In 1995, Bill Gates made these predictions about streaming movies and fake news on the internet

Today, pretty much everyone regularly uses the internet to read breaking news and stream the latest blockbuster films. But in 1995, the internet was still in its infancy, and many Americans weren’t even online yet.

Bill Gates — as the co-founder of Microsoft (which made Internet Explorer, one of the first web browsers) — likely knew as much about the potential of internet technology as anyone in the mid-90s, however. So it’s not shocking that in 1995 Gates would be asked for his predictions on what the internet might look like a couple of decades into the future.

That’s exactly what happened when Gates sat down with author and journalist Terry Pratchett for an interview that appeared in the July 1995 edition of GQ magazine’s UK version. At the time, Gates was 39 and the world’s richest person with a net worth of $12.9 billion (he’s now second to Jeff Bezo with a $99.6 billion net worth, according to Forbes).

Gates’ conversation with Pratchett recently resurfaced online when writer Marc Burrows, who is working on a biography of Pratchett, tweeted two screenshots of the magazine interview (Gates is identified in the interview screenshots as “BG” and Pratchett is “TP”).

Not surprisingly, Gates had a couple of predictions for the future of the internet — one of which would turn out to be eerily prescient, while the other one seems to have come up short.

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Streaming movies

One prediction that Gates nailed was that the internet would forever change the way we consume entertainment, like movies and television shows. At the time, most people’s idea of a home entertainment system was a television hooked up to a VCR (electronic devices that played VHS tapes for anyone too young to remember), though video discs like DVDs were beginning to be introduced by the mid-90s.

In the interview, Pratchett is astounded when Gates tells him that “VCRs will be obsolete within ten years.”

“What? Completely obsolete?” asks Pratchett, who then asks if discs will be the primary home video format.

“Oh, they’ll be replaced by a disc player within four or five years,” Gates says. “I’m talking about access to media across the network.”

In other words, Gates is describing our ability to watch movies, TV shows and other streaming videos online. Gates, who complained that VCRs had “the world’s worst user interface,” went on to explain: “Everything we’re talking about will have screens to guide you and when you pause there’ll be a built-in personality that’ll immediately jump in and help you.”

Gates’ prediction ended up being pretty much on the money, as online video technology continued to improve over the next decade to the point where the now-ubiquitous video streaming platform YouTube was founded in 2005, 10 years after this interview took place. In 2007, Netflix announced plans to start streaming full movies and shows online. Today, Netflix has nearly 150 million streaming subscribers around the world, while more than two billion people watch videos on YouTube every month.

Pratchett also wanted to know if Gates thought that the internet would eventually make it easier to spread misinformation to large groups of people.

“There’s a kind of parity of esteem of information on the Net,” Pratchett remarked to Gates in the interview. “It’s all there: there’s no way of finding out whether this stuff has any bottom to it or whether someone just made it up.”

As an example, Pratchett proposed a hypothetical situation where someone purporting to be an expert promoted a theory online claiming that the Holocaust never happened. That theory, Pratchett argued, could be propped up on the internet and “available on the same terms as any piece of historical research which has undergone peer review and so on.”

While Pratchett’s biographer, Burrows, argued on Twitter this week that Pratchett had “accurately predicted how the internet would propagate and legitimise fake news,” Gates’ response is worth noting for the fact that the Microsoft co-founder failed to foresee the same negative effects of online misinformation.

Gates agreed with Pratchett that misinformation could be spread online, but “not for long,” the billionaire reasoned. For instance, Gates argued, the internet could contain fake news, but it would also create more opportunities for information to be verified and supported by appropriate authorities, from actual experts to journalists and consumer reports.

“The whole way that you can check somebody’s reputation will be so much more sophisticated on the Net than it is in print today,” Gates tells Pratchett.

Of course, we know now that many online platforms — from social media sites like Facebook to online video sites like YouTube — have struggled to squash the spread of misinformation and fake news on the internet. Even Gates himself says today that he’s concerned about the spread of misinformation online, admitting that “it’s turned out to be more of a problem than I, or many others, would have expected.”

But Gates also said, in a 2018 interview with Quartz, that he remains optimistic that the internet will continue to become more sophisticated as an information source over time, and that the benefits of having access to such a wealth of information on the internet will eventually outweigh the “challenges” of separating fact from fiction online.


10 marketers share their top predictions for marketing in 2019

We reached out to some top influencers and leaders in digital marketing and asked for their perspectives. What are their top predictions for marketing in 2019? What are current trends and challenges in the industry? Looking forward to rest of year, what do they anticipate will happen?

They shared their views and predictions for marketing in the coming year, including insights on the role of artificial intelligence in marketing, voice search, content marketing, and aligning sales and marketing.

10 predictions for marketing in 2019

1. Deepened understanding of audience and customers

“The only long-term way to stay competitive in marketing is to continue to deepen your understanding of your audience and customers.

There is a wide range of tactics available to do this including qualitative user research, surveys, web user session recording, split testing, and analytics.

One of the reasons that artificial intelligence (AI) is coming to the foreground in marketing is that it can extract more subtle patterns about your customers out of the mountain of data that you are collecting.

Expect more of this, but never forget that the best companies combine all of the approaches to relentlessly focus on the needs and desires of their online users.”

— Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners, international keynote speaker

2. Customer experience will continue to differentiate the best from the rest

“Customer experience will be one of the key differentiators among brands and email marketers will begin to call upon the three pillars of Customer Experience Email Marketing: helpfulness, personalization, and customer focus.

By using these three pillars, marketers will be delivering emails that are more valuable and appealing to the consumer, because they will have the consumer at the very heart of them.”

— Kath Pay, Holistic Email Marketing, Founder & CEO

3. More focus on trust and transparency

“Trust is fundamental, people buy from people they trust.

And that trust is being eroded; fake news, Facebook defending its privacy practices and Google+ shutting due to data leaks.

The call for businesses to increase transparency and government to act is set to grow. The US Department of Commerce has already started looking at the issue.

In email, consumers are looking for personalized relevant experiences. Our email addiction consumer report found 35% of consumers welcome offers and products based on their previous purchases.

But more trust and transparency is needed for consumers to happily share their data, the data enabling the marketing experiences they desire.”

— Tim Watson, Email Marketing Consultant, Zettasphere

4. Email marketers will use the power of AI to automate, personalize, and create content

“Artificial Intelligence is slowly being a part of different marketing channels in form of chatbots and dynamic websites.

Email marketing is catching up with innovations such as smarter email automation workflows, personalization in the subject line & email copy using AI.

Although AI in emails is not strong enough to handle email campaigns by itself without involving an email marketer in the mix, it surely does reduce the workload for an email marketer.

What needs to be seen is how email marketers will utilize the power of AI in the coming future.”

— Kevin George, Head of Marketing and Branding at Email Monks

5. Brands will co-create content with users

“The blog, the how-to videos, the infographics… They’re all good, but they’re table stakes now.

Buyers continue to deflect and reject advertising and direct their affection toward what’s real and genuine.

And media consumers have and always will continue to love a good story. Put these ideas together and watch out for big ideas brands come up with to invite customers to do their marketing with them.

I don’t have the perfect name for this marketing trend I see blossoming.

The closest I can get is “user generated content.”

However, I believe what we’ll see more of going forward is truly interesting content forms co-created with enthusiastic customers. Reality TV struck gold. Social media struck gold.

A golden approach in 2019 and beyond is reality media.”

— Barry Feldman, CEO Feldman Creative 

6. Precision marketing will become more common

“Precision marketing is a concept you’re going to hear more and more about in 2019.

What is it? It’s the ability of marketers to hyper-target prospects based on their behaviors, their desires, and their previous purchases.

If you use marketing automation, you’re using a form of precision marketing. But true precision marketing goes even deeper than that.

A full-on precision marketing campaign uses information about previous purchases to hyper-targeted ads to individuals and then allows you to calculate a return-on-investment on an ad-by-ad basis.

Keep an eye out for precision marketing – it may be something new to you today, but tomorrow, you’ll be talking about it and using it on a regular basis.”

— Jamie Turner, author, speaker, and CEO of  

7. The line between sales and marketing teams will continue to blur

“In 2019, sales and marketing departments must become more closely aligned; with the impetus of social selling / digital sales transformation.

Marketing pros must become sales experts and modern sellers must become marketers.

I definitely see the line between the two departments continuing to blur, if not disappearing altogether. If marketing is to have a future, they must adjust and align.”

— Viveka von Rosen, Chief Visibility Officer & Co-founder at Vengreso

8. Product-led growth will be a cost-effective alternative to emails and PPC to build trust

“The trend around product-led growth has been on the rise in 2018 and will continue to grow for 2019.

With PPC channels getting more competitive and expensive all the time, and more traditional channels like email becoming saturated, product-led is the most cost-effective way to build trust with and convert skeptical buyers.”

— Alex Theuma, CEO, SaaStock

9. More organizations will reach customers via their beliefs and cultural DNA

“In an era where it’s harder than ever to break through, and every little thing can breed controversy, some companies are gaining attention (and customers) by leaning IN to delicate situations.

REI closing their doors on Black Friday and asking consumers to #optoutside.

Nike embraced Colin Kaepernick’s role in the fight against policy brutality.

And even Salesforce stood in favor of a business tax to help combat San Francisco’s homelessness program.

We’re seeing more and more organizations using their beliefs and cultural DNA to galvanize a portion of their potential customer base.

While these moves turn off some consumers (witness people burning Nike gear after the Kaepernick ad debuted), they also increase kinship between like-minded customers and the company. And when kinship is greatly diminished, or significantly increased, it often manifests in social media chatter.

One way to create customer conversations in social media and beyond is to develop and implement a sustained word of mouth strategy rooted in company operations, like DoubleTree Hotels and their free cookie gifted at check-in.

The other way is to take a stand. We’re going to see more of both approaches in 2019 and beyond, because they dramatically increase reach at comparatively low cost.”

— Jay Baer, Entrepreneur, Marketer, Member, Professional Speaking Hall of Fame 

10. Less content marketing, more time off technology?

“Content marketing is at its peak right now. Where everybody is on the internet creating videos, doing podcasts, writing bite-sized blogs and what not.

So, we are approaching a stage of content overload and more people are now taking more time off technology than ever.

It will be interesting to see how businesses will engage their prospects in 2019 to address this challenge.”