The 2021 Stratechery Year in Review

There is a perspective in which 2021 was an absolute drag: COVID dragged on, vaccines became politicized, new variants emerged, and while tech continued to provide the infrastructure that kept the economy moving, it also provided the infrastructure for all of those things that made this year feel so difficult.

At the same time, 2021 also provided a glimpse of a future beyond our current smartphone and social media-dominated paradigm: there was the Metaverse, and crypto, and my contention they are related. Sure, the old paradigm is increasingly dominated by regulation and politics, a topic that is so soul-sucking that it temporarily made me want to post less, but the brilliance of the Internet, and of business-models like that which undergirds Stratechery, is that freedom to not only write what you want, but build what you want, and be what you want, is greater than ever.

A drawing of Internet 3.0 and Open Protocols

This year Stratechery published 40 free Weekly Articles and 121 Daily Updates, including 13 interviews. I also launched Passport, the new back-end for Stratechery and Dithering, the twice-a-week for-pay podcast I host with John Gruber; Passport remains under development, so stay tuned for updates in 2022.

Passport is the new back-end for Stratechery

Today, as per tradition, I summarize the most popular and most important posts of the year on Stratechery.

You can find previous years here: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013

On to 2021:

The Five Most-Viewed Articles

The five most-viewed articles on Stratechery according to page views:

  1. Clubhouse’s Inevitability — I was very bullish on Clubhouse; unfortunately, it looks like I got this one completely wrong. I admitted to my error and explained my thinking in this Update.
  2. The Relentless Jeff Bezos — Jeff Bezos is retiring, and will go down as one of the great CEO’s in tech history, in part because of how he transformed Amazon into a tech company in every respect.
  3. Intel Problems — Intel is in much more danger than its profits suggest; the problems are a long time in the making, and the solution is to split up the company. See also, Intel Unleashed, Gelsinger on Intel, IDM 2.0 and Intel vs. TSMC, How Samsung and TSMC Won, MAD Chips.
  4. Internet 3.0 and the Beginning of (Tech) History — The actions taken by Big Tech have a resonance that goes beyond the context of domestic U.S. politics. Even if they were right, they will still push the world to Internet 3.0.
  5. Apple’s Mistake — While it’s possible to understand Apple’s motivations behind its decision to enable on-device scanning, the company had a better way to satisfy its societal obligations while preserving user privacy. See also, Apple Versus Governments, Apple’s Legitimate Privacy Claims, Privacy and Paranoia, Apple’s Point-of-View, NFTs and Status, NFTs and Standard Formats, and Facebook Messenger Updates, WhatsApp vs. Apple, Facebook’s CSAM Approach.

The Next Revolution

Several posts throughout the year wrestled with the theory of the next revolution, from memes to metaverses:

  • Internet 3.0 and the Beginning of (Tech) History — The actions taken by Big Tech have a resonance that goes beyond the context of domestic U.S. politics. Even if they were right, they will still push the world to Internet 3.0.
  • Mistakes and Memes — Information on the Internet is conveyed by memes, which can be anything and everything. The real world impacts are only now being understood.
  • The Death and Birth of Technological Revolutions — Carlota Perez documents technological revolutions, and thinks we’re in the middle of the current one; what, though, if we are nearing its maturation? Is crypto next?
  • Sequoia Productive Capital — Sequoia’s transformation of its venture capital model is actually a shift from financial capital to productive capital.
  • The Great Bifurcation — Tracing the evolution of tech’s three eras, and why the fourth era — the Metaverse — is defined by its bifurcation with the physical world.

The Metaverse

Several posts this year worked to define the Metaverse and understand its role in the future:

A drawing of Unity and Weta's Convergence

Politics & Regulation

A lot of time — perhaps too much — was spent on politics and regulation:

A drawing of Clubhouse's Similarity to Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok

The App Store

The regulatory question that received the most attention this year was the App Store, thanks in large part to Apple’s legal tussle with Epic:

Creator Power

A yearly theme on Stratechery is creator power, and the opportunities unlocked by the Internet:

A drawing of the Creator Carrying Audiences to Different Mediums

Company Analysis

While most Stratechery company analysis happens in the Update, there were a number of relevant Articles as well:

A drawing of Cloudflare's Modular Cloud

Stratechery Interviews

This year’s Stratechery interviews included:

A drawing of Authoritarianism Hill, Dime-Store Ditch, and Freedom Mountain

Plus, an interview of me on the Good Time Clubhouse Show.

The Year in Daily Updates

Fifteen of my favorite Daily Updates:

A drawing of The Square/Afterpay Network Effect

I am so grateful to the Stratechery (and Dithering!) subscribers that make it possible for me to do this as a job. I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and I’m looking forward to a great 2022!