The sky is blue, water is wet, and Bill Gates is smart. These are just self-evident truths. However, the fact that the Microsoft co-founder is a brilliant visionary is even more apparent now that it appears he accurately predicted the rise of both Netflix and Facebook in a prophetic 1994 interview with Playboy.
The comments, which resurfaced this week via Business Insider, were in response to a series of questions from the interviewer regarding Gates' thoughts about the future of the Internet and technology. It being 1994 -- well before home computers were the norm, or average people understood what the Internet even was -- his predictions must have sounded like pure magic. That may have been true, but he seems to have rightly foreseen the existence of something that sounds eerily similar to what we would eventually know as Netflix, which didn't launch until 2007:
"Say you want to watch a movie. To choose, you'll want to know what movies others liked and, based on what you thought of other movies you've seen, if this is a movie you'd like. You'll be able to browse that information. Then you select and get video on demand. Afterward, you can even share what you thought of the movie."
He went on to riff on how this burgeoning "information highway" would eventually allow us to connect with one another in entirely new ways:
"...The way we find information and make decisions will be changed. Think about how you find people with common interests, how you pick a doctor, how you decide what book to read. Right now it's hard to reach out to a broad range of people. You are tied into the physical community near you. But in the new environment, because of how information is stored and accessed, that community will expand. This tool will be empowering, the infrastructure will be built quickly and the impact will be broad."
Hmmm, sound familiar? Sure seems like a loose definition of Facebook, an idea Mark Zuckerberg wouldn't come up with until a full decade after Gates uttered these words.
Interestingly, there's no mention of future consumers being interested in using a device known as the "Zune," which while not technically a prediction, would also turn out to be correct.
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