The Laws of the Future of Publishing: 1

August 8th, 2011

I’ve tried to distill my 30 years of publishing technology into some guidelines, modestly named The Laws of the Future of Publishing. I’ve got 31 of them so far.

People have asked that I fill in some detail beyond the terse statements. That’s going to keep me busy for awhile. Here’s the first.


1. The Web is still in its infancy.

Mark your calendars each year for April 30, the official birthday of the World Wide Web. That’s the day in 1993 that CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone, with no fees due. (Some people instead celebrate August 6, 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup.) While Berners-Lee began work on the project a couple of years earlier, we’re still referencing a technology that’s somewhere between a teenager and a young adult. Sir Tim is one of many who have reminded us of just how darned youthful the web remains.

OK. I hear you. The voice-activated coffee maker is even younger than the web. But somehow it doesn’t play as large a role in our lives.

What it means:

Like many of the laws of the future of publishing, this one is to be applied conceptually, not specifically. We can easily get overwhelmed by the drama that surrounds everything webby –  Facebook’s 750 million users or Groupon turning down a $6 billion offer from Google. This is dramatic, by any metric. So the web is huge. But it’s not omnipotent. And it’s still young.

The “still in its infancy” concept is most valuable in one of two scenarios:

The first instance is when you look at something on the web and think “that’s the be-all and end-all.” Nope, it’s just today’s version. There will be a new version next month, another next year, and the company making the hardware/software product will be out of business within the decade.

The second instance is when someone makes what sounds to you like an outlandish prediction and you think, “They can never do that.” Be assured that they can, and two years from now they probably will. Whether it succeeds is a different matter, to be discussed later.

Which leads nicely to the second law…

2. Technology will never be the obstacle.