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The disrupters are being disrupted

“Hey Internet, We’re Craigslisting Ourselves Now.”

I know people have been saying for years that we’re in a weird “transitional” period, but every day it feels increasingly true to me. The web has been mainstream for about 15 years now, and in the first five years of that we saw traditional businesses like television and newspapers and music succumb to the disruption of the Internet. Later, we saw Web 2.0 become a buzzword and various services sprung up to further the disruption among existing Internet industries.

What I’m noticing now is the feeling that the disruptors are beginning to be disrupted themselves. Many of the companies labeled Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s are either no longer with us (Friendster, Bloglines, etc.) or were long ago sold off and subsumed into larger companies. The rise of blogs in the early 2000s seems to be following an opposite trajectory in the early 2010s. Social media/software is taking over not just blogging, but search, and events, and existing location-based startups. Even the giants of the social space aren’t showing signs of blockbuster success beyond their registered user numbers (Facebook is struggling with revenue and its stock price, Twitter is slapping ads on everything and hoping for the best).

Everyone is rushing to iOS and Android development as the wave of the future, and it’s true that mobile is going to keep getting bigger — but at the same time there aren’t proven models beyond a few blockbuster successes (e.g. Angry Birds). I’m seeing people pouring lots of money into mobile apps (they seem to start at $50K and go upwards fast) while big splashy projects like The Daily are closing up shop.

I look into my crystal ball and I don’t see very many winners or breakout trends that I would bet on. What I do see are a heck of a lot of existing industries declining further, as well as the first and second wave of Internet disruptors fading away, as the pace of change picks up and one startup after another outdoes a competitor and exists for a brief period in the limelight before they begin their descent into the scrapheap.

TL;DR version: Hey Internet, We’re Craigslisting Ourselves Now.

Matt Haughey created Metafilter, one of the web’s earliest community weblogs, and a number of other sites.