Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Innovention" Is Alive And Well

"Innovention" is alive and well, thank you very much. No, I'm not talking about the make-over of the old Disneyland "Carousel of Progress" - but I'm talking about innovation + invention = "innovention."

Specifically, I'm thinking about the new social networking site: Google +. If you haven't heard of it yet, you will. It's supposed to be the "next big thing" in social media. Before I go there, however, let me digress into a brief history lesson (it will make sense in the end - hang in there!):

I was watching an excellent program on the History Channel yesterday called Modern Mavels: B2 Bomber. Now, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the back story before I watched the show. I new that Jack Northrop (yes, founder of the aerospace company Northrop) had a fascination with the flying wing. He built several models for the US military in the 1940's - and always believed that the flying wing was the design of the future.

In 1979 the Northrop Grumman company got a contract to develop the B-2 Spirit which would eventually become known as the B-2 "Stealth Bomber." This $2.1 billion plane (each!) is nearly invisible to radar, and has been actively used by the military in international operations since 1997.

"OK, so what," you're probably asking yourself.

Well, did you know that the first stealth aircraft was not designed by Jack Northrop? Nope - it was developed by Reimar and Walter Horten. Back in 1943. For the Nazis. They built a prototype glider and put carbon powder in the glue to absorb radio waves. They also coated the outside with the same type of material - and guess what? It worked. It wasn't perfect by any means, and radar itself was still in its infancy at the time - but it worked.

Then that whole nazis-get-defeated "thing" happened and that was the end of it. Until the 1980's. When (finally) the computer technology was to the point where it could keep a flying wing in the air (there are 132 computers on each B-2) and technology in general got to the point where such a dream could be realized.

OK - so what does all this have to do with social media and Google + ?

Well - it's all about history. Right now, Facebook is the king of the hill. It has about 550,000,000 users world wide. Almost every company has their own page - and all their advertising these days includes a "find us on Facebook" pitch. They try to get you to "like" their page, and follow them on Twitter, etc.

Now Google is throwing their hat into the ring (they are really, really pissed at Eric Schmit for not buying Facebook). All the "first looks" I've read about seem to really like it (only the "cool kids" have access - and for now you have to be invited to join - like Gmail when it first launched). They even hired (arguably) one of the best user interface designers (IMHO) - Andy Hertzfield the guy that came up with the user interface for a little machine called the Macintosh...

Oh, and Myspace sold yesterday for $35 million - after Rupert Murdock bought it for $580 million back in 2005... making Facebook the social media schizzle.

But hey, wait a minute... could Facebook be the new Myspace? Back in the day, Myspace had the most traffic on the Internet. It was #1! Invincible! There were even talks of an IPO!

Sound familiar?

But then, Facebook came along (along with LinkedIn) and within 2 years, totally kicked Myspace's social butt. Now Myspace is being sold for scrap, Facebook is the new king, and there's a new kid on the block - Google +.

Google's technology is better. Much better. Their user interface is WAY better. They feature live, multi-user video chat, etc. etc.

Will Google + be the next big thing in social media? I dunno. Will Facebook go the way of Myspace like Friendster did before them, or SixDegrees before them, or TheGlobe before them, or Geocities before them, or UseNet before them?

The B-2 came about through the work and technological evolutions that occurred over a long period of time by a lot of different people from all over the world. Have we stopped inventing? Are we "there" yet?

Answer: no. There will always be new innovations and new inventions that bubble up to the surface to change our thinking, our perceptions and our perspectives. Long live "Innovention!"

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