The Danger Of Predicting The Next Big Thing – In Less Than 160 Characters

motorola-text-wikipediaHere’s a prediction for you – most futurologists will get it wrong most of the time. Beyond that I wouldn’t put the mortgage on anything technology soothsayers tell you.

Now is a good time to mark this important truth.

Why? Because global revenues from SMS (aka text messaging) have officially passed the $100bn mark, according to new figures from Portio Research.

Question: who predicted that the short message service would become a cash cow for the mobile industry?

Who forecast that SMS would be “as big as the global music industry, plus the total worldwide movie industry, and the total worldwide videogaming industry – added together”?

Or “bigger than global radio, or bigger than worldwide book publishing”?

Answer: no-one. SMS was meant as little more than an accessory on a mobile phone in the same way you get a calculator bundled with the Windows operating system.

Yet 160 characters of plain text became a phenomenon.

While we are at it, who would have thought when SMS was introduced 16 years ago that someone would ape the service for the internet, throw a little one-to-many communication into the mix, shave 20 characters off in the process and think it a good idea?

One conclusion I think we can draw from the dual success of text messaging and the 140-character Twitter is that ‘lowest common denominator’ technologies have just as much chance of success as – perhaps more chance than – those with all the bells and whistles.

The lesson appears to be this: keep technology simple to use and let the creativity come with the application of that technology, not from the application itself. Beyond that, no predictions.

(Hat tip: Digital Stats)