billion!! It is also said that the text message is 20 years old but you’d have hardly seen anyone thumbing out a message on a flip phone even back in 2002.
As CEO of the International division of a multi-national media company based in San Antonio, this editor really got a glimpse of the future back in the early years of the 2000’s. The job took me to Europe, Australia and New Zealand several times each year not to mention a stop in Mexico every couple of months. By that time we were well into the Blackberry craze. Count me as someone who was laced to his. One could understand why given the time zones I was hauling through each month. With curiosity, I observed international colleagues scoot their thumb (yes one thumb, not two) around small pocket phone dialpads to get out a quick SMS message. A partner from the UK explained that his teenage daughter barely used her mobile phone for calling anymore. (No way!) Most of the packages from the carriers barely included any calling time and heaps of text message capacity. (Huh?!) That truly WAS otherworldly.
I recall telling this story to my wife after returning from one of my business trips and of course throwing in the sandbagged prediction that this was coming to the States any minute and it was going to be HUGE. Heck, we really didn’t even have smart phones then so text messages still seemed a bit clunky. The Blackberry was just coming around to a new and larger exciting version that was bigger than a pager. I remember my first attempt to text. My walk on the wild side was with a Motorola Razor phone and anything but smooth. A contact in one country texted a question to me, which I received at my hotel in another country many time zones away. It took this clod 20 minutes to toggle around the flat keypad when a Blackberried e-mail could have been executed with a surgically clean cut in less than a minute, and with far fewer misspellings.
Nobody has looked back since. We all know the good side and the bad side to the ease and speed of a text message. We now see the smart phone as another appendage and texting to be nearly as involuntary as a hiccup.
Now think about the Internet and our voracious hunger for Internet capacity. Sure the Internet is a bit more of an institutional story at this point against the breathtaking rise of smart phone usage for texting and nearly anything else. But the long-range arc is just as mind numbing and the innovation that requires Internet bandwidth is eye-popping. It all goes hand-in-hand doesn’t it? Denmark’s Jakob Nielsen, a 57 year old web usability consultant and overall really smart dude, came up with a law about Internet bandwidth usage. He, or someone who he knew dang well, named this law Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth, and who could blame them. This guy has all kinds of patents and “Net cred.” Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth simply states that a high‐end user’s connection speed grows by 50% per year. This means it doubles roughly every 21 months.
The average home has between 5-9 connected devices. There is a greater and greater need every year for bandwidth and there are all kinds of folks who aren’t Internet providers that are playing a major role in driving bandwidth consumption by creating stuff that needs the Internet to run. In other words, it is outside of our control. Ahhh capitalism! It is great, is it not? When the kids come home from school, their homework assignments practically demand access to the Internet. While they’re doing that, you’re watching a Netflix preview, shopping for stylish eyewear, hunting down a chili recipe, or Skyping with your mother-in-law. What about that study break where the kids break out intergalactic weaponry or search YouTube for 25 Fun Things to do with an Alka-Seltzer tablet? What happens when the Internet goes out or slows to turtle speed because there are four folks sitting on it with all kinds of shiny gear? UGGGLY! Do we even have to say what happens at the workplace if the Internet goes wacky or away (Lord help us) for 20 minutes? What does it do to the economic development prospects or educational progress of communities that have little if any Internet availability? Bandwidth is no longer a luxury and it hasn’t been for some time. It is a floor, not a ceiling and rubbing right up against water and electricity in things that fuel our daily life. Can we even imagine what this will all look like in ten years?? How about 20?
As we think about the next generation of devices and uses of the Internet coming along and the pipe it takes to power all of it, we can’t help but conclude that we are living in an exciting time. Think about the introduction and impact of the electric light bulb. This surely has to be that and then some.