Saturday, October 13, 2012

Children of the Future

What will a child in the year 2040 be like?

A question that can have several controversial answers.

Here is my take.

The world is becoming smarter by the day. People in the developing countries, as well as the developed countries, are focussing on higher education, beginning to learn things fast, becoming taller, sharper, stronger (No reference to Complan here), and hence are continuously evolving.

We can see the evidence all around us, we see new entrepreneurs coming up regularly. They might not be as famous as a Bill Gates, or a Steve Jobs, but are doing quite well in their own way. We see Olympic records being shattered every four years. We see soccer players becoming faster and more skilled than perhaps their predecessors. We see scores people get on competitive exams go higher.

Now all these facts point to one direction. The future is getting more and more competitive, and definitely more cut throat. So the child of 2040 HAS to be smarter and faster in order to survive.

I am a firm believer in the fact that humans, like animals, have to adapt to survive. Going by the same logic, the child of 2040 will already have adapted to the changing world, thanks to its parents.

But my intention is not to look at it from an optimistic angle. I want to try and think, what could end up on the flip side.

One of the first things that comes to mind is the fact that the child of 2040 will be detached from human interactions and emotions that accompany human interaction. It will not be able to comprehend what it feels to have friends. Reason being, all forms of communication will eliminate physical presence, and will be on a strictly need-basis. Evidences which point to that are the hugely successful platforms called facebook, WhatsApp, Google Talk, and Skype. To the child of the future will be born with certain traits and genes which will instinctively draw it towards these networking platforms. The risks of this are several, and one of the first things that come to mind in such a case is unsuccessful copulation. 30 years down the line, the earth will be full of people. At the current rates of growth of India and China, these two countries alone will account for more than 50% of the estimated population of over 10 billion. Now, we are taught about the sigmoidal graphs in school, what I think is going to happen, is that the earth can only take so much, so it will stabilize, and then either head for a double logistic kind of a pattern, or will wind up as a negative exponential function which might lead to bigger problems.

Secondly, the child of the future will completely phase out any kinds of physical activity, thanks to the advent of virtual presence. Schooling will be done from home. Gaming will be a source for the mind to relax and feel free. Work will be completed from home. So basically the surroundings will get narrowed down. So much that privacy and personal space will become of paramount importance as opposed to the shared spaces we have today. If you look at ten years back, a child, even if it had a room, gave complete access to its parents and family. But today, personal and private space is so important, that parents rarely muster up the courage to visit their offspring's room, i.e. personal space. This trend is here to stay, is what I feel, and is certainly going to get more and more stronger. Socializing skills of children will be at an all time low. A decline is human interactions will lead to other possible dire consequences, and we will witness a steep rise in cases of depression.

Thirdly, we will witness a tremendous rise in consumerism of expendable products, if current trends are anything to go by. Unlike yesteryears, where we used to see reuse of mineral water bottles, today we see that the amount of water bottles discarded has grown exponentially. I have a feeling, if someone has to invest in the future, one should invest in waste management practices. Because even if everything else in the world, such as gold prices, oil prices, futures, mutual funds, is unpredictable, we can be rest assured, that the amount of waste generated will always keep increasing and can be predicted with certain amount of surety. And there soon will be a time, when we no longer have space to dump waste. That is when effective use of waste will come into the picture, and governments will be willing to spend a lot of money on it. Coming back to the child of the future. It will take this a step forward and end up wasting and consuming more and more natural resources, which will witness a sharp decline.

Finally, the societies which are currently collectivist in nature will witness a shift to individualistic nature. The we will be replaced by the I. Team work will be replaced by individual work. Corporations around the world will not invest in one team, rather will invest in individuals and hence, man management will become more about coordination and  handling the super-ego and less about team management.

I agree what I may have written about might not at all be convincing, but I like to think about all the possible pros and cons. And in this case I wanted to think about the cons.

This topic can be discussed in greater depth and detail, bringing in more contexts, but for now, I'll stop here.

How does WhatsApp make money?

WhatsApp has destroyed the SMS based incomes of a number of telecom companies. It is one of the most successful instant messaging platforms linking millions around the globe. Started in June 2009, by two employees of Yahoo Brian Acton, and Jan Koum, the objective of the company was to provide a means for Apple's iPhone and RIM's Blackberry devices to communicate with one another. Soon it became available on other platforms such as Android, Java J2ME, Symbian etc.

Today WhatsApp delivers on an average 1 Billion messages each day. Users can share texts, locations, and media such as photos, videos and audio. What more can an instant messaging service provide!

It is doing to the instant messaging world what Skype did to telephony all around the world. Bringing the world together and doing it in a way that makes it cheap, effective, reliable and very cool.

Now all this got me thinking, how does WhatsApp make money, without advertisements, and since it is a freely downloadable application? I mean, what are the things that WhatsApp needs to run operations at such a scale (a study shows they crossed the 10 billion messages mark in 2010 and it stores user messaging history, data storage costs money and lots of it)? And the last question, how do they market themselves?

To find the answers I dug a little deeper.

And this is what I found.

1. WhatsApp employs only 20 engineers who work on the development of the application. The rest are involved in customer support. The exact number is unknown, but my guess would be around 20-50 people.

2. WhatsApp prides itself on working with extremely limited budgets, and hence, is extremely efficient. Brian Acton once himself said that in order to keep the venture profitable, it needed to operate with extremely tight budgets.

3. WhatsApp's website is worth $10 only! Which means they do not spend here, tight budgets? Yes, we get it.

4. WhatsApp is the #1 downloaded application on several application store platforms, such as Google Play, Apple iTunes, etc. And it does not spend a penny on advertising, again saving costs. They rely on word of mouth publicity, which is why probably in the European markets, where telecom companies used to make a killing by charging exorbitant rates on messaging services, (TSPs telecom service providers) ignored the presence of WhatsApp initially where downloads were in thousands, but surged to millions in a matter of one year making life difficult for TSPs who had to lay off people!

5. They recently got funding from investment companies to the tune of a cool $8million!

6. The cost of downloading WhatsApp on iTunes is only 99 cents, and on other platforms is available for free. But there is a catch, WhatsApp is free only for the first year. Second year onwards there is a fee for $1.99 for a period of 3 years, and this is where they are going to make money, no not make money, MINT money. Consider this, currently WhatsApp has over 100 million subscribers, and suppose 80 million are non-iOS users, they will earn a cool $160 million easily! What a genius marketing strategy!

7. They rely on their funding from donations, much like Wikipedia. Which keeps the company afloat despite high running costs.

Now the other set of questions which is what this blog is about. The future.

1. What will happen if some TSP buys out WhatsApp in the future?
2. What happens when there is a better Instant Messaging platform which comes to the market? Will it mean the death of WhatsApp?
3. Is advertisement free applications the way to the future?

Here are the answers I came up with, and I am open to discussions.

1. If WhatsApp is bought by a TSP, then, we will witness the DEATH of free instant messaging as we know it now. Not a pleasant possibility, but considering the way WhatsApp is operating now, we can be rest assured that like Wikipedia, WhatsApp will survive. For a long long time.

2. What happens when there is a better Instant Messaging solution available? Well, WhatsApp will die, unless it re-invents itself, but that again looks to be a distant possibility. I again refer to Wikipedia, which is still going strong, and there is no way, there can be another Wikipedia in the near future. So I feel WhatsApp is safe.

3. Advertisement free applications available for free Instant Messaging IS the way to the future. I mean, who wants to see an application being bombarded with advertisements, which in more cases than none, irritate users by slowing down the application, hogging bandwidths of data plans! So yes, advertisement free applications are here to stay, and if someone else comes up with a platform as unique as WhatsApp can and should emulate WhatsApp's strategies, for success is guaranteed!

I am a faithful WhatsApp user and I certainly do hope this trend continues!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Objective

The objective, when I begin to write on this blog, is to look at the present and try to predict things about the future. No, I am not Nostradamus, neither am I inspired by the Mayans. The aspects I will be looking into are going to be extremely narrow in scope.

I am going to talk about genetics, people, technology, markets, businesses, sports, music, movies and any other topic that I fancy.