Blog: A decade is a long time

The author looks at products and brands 'we never knew 10 years ago'

Jan 06, 2020 03:13:00 AM | Article | Sandeep Goyal

It’s just been a decade. 10 short years. 2010 to 2020. But think about your everyday life, your job, your leisure, your entertainment, your vacation, your commute, your workouts, your dating life, your wallet, your conveniences,  your home … in fact the very way you live life has changed.  
So I sat down to prepare a list of things that have changed the world we inhabit today. Products that didn’t even exist. Brand names that had not even been born. Conveniences we had not even imagined. Ideas we didn’t even think about. To most, this list is entertaining. To brand thinkers it is intriguing. To marketers it is revealing. To entrepreneurs, this list is perhaps inspiring.
More than anything else, the list puts into perspective how much our world could have changed, and did change, in just a decade. It shows how a new way of thinking, new ideas, can disrupt even the most mundane industries. It’s proof that consumer preferences can transform right before our eyes stimulating demand for new products and services, creating multi-billion dollar companies with global footprints. Let’s examine the triggers of change, and the products and brands that were the creation of those change agents. 
4G Cellular Data Networks which came alive in March 2010 were perhaps the biggest factor that ignited a new world. Most of the tech innovations that erupted in the days, months and years that followed would not have been possible on 2G and 3G telecom networks. 
“If your smartphone seems more like a slow phone, hang in there,” Wired told readers back in 2010. “The next generation of wireless technologies, known as 4G, promises blazing-fast data transmission speeds.” From there, it only took five years for 98 percent of Americans to gain access to 4G LTE — that's an even faster type of 4G. On 10 April 2012, Airtel launched 4G services through dongles and modems using TD-LTE technology in Kolkata, becoming the first company in India to offer 4G services. India too then on moved to a higher tech stratosphere allowing many of the products and brands listed below to be able to be used by Indian mobile subscribers. 
Airbnb In the past decade, Airbnb has become a welcome (in fact sometimes preferred) alternative to pricey hotel rooms, but it was barely getting started a decade ago. Airbnb was founded in 2008, and the founders even resorted to hawking election-themed cereals (Obama O's and Cap'n McCains) to keep their new site going. In 2009, just 1,400 guests used Airbnb for their New Year's accommodations, but the biggest idea in travel of the 2010-20 decade finally just took off like a sputnik. In 2017, booking numbers were more than 3 million. And now they are said to be doubling Y-o-Y.
Airfryers Air fryers are right up there with the Instant Pot as the must-have small appliance of the past few years. As popular today in health-conscious homes in metro India as the Western world. But this healthier way to enjoy some of your favorite guilty pleasures, from chicken wings to mozzarella sticks, is a relatively new invention to the kitchen. Philips was the first brand to unveil the technology in 2010 and says it has sold more than 7 million air fryers since then. The category today is over 40 million units globally and growing at an unprecedented 37% every year. 
AirPods For the uninitiated, AirPods are wireless Bluetooth earbuds created by Apple. They were first released on December 13, 2016 and are sold alongside the premium AirPods Pro. In addition to playing audio, AirPods feature a built-in microphone that filters out background noise, which allows taking phone calls and talking to Apple's digital assistant, Siri. AirPods have become really really popular with millennials. 
Alexa and Amazon Echo The Amazon Alexa virtual assistant was developed by Amazon Lab126. Alexa is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Users can extend the Alexa capabilities by installing “skills” (additional functionalities developed by third-party vendors). Voice is expected to reign in the decade of 2020, and Alexa will be at the forefront of this emerging consumer trend. 
The Amazon Echo was originally supposed to be called the Amazon Flash. The Amazon Echo (1st Generation) was initially released in March 2014. Since then the company has developed many similar devices that they have released into the artificial intelligence and technological markets. In the default mode, the device continuously listens to all the speech around it, monitoring for the ‘wake’ word to be spoken and then performs myriad functions on command. 
Android Phones In 2007, Apple launched the first iPhone and ushered in a new era in mobile computing. At the time, Google was still working on Android in secret, but in November of that year, the company slowly started to reveal its plans to combat Apple and other mobile platforms. The now-familiar logo for the Android OS, which looks like a combination of a robot and a green bug, was created by Irina Blok while she was employed by Google. Big names including Samsung, Sony and LG today power their phones with Android. The first official public code name for Android didn’t appear until version 1.5 … the Cupcake was released in April 2009.  The Android 1.6 Donut was released in Sept 2009. The 2.0 Éclair, the 2.2 Froyo, the 2.3 Gingerbread, the 3.0 Honeycomb, the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the 4.1-4.3 Jelly Bean, 4.4 KitKat, 5.0 Lollipop, 6.0 Marshmallow, 7.0 Nougat, 8.0 Oreo and 9.0 Pie followed. Finally in 2019, the unique dessert names were ditched and we now in 2020 are going to be using the Android 10. The Android has been a major platform for technology progress over the past decade. 
Apple Maps the default map system of iOS, macOS, and watchOS was the first to unveil the Flyover mode, a feature that enables a user to explore certain densely populated urban centres and other places of interest in a 3D landscape composed of models of buildings and structures. Navigation has become more and more evolved (and graphic) in the last 10 years.
Apple Watch  Apple Inc. introduced The Apple Watch in April 2015,  a line of ‘smartwatches’  that incorporated fitness tracking and health-oriented capabilities integrated with the  iOS and other Apple products and services. The Apple Watch used a wireless connection to an iPhone to perform functions such as calling and texting, and could independently connect to a Wi-Fi network for some tasks. Series 3 and later LTE Apple Watches could independently connect to a mobile network, largely obviating the need for an iPhone after initial setup.
CandyCrush Candy Crush Saga, the free-to-play match-three puzzle video game was released by King on April 12, 2012, for Facebook; other versions for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 10 followed. It was a variation of their browser game Candy Crush. Five years after its release on mobile, the Candy Crush Saga series had received over 2.7 billion downloads, and the game had become one of the highest-grossing and most-played mobile apps in that time frame. Candy Crush Soda Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga, and Candy Crush Friends Saga have followed the original, catapulting the game to a cult status in the last decade. 
Chromebook  Chromebook began shipping on June 15, 2011. In addition to laptop models, a desktop version, called a Chromebox, was introduced in May 2012, and an "all-in-one" device, called a Chromebase, was introduced in January 2014. This laptop or tablet running the Linux-based Chrome OS as its operating system used the Google Chrome browser, with most applications and data residing in the cloud rather than on the machine itself. A big jump forward from earlier versions of PCs and laptops. 
DJI Phantom The Phantom is a series of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed by Chinese technology company DJI. The massive upsurge in the use of ‘drones’ ... UAVs ... in consumer life, especially in photography (haven’t you seen them at all Indian weddings these days?!) is a pointer to how hi-tech became hi-touch, impacting lives of ordinary folks in a manner no one ever predicted was possible. 
FaceTime  When FaceTime started rolling out in June 2010 alongwith the iPhone 4, everyone asked, “Why not just use Skype?”.  And now 10 years later everyone uses only FaceTime, atleast in the Mac world. 
Fitbit Wrist-based fitness trackers have become an industry in their own right, but it wasn't so long ago that the closest we came to the concept was a low-tech pedometer or an unwieldy heart-rate strap. Fitbit, the company that really ignited the wearable trend, didn't launch its first fitness tracker until the end of 2009.
Game of Thrones  If you read books, then you may have known about Westeros as far back as the '90s. But the TV show premiered on HBO on April 2011 (and ran for 73 episodes till 19 May 2019), making it the pre-eminent entertainment favourite of the decade. Writer George R.R. Martin was approached several times with plans to adapt his (still unfinished) book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" into a movie, but he rejected them all, as he thought his books were much too expansive to be made into a movie. When David Benioff and D.B. Weiss told him that they wanted to make a series out of it, he asked them who they thought Jon Snow's mother could be. Satisfied with the answer, he agreed to sell the rights to the book. The rest as they say is history. Contemporary history. 
Grubhub and Doordash Not long ago, you were lucky if your favourite non-pizza restaurant delivered, especially outside of major cities. Today you can have just about any type of cuisine your heart desires ferried to your door in under an hour. GrubHub was founded in 2004 but didn't offer its own delivery services until 2015, while DoorDash didn't launch until 2013.
Instagram  Instagram (also known informally as IG or Insta) was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October 2010 exclusively on iOS. A version for Android devices was released a year and half later, in April 2012, followed by a feature-limited website interface in November 2012, a Fire OS app on June 15, 2014 and an app for Windows 10 tablets and computers in October 2016. Insta today has 1 billion monthly active users; 64% of all 18-29 mobile users are on Insta. There are surprisingly 2 million advertiser (yes, advertisers) on Insta every month ... a sure pointer to its Midas Touch potential in the 2020s. 
iPad The first iPad was released on April 3, 2010 ... a record 300,000 numbers were sold on the launch day; the most recent iPad models are the seventh-generation. Over 400 million iPads have been sold to date – that is roughly 79 iPads sold every minute since launch! Today 60% of all iPads shipped are Minis. The iPad has been a unique combination of Smart+Subtle. The last decade belonged to the iPad for sure.   
LED bulbs Invented in the '60s, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are nothing new. But making LED technology cheap and efficient enough to replace incandescent light bulbs? That process took quite a while. We've only seen widespread adoption of LEDs over the past decade, during which time the cost of LED bulbs has plummeted 85 percent. LED is a much favoured lighting format today ... economical, and efficient. 
Lyft Lyft launched in 2012 as a ride-sharing app. The idea morphed out of Zimride, a company founded by John Zimmer and Logan Green that offered carpooling for long-distance rides and campus car-sharing programs. Fast forward to 2019, Lyft is now a $13 billion company that's dabbling in electric scooters, bike share, and self-driving car technology. Lyft, Inc. based out of San Francisco, California today operates in 644 cities in the United States and Puerto Rico and 9 cities in Canada. Lyft is the second-largest ridesharing company in the United States with a 28% market share after Uber.
Meal Kits Remember when whipping up a home-cooked meal required a grocery list and a trip to an actual grocery store? Today, any number of meal-kit companies will drop everything you need for an impressive dinner right on your doorstep. Familiar names like Hello Fresh, Plated, and Blue Apron didn't start helping out home cooks until 2012. So the ‘home chef’ is really not so old.   
Messenger Facebook Messenger was originally developed as Facebook Chat in 2008, but the company revamped its messaging service in 2010, and subsequently released standalone iOS and Android apps in August 2011 and standalone Facebook Portal hardware for Messenger-based calling in Q4 2018. The Messenger has 600 million users today. 
Microsoft Surface The Surface was launched on 26 October, 2012. A late entrant, it came almost 4 years after the MacBook Air was introduced. But its touch-screen technology in a PC environment made it a novelty of sorts in the early 2010s. 
Nest The Nest Learning Thermostat, introduced in 2011 was programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven, and Wi-Fi-enabled. A first of its kind. And the precursor to all home IoT products available today. Nest has over time become the Google brand used to market smart home products including smart speakers, smart displays, streaming devices, thermostats, smoke detectors, routers and security systems including smart doorbells, cameras and smart locks. The Nest brand name was originally owned by Nest Labs, co-founded by former Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers in 2010.
NetFlix Originals Netflix only started streaming in 2007, so it took several years before the company produced its own shows. But you might be surprised to learn that the first Netflix Original (which was House of Cards, by the way) didn't premiere until 2013. We've only had Netflix Originals for the past six years! Doesn’t seem too far back for sure. 
Peloton Peloton is an American exercise equipment and media company that was founded in 2012 and launched with help from a Kickstarter funding campaign in 2013. We in India may not be too familiar with the product or the brand but in the US, it is quite a rage. And almost a cult. The company is based in New York. Its main product is a stationary bicycle that allows users to remotely participate in fitness classes that are streamed from the company's studio obviating the need to join a gym ... and earning Peloton the sobriquet of “Netflix of Fitness”. 
Pinterest Pinterest was launched in January 2010. The site was founded by Ben Silbermann, Paul
Sciarra, and Evan Sharp. Pinterest today has 300 million monthly active users. Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann once described the company as a “catalogue of ideas” that inspires users to “go out and do that thing”, rather than as an image-based social network. Pinterest is available today in more than 27 languages, and is a dream destination for visual depiction experts.
Pixel The Pixel brand was introduced in February 2013 with the first-generation Chromebook Pixel. The phone version came in 2016. The Pixel competes with the iPhone not for marketshare but for mindshare ... reputedly because it has a vastly superior camera, and spec sheet. 
Pokémon Go The game was released to celebrate Pokémon’s 20th anniversary in 2016. The idea for the game was conceived in 2013 by Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsunekazu Ishihara of The Pokémon Company as an April Fools’ Day collaboration with Google Maps’ Tatsuo Nomura and called Pokémon Challenge. In 24 hours of its release, Pokémon Go topped the American App Store’s “Top Grossing” and “Free” charts. The game went on to become a global sensation, with an unparalleled user base and fan following. The game launched with around 150 species of Pokémon, which increased to around 500 by 2019.
Postmates There were other food delivery apps before it (hi, Grubhub!), but nothing captured the imagination and wallets of people with late-night munchies quite like Postmates did after it launched in 2011. Today this food delivery company, best known for its human couriers network, is present in over 2940 US cities. 
Ring  Ring Inc.(formerly Doorbot) is a home security and smart home company owned by Amazon. The Ring Video Doorbell is the company's flagship product; it is a smart doorbell that contains a high-definition camera, a motion sensor, and a microphone and speaker for two-way audio communication. In 2018, Ring launched Neighbors, a hyperlocal social networking app. Described as being akin to a neighborhood watch, it allows users to crowd-source information on, and discuss, safety and security concerns in their area.
Siri Did you know that Siri was originally a separate iOS app in 2010? It was! Then Apple bought it, and Siri as we know it was integrated into iPhones in 2011. Siri is without doubt the most hardworking, no-mess, no hassle assistant you can ever have.
Slack Slack is best described as a cloud-based proprietary instant messaging platform. Slack in reality is a workplace communication tool, “a single place for messaging, tools and files.” Slack began as an internal tool for Stewart Butterfield's company Tiny Speck during the development of Glitch, an online game. Today it has 12million+ Daily Active Users in 150+ countries.
Snapchat Snapchat debuted in the App Store in the summer of 2011, a messaging app for sending disappearing photos. At the time, it was called Pictaboo, but it had the same now-famous ghost icon, Ghostface Chillah. By September 2011, the name had changed to Snapchat.Originally created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, former students at Stanford University, one of the principal features of Snapchat is that pictures and messages are usually only available for a short time before they become inaccessible to their recipients. The app has evolved from originally focusing on person-to-person photo sharing to presently featuring users’ “Stories” of 24 hours of chronological content, along with “Discover”, letting brands show ad-supported short-form content.
Stripe Stripe was founded in 2010 with the mission of making it easier to accept payments over the internet. At the time, taking credit cards meant working with a legacy processor or a middleman broker who would provide you with access to a processor. Stripe set out to fix a lot of that by streamlining the process. They added services and features like fraud protection, fixed rates regardless of network, and an application programming interface (API) that allowed app makers to easily incorporate card processing into their apps. The company so to say ‘democratised’ digital payments. No wonder it is valued at over USD 20 billion today. 
Square Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey launched Square in October 2010. It is today a financial services and merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company. Square provides its magnetic stripe card readers to users for free. It has been a major disruptor in the payments space, and today has a market capitalisation of over USD 32 billion. 
Tesla Model S Tesla entered the media spotlight in 2013 along with its CEO Elon Musk when it unleashed its flagship car the Model S. Tesla knew that fashion drove interest in cleantech. Rich people especially wanted to appear “green” ... such cars made drivers look cool by association with famous eco-conscious movie stars who owned them as well. So Tesla decided to build cars that made drivers look cool, period - Leonardo DiCaprio even ditched his Prius for an expensive (and expensive-looking) Tesla Roadster!
The Voice The Voice has taken American Idol's place as the top singing competition reality show in the world in the past decade. The Voice only debuted in America in 2011 (it premiered in Holland a year earlier) but it seems just so much longer! Top artists such as Shakira, Alicia Keys, Usher, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, and Jennifer Hudson have all served as ‘coaches’ on the competition;  Adam Levine and Blake Shelton being the only two judges who have been longest on the show. The Voice is proof that television did not die in the past decade ... in fact became a household sensation. 
TikTok  TikTok – known locally in China as Douyin – was launched in 2016 by ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech company traditionally focused on news. Its news app, called Toutiao, uses advanced AI algorithms that learn user preferences, then provides customised news feeds. Bytedance uses the same algorithms to provide relevant video feeds to TikTok users. By the start of 2017, Douyin had become China’s most popular mobile video app. In November of the same year, ByteDance spent US$1 billion to acquire a competing video sharing site called While was also founded in China, most of its users were based in the US. The combined global reach of TikTok and made for a powerful combination, catapulting TikTok to global leadership. TikTok is hugely popular in India too, especially with millennial audiences who love its short video format. 
Tinder Online dating was already a thing by 2010 (sites like OKCupid and Match had been running for a while), but the idea of a dating app didn't really come about until Tinder hit the scene in 2012. Yeah, Tinder's only been around for, like, seven years; isn't that crazy? The likes of Bumble too had their run, but Tinder is No. 1 in dating. By far.
Twitch Twitch is a popular online service for watching and streaming digital video broadcasts. When it was founded in 2011, Twitch originally focused almost entirely on video games but has since expanded to  include streams dedicated to artwork creation, music, talk shows, and the occasional TV series. The streaming service boasts over 2 million unique streamers every month. Twitch was purchased by Amazon in 2014 and it remains one of the highest sources of internet traffic in North America.
Uber & Lyft Uber was founded in 2009, but the app wasn't available to the general public until 2011. As for Lyft (described in more detail earlier), it was launched as a service called Zimride in 2012, but it wasn't until 2013 that the name was changed to Lyft. So on Jan. 1, 2011, just nine years back, all of us were still calling ‘taxis’ to get home in the new year. How conveniently we all forget the past!
UberEats Uber made its foray into food delivery in August 2014 with the launch of the UberFRESH service in Santa Monica, California. In 2015, the platform was renamed to UberEATS. Initially positioned as a food delivery service that promised Smart Curation, it is now a mainstreamer app, popular in India too. 
Venmo Time to pay your friend back for covering dinner? Need to chip in for an expensive cab fare? You need Venmo, of course. This quick, painless, social-media-savvy way to send and receive payments with a smartphone didn't receive any investor backing until the end of 2009. But it all worked out when the 800-pound gorilla of digital payments, PayPal, acquired Venmo during part of a larger deal in 2014. The rest, as they say, is history. 
WeWork Forging an agreeable communal work space was central to WeWork’s mission. An idea whose time had come. WeWork launched its first shared workspace in New York in 2010, leasing office space to startups and small businesses on a monthly basis. Since then, the company has grown at a rapid clip. It now has 253 locations in 22 countries and manages more than 1.3 million square metres of office space. London is the company's second-largest market after New York. India too is becoming a big market for WeWork. 
Last week, Vanity Fair magazine best captured all of what I have painstakingly put together above as the new additions to our life and lexicon in its lead article, “This time a decade ago, there was no such thing as an iPad. There were no food delivery meal kits. You didn’t speak to a machine called Alexa or Siri, or get laid with an app called Tinder. You stayed in hotels, not Airbnbs. You telephoned a cab company, rather than pressing a button and waiting for an Uber or a Lyft. You didn’t waste hours of your day on Instagram, scrolling from one box to the next like a gerbil running on a wheel as an algorithm watches and takes notes. Jobs that are now performed by hundreds of thousands of people - Uber driver, gif-maker, social media influencer - didn’t exist. You likely read the newspaper in the morning, watched the news at night, and consumed a trickle of information in between by going to Yahoo News or through the RSS feed you’d painstakingly constructed, rather than drinking from the fire hose that is Twitter. Things felt slower. Now, this whirlwind of a past decade could be just a taste of what’s to come”.
(Research inputs by Mukul Rai Bahadur and Carol Goyal. Dr. Sandeep Goyal has been an advertising and media practitioner for 36 years now. He has not witnessed a more eventful decade than the one just gone by).