2012 brings a pause in the disruption

OK, I’ve been talking with hundreds of geeks from around the world this year at three conferences, CES, DLD, and World Economic Forum. I’m seeing a trend that is worth talking about.

What is it? We’re seeing the end of one of the most disruptive ages in human history. I believe that we’re seeing a pause in the disruption. More on that a little later.

Just think about all the changes humans have been asked to adopt in the past eight years. Most of us, back then, didn’t carry mobile computers in our pockets. If we did use tablets, like I did, they were expensive, slow, low resolution devices that could only last about two hours. We had no idea what a mobile app was, and if we did, because we were on Nokia phones, like I was, they were hard to discover, download, and use. Now both Android and iOS each have more than 400,000 apps (iOS has 500,000).

Back in 2003 the mainstream was just understanding blogging. Heck, +TechCrunch didn’t start until 2005.

I remember back then that Tim O’Reilly popularized the term “Web 2.0.” He and I spoke at the first Google Zeitgeist conference and I remember sitting next to him and he was pushing the Web 2.0 term with folks online.

Barcamp started in this age.

Twitter was born in this age. So was Zynga. LinkedIn. And Facebook.

Eight years ago Google was the only one who I knew that had these monster huge datacenters around the world with hundreds of thousands of servers. Now these seem commonplace.

We’ve seen extraordinary shifts in how we communicate, protest, and work together.

Yammer, Jive, Salesforce Chatter, didn’t exist back then.

Amazon was only a retail store back then. The really disruptive stuff came out in the past eight years from them.

Xbox was just starting to get noticed back then but even while I worked there in 2003 to 2006 they had no clue just how disruptive Xbox Kinect would be.

Heck, back then most of us didn’t have an HDTV.

If you look back at the last eight years we saw disruption in how we live, play, and work together it was really extraordinary.

But this is the first January when I haven’t been blown away by something new in quite a few years. There wasn’t a new iPhone. There wasn’t a Kinect. There wasn’t dozens of new iPhone apps that are mind blowing (I’ve only seen one, Highlight, and it’s not mindblowing, just executed well). Here’s a video where I get a look:

Does this seem mindblowing? Nope, not really, but it will be hot at SXSW so it might lead to something else, it just doesn’t seem like other pre-SXSW times where we saw Twitter and Foursquare gain traction in February and March.

It’s pretty clear that while we’re still seeing plenty of new things, and new companies, the tech industry threw an extraordinary amount of disruption at the world. So, it’s time to take a breather. This year we won’t see a wild new innovation spread like wildfire, but, rather, we’ll just see more people adopt the disruptions of the past eight years.

Think we’re there yet? Sorry, out of all the attendees at the World Economic Forum, only about 30% are on Twitter. San Francisco might have been at that point in 2009, but many many people around the world, including leaders, still aren’t using the disruptive technologies that the rest of us are already getting bored with.

It’s time to shave the edges off of all those apps (tomorrow Foodspotting will demonstrate the trend I’m seeing to do just that) and execute and build businesses that have real customers and real business models.

We have a lot of work to do!

That’s a way to say that tomorrow’s IPO of Facebook is the closing of an extraordinary chapter in our history. Congratulations to Mark Zuckerberg and the thousands of people working at Facebook but congratulations to ALL of us who have adopted social media/networks/technologies in the past eight years. We’ve made this disruptive chapter happen and I don’t mind it at all if we take a year off shipping huge new disruptive technologies and just get down to the business of using all of these new things.

Here’s a test: out of the 500,000+ apps that are in the iPhone app store how many have you used? I’m supposedly a “heavy” early adopter and I’ve only tried around 600. Our ability to keep up with the pace of change in this industry is being stretched to the limit. We need a year just to breathe and get used to swimming in this new disruptive world.

Now we need to make all this stuff work.

That’s one reason why I’m changing focus at +Rackspace Hosting to focusing on small teams who are using all these new disruptive technologies to have a huge impact in the world. Don’t know what New Relic are? Loggly? Node.js? Echo? Janrain? These are the things that have me excited now because they help small teams do things for millions of people. Here’s one of our early shows, with Janrain, which is helping lots of companies outsource its user management.

If there’s disruption in 2012: that’s it. These new small companies are helping lots of other companies scale their engineering efforts.

At SXSW we’ll be explaining more about what we’re doing in this regard, but you can see a hint on Rackspace’s Small Teams, Big Impact site.

Do you know of a company that is helping small teams have a huge impact on the world? Let me know!

Oh, and it’s also time to get back to blogging. I’ve been reading Dave Winer’s blog lately and am seeing a reason to blog again instead of just using my Google+ account, which is where I’m spending 90% of my time lately.