The 2016 Stratechery Year in Review

2016 has been quite the year for the world at large and for tech specifically; it has certainly been a productive one for Stratechery. This year I wrote 143 Daily Updates (including tomorrow) and 46 Weekly Articles, and, as per tradition, today I summarize the most popular and most important posts of the year.

You can find previous years here: 2015 | 2014 | 2013

Here is the 2016 list.

The Five Most-Viewed Articles:

  1. Dollar Shave Club and The Disruption of Everything — Dollar Shave Club is a textbook example of how the new Internet economy will destroy value in incumbent industries.
  2. It’s a Tesla — Tesla is not a disruptor, but then again, neither is Apple, the closest comparison: both succeed by building a brand around being the best (Editor’s Note: That’s not to say that Tesla will have Apple’s success; there are lots of reasons for skepticism ($) especially after the unjustifiable Solar City acquisition ($)).
  3. Apple’s Organizational Crossroads — A core part of what makes Apple Apple is its organization structure; Tim Cook has said it will never change. However, if Apple is serious about being a services company, change it must.
  4. How Google is Challenging AWS — AWS seems to have a dominant position in enterprise computing, but Google is trying to change the rules to favor their inherent strengths; they just might succeed (see also: Google’s Go-to-Market Gap and Google and the Limits of Strategy).
  5. The Future of Podcasting — Podcasting is stuck between the open model of the past and the push for monetization in the future. Might there be a third way that actually benefits publishers?

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Five Big Ideas

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Five Posts About Media and Politics

  • The Voters Decide — An apolitical analysis of what is happening in U.S. politics through the lens of Aggregation Theory (Editor’s Note: I’m biased but believe more than ever that this is a critical piece to understanding what is happening in western democracies).
  • The Brexit Possibility — Brexit’s downsides are clear; might tech help realize upsides in building something new based on a new world order? (Editor’s Note: This could have been written after Donald Trump’s election as well).
  • Antitrust and Aggregation — The European Commission’s antitrust case against Google is likely to be the first of many against aggregators, because the end game of Aggregation Theory is monopoly.
  • The Reality of Missing Out — Tech is entering a period of inequality where the big winners lift the sector as a whole even as smaller companies suffer. The best example is Facebook, Google, and digital advertising (Editor’s note: Over the last year this has gone from projection to reality).
  • Fake News — Facebook is under fire for fake news and filter bubbles; they are a problem, but most of the proposed solutions are far worse (see also: The Real Problem with Facebook and the News and Why Twitter Must Be Saved).

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Five Company-Specific Posts

  • The Amazon Tax — Amazon is building a lot of businesses that look like AWS: taxes on major industries that work to everyone’s benefit. The reason, though, is that AWS is a lot like Amazon itself.
  • Snapchat’s Ladder — Snapchat is on the verge of conquering the toughest messaging market in the world: the United States. The way they did it is by laddering-up (see also: Snapchat Spectacles and the Future of Wearables).
  • Beyond the iPhone — Apple’s event may have been lacking on the surface, but it laid the groundwork for innovations that will be revealed in time. And yes, it was courageous.
  • Facebook, Phones, and Phonebooks — There are two types of social networks, and Facebook wants to be both. The problem is that the company already chose public sharing over private communication (See also: The Audacity of Copying Well).
  • Oracle’s Cloudy Future — Larry Ellison has declared that Oracle is a cloud company, but their customer offering seems more suited to the world that was.

See also: The FANG Playbook


Fifteen Daily Updates

I slightly expanded this list this year, in part because Daily Updates have continued to become even more in-depth; they are still very timely in covering the news of the day but contain their own strategic insights as well (please note that these are subscriber-only links; you can sign-up here).

  • January 4 — Augmented vs Virtual Reality
  • January 7 — Netflix Goes Global
  • February 16 — Kanye West and Tidal, The Problem with Exclusivity
  • February 17 — Apple Versus the FBI, Understanding iPhone Encryption, The Risks for Apple and Encryption (See also this Weekly Article: Apple, the FBI, and Security)
  • February 25 — Stripe Atlas, An Interview with Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
  • March 7 — Amazon Echo Expands, The Nest Failure
  • March 21 — The Significance of AlphaGo, Google to Sell Boston Dynamics, Google’s Self-Driving Car Will Take Awhile
  • April 28 — Facebook and New Market Disruption
  • May 4 — Doubting the iPhone Revisited, What Has Changed, On Being Bearish
  • May 16 — Apple, Didi, and Occam’s Razor; Uber in China (See also: August 1 — Didi Acquires Uber China, Why Uber China Was Doomed, Was Uber China Worth It?)
  • June 9 — Apple Makes Major Changes to App Store, The App Store and Apple’s Nature, Additional Notes
  • September 20 — Does Uber Have a Strategy Problem?, Netflix and Aggregation Theory
  • October 3 — Nutanix and Hyper-Convergence, The Conservation of Attractive Data-Center Profits
  • October 10 — Coupa IPOs — and Pops, Why (Most) IPOs are Under-Priced, Why the IPO Process Doesn’t Change
  • November 9 — Donald Trump is the President-Elect, Tech Under Trump, The Big Picture
  • December 20 — Uber Losses (But China Gains?), Uber and Unit Economics, Reconsidering Uber

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to a great 2017!