Denting the universe

Monday, 29 Aug 2011

Rafe Colburn:

Who changed the world most, Google or Apple? […] I’ll boil it down to the most world-changing contribution by each company over the past ten years.

Google is the company that improved search engine results enough to really open the Web to the masses. […]

Apple is the company that brought a real Web browser to the pockets of millions of people. […]

Of course both companies have done many other things, but I don’t think any are as significant as those two. Which one made a greater impact? You tell me.

I believe that goes to Google, hands down.

The web is possibly as big a change in the world as the printing press was – and here I am making this comparison with great respect for its gravity. The mere fact that what I am writing this very moment will be read by a number of people I daren’t think about because it would boggle my mind is something none of my ancestors could dream to achieve. (Yet already this concept is beyond banal to the everyday web user.)

Google was the company that made the web colonisable by the masses. What Apple has done since, no matter how incredibly great, is – with due apologies to Steve – fungible.

In that sense, the first Steve revolution, the PC, was of much greater import than his second one looks to be. (But I will hasten to add that the second one is young as of this writing, and who knows where it will yet lead.) The PC was a necessary step, though not sufficient, to bring the web to everyone.

But in spite of providing a prerequisite for the web, not only did Apple not create the web, but I will go so far here as to argue here that they would and could not have. It is not in the DNA of the company to build humble utilities.

(And finally it should not be forgotten that Apple must share credit for the PC revolution with Microsoft.)