Home Why We Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About Early Adopters

Why We Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About Early Adopters

I won’t lie. I’ll be really sad to see Google Wave disappear. I was really excited by the potentials of Wave when I first heard of it in 2009. When I got my invites, I carefully distributed them to the people I thought would benefit most – and the people I was most interested in sharing a real-time collaborative workspace with. But it never really caught on, even in my set of fairly geeky friends and co-workers. We – the early adopters, the bearers of the prized Wave invites – we tried.

And we failed. We failed to convince others that Wave was, indeed, a revolutionary tool.

In May, Clive Thompson wrote an interesting article for Wired, arguing that the tech world is mistaken with its constant pursuit of the early adopter market for its tech gadgetry. “If you believe the standard theory about how new gadgets like the iPad succeed,” he writes, “it’s all up to the early adopters. These are the die-hard gear hounds like me who buy anything new. Early adopters are only a small slice of the market – an estimated 13.5 percent – but high tech marketers usually target them first. Get the early adopters excited, the thinking goes, and they’ll talk up the gizmo to their friends, eventually persuading the great mass of the market to buy.”

Thompson argues that we should be far more concerned with pitching our new products to the “late adopters.” It’s not simply that it’s a much bigger market – over 85%. The early adopters, he argues, are likely to buy the product anyway. We early adopters are going to ask for beta invites. We’re going to pre-order the latest smartphone. We’re going to try out Foursquare and Flipboard.

And sure, we’re going to tell our friends that Google Wave is amazing (“it’s distributed!” “it’s federated!”), but are our recommendations really enough?

It’s not just Google’s decision to halt Google Wave development that should give us pause over our early adopter excitement. And it’s not just talk of the so-called “check-in” fatigue. I am reminded, however, along those lines of Dave McClure‘s cautionary post about all the LBS excitement: it’s “a classic case of early-adopter lust for shiny objects, and has not a damn thing to do with long-term sustainable mainstream consumer behavior.”

Startups are repeatedly told to focus on their early adopters. But today’s news about Google Wave (RIP) should serve as a reminder that the excitement in the early adopter tech community about a particular product does not necessarily mean that a company should rest just because it has convinced a number of geeks to sign up for the beta.

And heeding Clive Thompson’s advice, it may behoove a company to try to woo some “late adopters” to adopt a new product early.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.