A Look Back On Andrew Keen's Failed Predictions

from the oh-look-at-that... dept

In writing my recent post about the failure of Google’s Knol, I went back to look at what I had written previously about it and I dug up a post from October of 2008, in which I discussed a series of predictions from Andrew Keen that struck me as particularly shortsighted and wrong. It was right after the latest economic crisis had shifted into overdrive and Keen had predicted that this economic change would lead to the end of “open source” and “free” business models because people would have to actually start making money. He also predicted that things like Facebook and Twitter would collapse in the economic realities of 2009:

The altruistic ideal of giving away one’s labor for free appeared credible in the fat summer of the Web 2.0 boom when social-media startups hung from trees, Facebook was valued at $15 billion, and VCs queued up to fund revenue-less “businesses” like Twitter. But as we contemplate the world post-bailout, when economic reality once again bites, only Silicon Valley’s wealthiest technologists can even consider the luxury of donating their labor to the latest fashionable, online, open-source project.

How’s that prediction looking today? Right. (Update: For those who missed it, there’s a sarcmark around that “Right”)

In that article, he predicted the success of a bunch of websites and how they’d beat the “free” or “open” competitors. I picked out a series of those that I thought were particularly unlikely to happen and asked Andrew if he’d like to put some money behind his predictions — with the bet being decided by who was right in October 2010 (I didn’t choose all of Keen’s predictions, because some of them were nonsensical and did not involve actual competitors). Here’s what I wrote:

I’d like to make a bet. While there are different estimates as to how long any recession might be, the general consensus is that we should hopefully start pulling out by the end of 2009 or early 2010. So, let’s pick a few of these that we can measure, and I’ll bet Andrew Keen $100 (really money, Andrew) that in two years, on October 22, 2010, Wikipedia still gets more traffic than Knol, that Google is still much, much, much bigger than Mahalo (if they’re even considered competitors any more), and that YouTube gets more traffic than Hulu.

If any one of those is untrue, I’ll write him a check.

Tragically, when October 22, 2010 came around, I had forgotten about this original post. Also, Keen never responded to the bet, either because he was unaware of it or because he didn’t really believe his own predictions. Either way, it looks like he made the right decision, whether on purpose or not, because every one of the predictions I made were correct compared to his predictions. Knol didn’t beat Wikipedia. Mahalo did not beat Google. Hulu did not beat YouTube (though, Hulu is doing well for now).

I had never met Keen when I wrote that original article, though I have had some fun conversations with him in the past year, so I’m interested to see if he’s willing to revisit his original predictions and to admit that perhaps he was wrong with his analysis of how “free” and “open source” would be knocked out by the economic crisis.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: google, hulu, knol, mahalo, wikipedia, youtube

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Comments on “A Look Back On Andrew Keen's Failed Predictions”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“He also predicted that things like Facebook and Twitter would collapse in the economic realities of 2009:”

but things like Open source, facebook, twitter, etc… (at least the free use of these and similar services) may collapse in the legal realities of the future, if we don’t quickly eliminate our bought politicians and replace them with ones that serve the public (and not corporate) interests.

bob (profile) says:

Facebook and Twitter aren't open source

Twitter and Facebook are ad supported communications platforms. They bear little resemblance to open source software written by many people. There’s little collaborative going on. Oh, I realize that taken together the tweets occasionally convey something but that’s relatively rare.

Furthermore it’s not clear that YouTube is actually winning because it’s supported by a huge subsidy from Google’s ads. We don’t know how much Hulu is subsidized but I see them as vastly different platforms. I never look to YouTube on purpose. I only go there when another site points me to some viral content. I go to Hulu as a destination to watch quality shows.

Also, it’s not clear that HuffingtonPost is beating theAtlantic because it’s paying more and more people. It’s starting to become theAtlantic, at least in part.

There are other cases where the so-called open platform failed. Does anyone watch CNN’s iReport? Nah. People watch CNN.

While you’re right that the whole thing is kind of bogus because sites aren’t even competitors, I think you’re missing something here. Aside from Mahalo, the other sites are winning. And everyone is complaining that Google search results are jammed with spam and so maybe Mahalo is just about to start winning.

freak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Facebook and Twitter aren't open source

I’ve never even heard of mahalo before. Googling now . . .

Huh. Looks like a really ugly content-free page that’s trying to pretend it had useful things. Is that a site-wide search bar?
Oh . . . that’s its actual search the web bar, shoved up into a small corner of the website, where I had to go hunting for it, providing a near useless array of links with unhelpful text when I try to use it. I search up mahalo on google, it immediately tells me mahalo is supposed to b a search engine. I search up mahalo on mahalo, and it gives me a lot of useless trash besides that basic info.

And, for hilarity points, the mahalo page about mahalo is cluttered with tons of google ads, to the point of obscuring information.

Why was mahalo expected not to fail catastrophically?

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Speaking of bets ... the free techdirt CrystalBall is still open

” Also, Keen never responded to the bet”

I created an open betting pool for people about half a year ago … It was how well the Times of London would do behind a paywall. If anyone is still interested The betting is open again. Closest to the number of subscribers when the Times of London shuts down its paywall gets a free techdirt CrystalBall subscription … I will also throw in a 3 months subscription to the times of london.

Mr Big Content says:

Andrew Keen Is A Misunderstood Prophetic Genius

It seems like your completely missing the point of his article. His predictions where only meant to be understood in terms of that point in time. It’s not fair to try to extrapolate them to some point in the future that even he cannot foresee. I think your just jealous of the high reputation he enjoys among analysts for his far-seeing vision, and your just trying to pull down a tall poppy who stands so much taller than all the others.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Techdirt's predictions?

Actually, I’d be quite curious to see TD review a prediction it was wrong about, and analyze why it may have guessed wrong. Understanding one’s errors is useful, so I mean this in the best way possible.
Or has TD always been so cautious that it has never made a wrong prediction?

Yeah, from time to time we do that:


Jim C. says:

Keen was quite right about the dumbing-down effect that amateurs can have on public awareness of critical topics. It’s not JUST the Internet, but the instant availability of bogus information posing as “sound science” is a scourge on knowledge.

The Internet has become a cesspool of global warming denial, with all sorts of bogus “facts” being copied and pasted as truths. All a denier has to do is search for some cherry-picked lie about science and gloat over how many hits it gets, as if that alone proves a point. In 2009, “ClimateGate” was a prime example, and the lies of false context persist to this day.

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