Time is running out for the decade. With less than 20 days from the end, it makes us reflect on the paths of the various economic sectors in the United States. And no industry has known a more tumultuous time than Big Tech.
Much has changed in ten years. For starters, Americans are increasingly disillusioned with Silicon Valley. The Pew Research Center found that only 50 percent of Americans think tech companies are having a positive effect on the country. This statistic isn’t that bad on its own, but it’s a 21% drop from just four years ago. Gallup discovered in 2019 that 48 percent of Americans also want more Big Tech regulations. And the New York Times called the 2010s “the Big Tech decade has lost its way”.
Maybe that’s why the big wigs of these tech companies quietly ditched a concept that was their golden rule at the start of the decade: move fast and break things.
This concept is a modern take on the adage “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”. For most of these companies, any innovation justified part of the collateral damage in its wake. And this rambling “build now, care later” philosophy was a favorite of not only Facebook and Twitter, but many venture capitalists as well.
The Move Fast and Break Things manta has encouraged developers to push their coding changes to get them live and drop tokens where they can. But the bugs are piling up. Enter the technical debt.
“Technical debt happens whenever you do things that might get you closer to your goal now, but create issues that you will have to fix later,” said Quantified CV in an article on Medium. “By going fast and breaking things, you will certainly be building up technical debt. “
If enough technical debt kicks in, any new line of code could be the thing that turns a business upside down like a house of cards. And now that the consumer is accustomed to technology in their daily routine, service disruptions are very bad news for everyone.
As Mark Zuckerburg himself put it, “When you build something that you don’t have to fix 10 times, you can move forward with what you have built. “
To regain some of the confidence that has ebbed from Big Tech over the years, companies can’t just continue with the Move Fast and Break Things status quo.
“The public will continue to tire of the abuses perceived by technology companies and will favor companies that tackle economic, social and environmental issues,” Hemant Taneja said in his article for harvard business review. “Minimal viable products must be replaced by virtuous minimal products that… incorporate protections against potential damage. “
It is not about chasing the lowest dollar at the expense of the consumer. Losing trust will hurt any business if left unchecked for a long time.
There is a cap on advancement in our current technological state. This is called Moore’s Law. And we are rapidly approaching the theoretical limits of it.
“When you understand the fundamental technology behind a product or service, you can act quickly, trying almost endless permutations until you come up with an optimized solution. It is often much more effective than a more planned and deliberate approach, ”said Greg Satell in his article for HBR.
Soon Big Tech will be in relatively new waters with quantum computing, biofeedback, and AI. There’s no way to go as fast as these tech companies have in the past. And even if they could, should they?
Big Tech has experienced major growth challenges since the dawn of our new millennium. And now that some companies are entering their twenties, there is a choice to be made. Keep growing or keep using an idea that is worn out, is welcomed with the consumer and has no guarantee that it will work with future technologies.
Maybe that’s why Facebook’s motto is now “Move Fast with Stable Infrastructure”.