Silicon Valley has always been fascinated by new technology memes, radical new ideas and business models that take off and capture the popular imagination - often changing the world of technology in the process. Valley memes quickly become the jargon of leading-edge VCs. For example, the phrase "it's a Freemium model, based on UGC and Wisdom of Crowds" requires no explanation in certain circles; it's as meaningful to these players as the phrase "it's a RESTful Web Service based on a 3-tier J2EE architecture" is to a Web Applications Architect.
(For the uninitiated: Freemium is a term popularized by VC Fred Wilson to mean a free service with an upsell to paid premium subscriptions; UGC stands for User-generated content, a relatively new concept in which the audience or readership helps to craft creative or original content; and Wisdom of Crowds is a term popularized by James Surowiecki's book of the same name.)
How does a technology meme start? When does an interesting new idea or concept tip over into a meme?
The genesis goes something like this: when a popular new idea captures the imagination of leading-edge VCs (and now, also the blogerati), the wheels are set in motion; once it turns into a popular business book, the concept is poised to "tip"; if the ideas and examples in the book are simple and accessible to the general population, you now have a bona fide meme!
Is it possible to predict upcoming memes? Let's take a look at two concepts poised to take off.
Just as Chris Anderson's Long Tail article in Wired magazine created a new and enduring idea in technology and especially in Silicon Valley, two other Wired articles appear poised to make the same leap:
(Incidentally, Fake Steve Jobs took a humorous dig at Freenomics in a recent blog post.)