Two by Two: Ten Years in Tech

In the ten years since 2000, things changed rapidly in the technology field. We get used to them day by day, adopt changes and never look back. When you do take a moment to look back, you realize how much really has changed in the last 10 years. I wrote this as part of BlogHer’s 10 in 10 series. Here are ten things about the last ten years of technology, starting with women in tech.

Two Women

Marissa Mayer is Vice President of Search Product and User Experience at Google. She started with Google in 1999, with a computer science degree from Stanford in her hand. Ten years later, here she is in action at Web 2.0 Summit 09.

Marissa Mayer is responsible for many of the changes in how we conduct an online life, how we search, how we interact with technology. To my mind, she is the most influential woman in tech for the last 10 years. Fortune Magazine placed her a 44 in a list of the 50 most powerful women, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s number 1.

Dori Smith runs a close second in influence behind Mayer. It’s not because Dori Smith is an important public face for a big corporation. She’s much quieter and less public. Here she talks about JavaScript programming.

Dori she did something years ago, the ripples from which are still spreading through the tech community. She created a web site called Wise-Women with a tech oriented discussion list: an old fashioned listserv. For all these years, the focus in that list has been women (and men too, but mostly women) helping other women with technical issues. Scores of people have learned much of what they needed to know from conversations on the Wise-Women list. The focus has never wavered, the information sharing has never stopped.

Dori Smith is not spending all her time on listservs, however. She written a number of books on topics like JavaScript, was a founding member of the Web Standards Project, and produces all sorts of information on programming. She has helped a great many learn about technology.

Two Websites

It’s hard to narrow the list down to two influential websites from the last 10 years, isn’t it? So many important sites get left out. Surely BlogHer has been relevant for women. Here are two I think have had huge general impact.

YouTube tops my list. YouTube changed the way we learn, the way we share, the way we teach, the way we play. It’s often the first place we look for something—a video of Marissa Mayer speaking at a conference, for example. We go to YouTube for news, for music, for tutorials, for interviews, for everything.

My second choice is Facebook. In a way undreamed of 10 years ago, Facebook has changed our lives. We use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, promote our work, find jobs, support causes, and play games. Facebook pulls in information to your personal page from other social media sources such as Twitter. It’s the ubiquitous social network.

Two Innovations

Beginning the decade with the Y2K bug and moving through literally hundreds of technological innovations in the 10 years since the meltdown that wasn’t, plenty of new tech has claimed a place in our lives.

Mobile phone technology changed the decade, starting with clunky and limited phones and advancing to the iPhone (released in 2007), mobile technology has altered lifestyles in numerous ways. Using myself as an example, I no longer have a home phone, just a cell phone. I whip out that phone 50 times a day for one reason or another, but seldom to make a phone call. If I want to tell you something, I’ll text it or tweet it. If I want to learn something I’ll search for it or find it with an app especially designed to give me the exact information I want from a weather forecast to a movie time to a map.

Wireless everything is now standard. Even 30,000 in the air. Smaller and smaller computers that connect wirelessly to the Internet from everywhere. Netbooks, iPads, tech innovations that grow more and more portable while doing more and more of your daily chores. iPods that don’t just play your tunes, but connect wirelessly to get your mail and let you surf the web. Restaurants prosper whose main claim to customer loyalty comes from free and fast wireless.

Two Flops

Microsoft could never get Vista to capture the public’s affection. Now we have Windows 7—thank you Microsoft—but for a while, it looked like Vista was going to make even the most loyal of Microsoft fans turn away from the mother ship toward that juggernaut known as Apple.

Microsoft Zune, the mp3 player meant to compete with the iPod, was another stunning flop. Sure, it played music as well as the iPod, but it didn’t provide the experience that an iPod did with its beautiful and simple interface. In the never ending face-off between Microsoft and Apple, Apple keeps getting the experience right and Microsoft keeps flubbing it. Apple is like eating at Benihana. Sure you can get fried rice and grilled shimp at any decent Asian restaurant, but you don’t get the Benihana experience just anywhere. Zune just doesn’t provide the cool experience.

I hate to lay both flops at the feet of Microsoft, with so many flops to choose from, but the Microsoft giant has been losing ground to Google, to Apple, to open source, and to just about every other innovator who wants a piece of the pie.

Two trends

Social networking is a pervasive trend affecting everything from personal interaction and network building to political fund raising. I don’t know how long this trend will continue to grow, but the growth has been astonishing. We have people proposing marriage and finding jobs on Twitter, documenting life on blogs or places like BlogHer, setting up coffee dates on Facebook, and looking to the social networks for answers, advice, and connection. Social networking grew exponentially during the last decade.

The final item in my list of ten is the trend toward digital delivery of things we used to go to the store to buy. Music, movies, books, tech support, financial services, television, phone service, news—the list is long. Yes, you still have to go the store to buy a mattress, but the mattress store in my neighborhood is now in the former location of a Blockbuster video. Blockbuster is a thing of the past with Netflix bringing movies straight to your TV. Many businesses that thrived in the past are struggling and dying in a digital economy. By the time another decade has passed we should know how this particular trend has played out. I, for one, hope that news organizations with paid investigative reporters find a way to survive in a world of digital delivery.

Feel free to suggested the big events, people, and stories of the last decade that I left out.

On a personal note, I must mention that this blog will be 10 years old in 2011. I didn’t quite begin when the decade began, but I’m becoming a venerable oldie in the blog world.

Leave a Reply