TED Talk: Technology’s Long Tail

In 2004, Chris Anderson was the editor of technology publication, Wired magazine.

This blog post is in response to this TED Talk, Technology’s Long Tail.

This TED Talk, given by former Wired editor, Chris Anderson, explains emerging technologies and their stages. This TED Talk was filmed in 2004, so although his explanations hold true in 2018, technology has significantly advanced in the last 14 years since this was first filmed. Anderson says the “long tail” in business is “the notion of looking at the tail itself as a new market.” The internet, which was relatively new at the time of filming this video, enables businesses to tap markets more successfully than prior to the creation of the internet. The long tail is a potential market, and the internet creates distribution and sales opportunities not previously in place before its creation.
Anderson explains the four stages of technologies as setting the critical price, gaining market share, displacing an established technology and, finally, becoming “free” or ubiquitous. He uses examples such as the DVD, human genome, effects of generic drugs on pricing, hybrid cars, Skype and long-distance phone calls.
What struck me the most about Anderson’s talk was how rapidly technology has changed since even 2004. In 2004, Skype was in its early stages with “only” 4 million users, which means it reached critical mass and gained market share. Now, consumers can use FaceTime, a software integrated onto their iPhone, which was not even invented until 2007. 

Skype in its beta stages in April 2004

Technology I once believed was progressive and innovative, like the DVD for example, has now been rendered almost obsolete by streaming services. Anderson discusses how the invention of the DVD led to Netflix: a service once used to deliver DVDs to homes. Netflix is now a ubiquitous streaming service that allows thousands of movies and television shows instantly with no need to rent at a video store or wait for a DVD to arrive in the mail.
In 2004, the hybrid car was just gaining market share, and now I do not remember life without hybrid vehicles on the road. In 2004, Anderson said you could store “every song ever made” on a hard drive for about $400. Now, I pay a monthly fee to stream just about every song ever made onto Spotify, and do not need to pay for storage of these songs. I know I take all of these technological advances for granted and do not remember life without them. Because of Anderson’s TED Talk, I am interested to see what the next 14 years brings in technological advances.

Spotify users can access streaming music and podcasts from their desktop, laptops and mobile devices

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