Chrystia Freeland

Yuri Milner on the future of the internet

Peter Rudegeair
Sep 23, 2011 19:51 UTC

This is a transcript of Yuri Milner’s presentation to the Yalta Annual Meeting in September 2011. To read Chrystia’s column about the presentation, click here.

A few months ago not three but eight leaders in the world gathered at Deauville in France at their regular G-8 meeting. But for the first time ever they invited six businessmen to meet with them and talk about the future. It’s interesting that four out of six were related to internet, and then I was among those invited. Each of us was given three minutes to say something, and I will now present to you a slightly expanded version of that presentation that I gave back then.

If we can look at the slide number 1, that you hopefully can see on the left-hand side, it basically shows the unprecedented growth of internet users globally. And I just want to bring your attention to the fact that this is probably the fastest proliferation of any technology ever, and the most fundamental fact being that right now around 2 billion people are connected to the internet and in the next 10 years you will see another 3 billion added to that number to a total of 5 billion people connected around 2020.

If you turn to the next slide, one would assume that internet is only about people, but actually it’s not. Around 5 billion devices are currently connected already, and this number will zoom to more than 20 billion devices connected to internet 10 years from now, and this will add to 5 billion human beings, so you would assume that there will be 25 billion people and devices connected and producing information.

On slide 3, I would like to bring your attention to one really unprecedented and not very well appreciated fact: how much information is actually being created. If you add all information that was generated by the mankind for the last 30,000 years beginning with the first drawings on the walls of the caves until year 2003, equal amount of information was created last year for only two days. It took two days to create equal amount of information to the one that was created by all people that ever lived from the dawn of civilization until 2003. And moreover the same amount of information will be generated in ten years from now only within one hour.

The advent of the global brain

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 23, 2011 18:12 UTC

Get ready for the global brain. That was the grand finale of a presentation on the next generation of the Internet I heard last week from Yuri Milner. G-8 leaders had a preview of Milner’s predictions a few months earlier, when he was among the technology savants invited to brief the world’s most powerful politicians in Deauville, France.

Milner is the technology guru most of us have never heard of. He was an early outside investor in Facebook, sinking $200 million in the company in 2009 for a 1.96 percent stake, a decision that was widely derided as crazy at the time. He was also early to spot the potential of Zynga, the gaming company, and of Groupon, the daily deals site.

His investing savvy propelled Milner this year onto the Forbes Rich List, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion. One reason his is not yet a household name is that he does his tech spotting from Moscow, not a city most of us look to for innovative economic ideas.

When the hacker ethos meets capitalism

Chrystia Freeland
Feb 11, 2011 14:25 UTC

The uprising in Egypt has provoked the familiar “realism-versus-idealism” foreign policy debate in many Western capitals, as diplomats and politicians struggle to balance their ideological sympathy for the protesters against fears of chaos and the threat of a future anti-Western and anti-Israel policy from Cairo if the people do win.

What we have paid less attention to is that the demonstrations have forced some of the world’s hottest technology companies to engage in a very similar debate. The conclusions these technorati end up drawing may be as significant as the verdicts of Western governments. This new intellectual battleground is a further sign that in the age of the Internet and the global economy, foreign policy doesn’t belong just to professionals or to states any more.

The quandary Egypt poses for technology companies – particularly the power troika of Google, Facebook and Twitter – goes far beyond the classic corporate social responsibility concerns that have become standard operating practice at big multinationals.