Software Used to Eat the World. The World is Biting Back

If anything is being eaten, it’s software companies as Series A round by Series B round, their stocks and voting rights are sold to investors.

Simon Pitt

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Via Unsplash

“In short, software is eating the world,” Marc Andreessen wrote in 2011. And for many years it really has seemed like it’s been lunchtime in software-ville.

Everything has turned into software. Shops are software. We book our trains, planes and automobiles through software. Work is inputted into software. It’s difficult to think of a modern activity that doesn’t involve software. There actually is a computer on every desk and in every home.

But when I look at the technology giants looming over us, it doesn’t seem like software is in control anymore. It looks like software is in the thrall of capital. Money, investors, shareholders, venture capital. When articles mention Apple, they mention its market cap. Sometimes there is a little sawblade sparkline next to its name showing its share price zigzagging upwards. If anyone is eating anything, it is the investors, not the developers. “HubSpot is not a software company,” Dan Lyons wrote in Disrupted, his book about Silicon Valley, “so much as it is a financial instrument.”

You can feel this shift in ways large and small. Technology companies are no longer named after their software products. Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram — they are all part of Meta. Google, Waze, and YouTube are within Alphabet. Siri, Shazam, and Dark Sky are bits of Apple. These applications, almost literally, have been eaten by conglomerates. They have turned from individual, plucky upstarts into cogs within corporate machines. First bought then subsumed.

“It’s hard to believe now,” Tim Bray wrote, in an article mourning the Google that once was, “those lovably nerdy Bay Area kids were leading humanity to a brighter, better-lit future.” For years, it was this band of merry genius drop-outs who seemed to be setting a course for the world. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, and Jack Dorsey all dropped out of university to pursue technology careers. It was as if the path of the old world was no longer relevant in this bold new…

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Simon Pitt

Media techie, software person, and web-stuff doer. Head of Corporate Digital at BBC, but views my own. More at pittster.co.uk