What Steve Jobs got right and wrong about the web

“Even a man as visionary as Steve Jobs is going to have his hits and misses,” Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac. “In a bunch of interviews given around 1995 and 1996, Jobs was already predicting the importance of e-commerce.”

“But,” Lovejoy reports, “Jobs didn’t see us using the web as a source of information:”

We live in an information economy, but I don’t believe we live in an information society. People are thinking less than they used to. It’s primarily because of television. People are reading less and they’re certainly thinking less. So, I don’t see most people using the Web to get more information. We’re already in information overload. No matter how much information the Web can dish out, most people get far more information than they can assimilate anyway. – Steve Jobs, 1995

Read more and see the video in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. I don’t know that I’d call that a “miss.” Sure people are using the web to get information, but I question the efficacy of the effort. I talk to people every day that could easily get answers to their questions, or further research something they are told or have read, but they just don’t do it.

    The tools are all there and laid out for them, but many times they are looking for someone else to do the digging, while they sit idly by and atrophy waiting for an answer to be delivered. They’ll take it from any source and simply accept it.

    1. I agree with you. We all now have iPhones, but most of the time, I feel like I’m only one that is actually using it to get information from it. Most people I know just take the information that they expect (e-mail, text, perhaps weather and Facebook…).

      I have boundless curiosity. Everything intrigues me and interests me. If I’m not on the subway train (no mobile signal unless in station), and a thought comes to my mind (“Whatever happened to the Aral sea?”, or “How does protein pump inhibitor work?” for example), I’d look it up on the phone. In casual conversations, I’d frequently use the phone to settle disagreements (“Schwarzenegger is older than Stalone!” — no, he’s not), or to find answers (“What’s the name of that British actor who was in that chick flick ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’…?” — Russel Brand). Years ago, when iPhone was rather new, an article was mentioned here on MDN (not sure which media outlet) that called iPhone owners “arrogant know-it-alls”. I have a serious issue with the “arrogant” part of it, but know-it-all is not such a bad thing to be.

      The bottom line of this, thought, is that, even though we have access to the devices with unlimited knowledge, only a very small subset of us is actually using it to get to that knowledge; the rest are very much in line with what Steve Jobs had said almost twenty years ago (information overload simply shuts them out).

      1. When someone wondered who played Heathcliff in the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights, I’d ring Mom. She knew movies backwards and forwards. Using the web to obtain such answers is far less convenient, and far less reliable.

        1. I would argue it is far less fun (using the web to obtain answers, instead of your mum). However, it is for sure more convenient, and certainly more reliable and accurate.

    2. The accuracy of the information that people get on the web must also be called into question. Anything juicy or inflammatory spreads like wildfire whether it is true or not. Steve Jobs totally got it right that people are thinking less.

  2. ‘We’re living in the wake of the petrochemical revolution of about a 100 years ago. The petrochemical revolution gave us free energy—free mechanical energy, in this case. It changed the texture of society in most ways. This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy as well, but of another kind: free intellectual energy. It’s still crude, but this revolution will dwarf the petrochemical revolution.’

    ‘Steve Jobs Bio: The Unauthorized Autobiography.’

    1. I don’t think it’s become more irrelevant, but I think viewing habits have definitely changed. People watch the major networks less and less, and instead watch more cable/specialty channels, so viewership is spread out. There are far more news channels, sports channels, etc.

      TV usage has evolved much like the mobile phone has evolved: People view TV more like the view apps — specific tools for specific uses, instead of a general tool (phone) for multiple uses (phone calls, texts, maybe email and calendar).

  3. Steve missed the Arab Spring and the Jasmine Revolution largely orchestrated through massive social media – in America we do prefer to use our Internet for entertainment – the statistics speak for themselves.

  4. Maybe Jobs saw only the commercialization of the Internet for the future. This leads to over advertising to the point of ad nauseam. At that point, the information is… GARBAGE.
    I still cannot figure out who the “genius” was that got every business out there to shell out big bucks for advertising. What a scam, not to mention a true disintegration of everything worth while. What I mean is… even Nature itself is block by billboards. Advertising truly sucks, kind of like ZDNet!!!!

    1. Advertising is at the most basic core of commerce. If you run a business (offering a product for sale, or service for sale), exactly HOW do you get people to spend money for your product (or service)? The only way they will know that you exist is if you actually tell them somehow. From the very early beginnings of commerce in prehistoric times, there was advertising. Even when early people bartered goods they made, they would advertise what they have to barter by displaying it visibly in a public place.

      Advertising is one of the most fundamental functions of commerce, and has been around for millennia.

      1. Yes.. yes… we all know this. But the CRAP that is currently infiltrating the internet and TV, now constantly popping up during all shows, now in movies, popups, etc. is not what you are describing. It is detrimental. It has destroyed TV, it is destroying the Movie experience, and pretty much has made most of the internet look like desperation. It does get the “job” done, but it is done in such a mind numbing, over saturated way… well you get the picture.

  5. It certainly depends up on the individual as to how likely they are to bother researching and learning about anything.

    Example: Flame warz here at MDN where the troll absolutely, willfully refuses to know what they’re talking about, even when they are flooded with URLs stating the facts of the matter. Their only point is S&M and you’re their latest centerfold.

  6. Have you seen how poor the Internet is at actually providing in-depth information? Most articles are plagiarized copies of one single piece that at best may provide a reasonable summary. Laziness at its worst.

    1. Agree. Has anyone else ever gotten frustrated doing a web search, when the word or term specified returns pages of garbage hits …but not the kernels of true information you are seeking ? It is like asking a little kid a question, who gives a totally unrelated answer.

      I used to think of the web as a huge online yellow pages or library. But now I think of the web mostly as a huge billboard and, increasingly, as television: fabulous potential, but the reality is disappointing.

      All this is a sort of trick question: it all depends on how you define “information”.

  7. Rumor or lie gets posted on Facebook. It gets shared faster in an hour than any truth ever could, either standalone, or something to disprove the quickly shared lie.

    If anything, the web has ushered in the “Misinformation Age” at best.

  8. IN PART, Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac: “He was right about the information overload part, but didn’t predict how using the web as an information source could enable us to cut through to the precise information we need.”*

    WELL, if Ben really read, AND UNDERSTOOD, the original article, “Steve Jobs: The Next Insanely Great Thing.” By Gary Wolf interview in WIRED, he wouldn’t have come to such a conclusion.

    And for anyone to even suggest that the web enables us to CUT THROUGH TO THE PRECISE INFORMATION WE NEED, just has to read a few of the many blogs that appears on this site to realize that he is not alone BEING SO POORLY ILLINFORMED.


  9. “We live in an information economy, but I don’t believe we live in an information society. People are thinking less than they used to. It’s primarily because of television. People are reading less and they’re certainly thinking less”

    Explains Teabaggers and the Republican Congress.

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