Bill Gates Predicted Netflix And Facebook in a 1994 Playboy Interview – More Than a Decade Before Either Was Created

In 1994, Microsoft Corp. Co-Founder Bill Gates experienced some significant milestones in his career.

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As a newly married billionaire, Gates claimed the top spot on Forbes’ prestigious list of the richest Americans. Meanwhile, Microsoft was on the verge of solidifying its position as the technology powerhouse it is today.

Amid the buzz and intrigue surrounding the internet — a technology both captivating and enigmatic — Time magazine dedicated a cover story to the burgeoning phenomenon, providing an introductory explanation of what it entailed, referring to it as "the world's largest computer network and the nearest thing to a working prototype of the information superhighway." During this time, the internet was predominantly used by scientists and scholars, although computers were gradually becoming more prevalent.

It was during this era that Gates, someone with visionary foresight, granted an interview to Playboy magazine, during which he predicted the emergence of future services like Netflix Inc. and Meta Platform Inc.’s Facebook.

Gates foresaw a shift in the primary purpose of personal computers. Rather than solely focusing on document creation, he envisioned a future where these devices would be used for sharing and accessing electronic media via the web. He articulated his thoughts on how people might leverage the internet, stating, "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, whether 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."

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Gates's description bears a striking resemblance to the concept behind Netflix Inc., which materialized in 2007 with its online subscription service. He believed that the internet would revolutionize the way people seek information and make decisions, even in matters as simple as selecting what to watch.

Gates's vision extended further, as his predictions hinted at the future creation of Facebook, an online platform that would connect people across virtual communities. 

Gates envisioned an online community that knows no physical parameters, stating, "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."

A decade after his Playboy interview, Mark Zuckerberg founded the social media giant.

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has experienced exponential growth, boasting 1.23 billion daily active users on average and employing approximately 17,000 people worldwide.

Gates had the ability to foresee the rise of influential technologies and companies that have seamlessly integrated into daily life, but certain startups hold the potential to become the next significant players in the ever-evolving tech industry. 

One example is Wigl, a startup creating wireless power solution. Wigl is creating "Wifi for powering your devices." Wigl has seen incredible success on popular startup investing platform StartEngine, including raising millions of dollars from retail investors. 

While Gates had his fair share of accurate predictions, there were also a few misses, with perhaps the most prominent being his vision of ubiquitous "internet kiosks." Gates envisioned a future where kiosks would be readily available indoors and outdoors, just like drinking fountains, restrooms and pay phones are today. These multifunctional kiosks would replace pay phones and ATMs, allowing people to purchase tickets and exchange messages.

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To some extent, Gates wasn’t entirely off base. Purpose-built kiosks can be found in commuter trains, public transportation systems, movie theaters, restaurants and parking areas. But the widespread adoption of the kiosks he envisioned never materialized.

One of the key factors behind the kiosk concept’s limited success is the rapid and comprehensive realization of Gates's other prediction — the widespread use of smartphones. Today, people rely heavily on their smartphones, which have become an indispensable part of their lives. Unlike leaving a wallet-sized personal computer at home, most individuals would never forget or willingly part with their smartphones. In the current world, trying to navigate through life without a smartphone seems inconceivable to the majority.

As a result, the need for the proposed internet kiosks diminished significantly. The convenience and versatility smartphones offer made the kiosk concept redundant, ultimately dampening its widespread adoption.

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