The exceptional has always tended to become the ordinary over time in business and technology alike: this is the very definition of a certain kind of success. Online, however, and in the instantaneously global arenas of user interfaces and digital experience, the combination of pace and precedent is especially brutal. This arguably makes distinctiveness a more precious commodity than ever. Yet, with both the stakes and user expectations higher than ever, it’s difficult to see how this can consistently be achieved in a context where most players have to sprint to remain even close to the cutting edge.
What, then, is to be done? Even if you’re one of the few corporations able realistically to think about shifting user expectations, the answer may feel like very little. Yet the history of the web has a warning to offer even to the mightiest giants. When the seemingly relentless innovations of a first decade coalesce into consensus, even the deepest moat of patents and licences won’t protect you when the next generation of obviousness emerges elsewhere.