Apple vs. Amazon
It’s no great surprise to me that the tablet form factor has finally been realized in Apple’s iPad, but I would never have predicted that Amazon (basically just an online bookstore at the time) would enter the hardware game with the Kindle, nor would I have expected Apple to become an influential media company.
Apple vs. Google
When Google came around in the late ’90s they provided a fast, superior alternative to Altavista, the market leader at the time. Did any of us foresee their rapid expansion into cloud computing, their ascension to total dominance in the world of advertising, or their emergence as a top provider of mobile operating systems? I sure didn’t.
Never-Ending Browser Wars
In 1996, Netscape was the only browser that mattered. Internet Explorer arrived, grew in popularity, and eventually became dominant. I guess I always assumed there would be one dominant browser, or at least that web standards would be so ingrained that web pages would render the same on all browsers. Now we have at least five viable browser options, each with their own rendering quirks: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and Opera, to say nothing of the numerous other Webkit and Mozilla browsers currently available.
Infinite Scroll in Web Pages
This is just one of those things I didn’t anticipate, but I really should have considering it’s been used in desktop applications like Excel and Quicken for a long time.
I clearly underestimated people’s desire to publish. Easy website creation tools have existed since the birth of the web, and blogging tools came around shortly after, but neither provided the type of safe, closed system that Facebook offers. Photo sharing tools and private discussion groups existed as well, but they didn’t give you the satisfaction of publishing to an audience. Facebook provided the best of both worlds – the ability to publish without fear of exposure to the public at large.
There are more but I’ll stop here lest I further betray my lack of foresight (obviously I should never try getting into the venture capitalism game). What are some technological or cultural developments that took you by surprise?