"We often think of (how) the Internet enables you to do new things," Ev Williams told a recent XOXO conference in Portland, Oregon. "But people just want to do the same things they've always done."
Williams, in cofounding Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, has helped make much of the Internet we know today, and he has come to the realization that the Internet is "a giant machine designed to give people what they want."
In this way, he says, organizing your startup around the Next Big Idea isn't nearly as useful (or profitable) as taking a Very Old Problem and solving it in A New Way.
Convenience, Williams says, and it comes in two flavors: speed and cognitive ease. You don't want to wait for what you want. You don't want to think about it either.
The big Internet companies rock at this: Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple offer super-crisp convenience. What was once complex is now more simple. Williams did this himself: Blogger, his first big hit, took the unwieldy process of web publishing and made it much more accessible: All you needed to do was type into your browser and hit "publish."
Uber—and its readily available, insanely easy to use fleet of cars—is a primary example.
"How old is the desire of getting from here to there?" Williams said. "How hard was it really to do? They took out some steps in that process . . . they formed a connection between you and the driver."
So the Internet isn't this magical utopia. It's an engine of convenience. A constant incentive for fewer steps.
Bottom Line: "Here's the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar Internet company," Williams says. "Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time . . . identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps."
Hat tip: Wired U.K.