The First Wave – Information
The first wave of the internet was communication of information. You surfed the web, you found new things, you stumbledupon. MySpace, Craigslist, Wikipedia and so many more sites shared information in a more efficient way. Many businesses were built on this wave.
The Second Wave – Simple Trust
The second wave of the internet was trust. Instead of simply being more efficient in the communication of information, the internet commodified trust. The commodification came in a number of ways. The first was via ratings. Common examples of using ratings to commodify trust are Airbnb and Uber. Before this phase of the internet, most would never get in a random person’s car or house (side note – hippies didn’t care about the commodification of trust, they’ve been hitchhiking and couch surfing for decades).
The Third Wave – Complex Trust
We are currently in the start of this wave. Some things are more complicated than the first wave. You need trust to buy digitally decentralized money. Now you can do that with Bitcoin. You need trust to go to the doctor online. Teladoc is in the early stages of making tele-visits the preferred way to see your medicine. You need trust to buy a car online. It took 20 years to develop that trust, but it is here.
“we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in whichMarc Andreesen
software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.”
All of this ties back to Marc Andreesen’s famous article on software eating the world. The idea is that tech will continue to take up more and more aspects of the economy. The obvious ones have already been done (Apple and Spotify converting physical music sales to streaming, Netflix replacing Blockbuster, etc…). The reality is that software has only just started eating the world. Huge industries have resisted larger disruption (real estate, health care, education, etc…), but it is just a matter of time. Many of these industries have relied on trust at their protector from disruption, but that trust is eroding while software is gaining. The value of a college degree is sinking while the cost skyrockets. The opportunity cost for universities is rising as software continues to eat the world. Soon enough, we will be buying houses, cars and educations online. The wave of complex trust being commodified is just getting started.
The Fourth Wave – ???
What will the next wave of the internet be? Maybe networking, AR/VR, AI or the metaverse. Or maybe just a different iteration of trust. The reality is, the next wave doesn’t matter. Let’s just make money on the third wave first.