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Conor Sen

The Internet Is No Longer a Disruptive Technology

The disruptive innovators of 10 years ago are today’s stable incumbents.

Remember these?

Remember these?

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Internet-enabled industry disruption defined business strategy in the 2010s, but as 2020 begins, that era appears to be winding down. The disruptors have largely become the new establishment, and unlike a decade ago, it doesn’t look like the new leaders will be displaced any time soon. Today’s internet is a mature and mainstream technology.

This was not the case a decade ago. In 2009, multiple industries were in the midst of upheaval thanks to internet-enabled transformations. The iPhone was only two years old. In the music industry, compact discs still represented a plurality of revenues, and most of the rest came from digital purchases. Streaming, whether of music or on Netflix, was still in its infancy. We were in the middle of the transition from print ads to digital ones; 2009 was the last year the newspaper industry had higher ad revenues than Google, and the last year Facebook’s revenues were less than $1 billion. E-commerce was growing, but Sears and Kmart were still large retail chains. YouTube was known mostly for a handful of viral videos (Susan Boyle, anyone?).