I remember reading in one of Stephen Jay Gould’s books about punctuated equilibrium in evolution. The basic idea is that instead of continuous gradual change, evolution happens rapidly or not all. An illustrative example that is often given is where the less fit individuals in a population reside on the edge of the habitat and, because of the harsh conditions, evolve until they can kick the ass of the previously fitter individuals in the heart of the habitat.
An analogous phenomenon happens in the business world. After World War II, the Soviet Union (and France and Great Britain to a lesser degree) dismantled many factories in the West and East zones of Germany and transported them back as war reparations. As a result, West Germany had to retool its entire industrial infrastructure from scratch, resulting in a competitive advantage over the Allies and the East Bloc, who were stuck with Germany’s antiquated prewar factories.
Why the history and biology lesson? I’m sure you all saw the Evans Data Corporation findings that more developers are using Ajax in emerging markets than in North America. According to their survey, Brazil and India lead the pack, while China rivals North America in its adoption of Ajax. These findings pretty much square with my readership data, where Brazil, India, and China outstrip Western and Eastern Europe.
Evans only surveyed 400 developers, which seems too small of a sample to be representative of worldwide development activity. From their methodology discussion:
The EDC panel of developers includes about 20,000 professional developers in more than 70 countries. The EDC panel, having been recruited and assembled over the last five years strictly from neutral developer lists represents the finest example today of an unbiased and representative sample of developers. As the panel continues to grow, the same principle of neutral recruitment will continue to be applied, thus assuring clients of the most representative sample possible.
Still, the results somehow do feel right. The United States, with its proliferation of credit cards, definitely did steal a march on Western Europe and emerging markets in the e-commerce arena, and holds similar leads in investment in other online categories. But heavy investment in legacy technologies begins to look like stockpiles of steam engines and Betamax. While developers in corporate America are busy maintaining existing applications or laboriously retrofitting Ajax onto them, developers from emerging markets are free to start from scratch. And as anyone who has ever maintained a mature web application knows, starting from scratch is often the best way forward.
So while Ajax may have started in the United States, much of the activity and thus the innovation will be happening in emerging markets like Brazil and India. And the United States will continue to retrench until we are left with the one domain where we think we excel above all others: the efficient allocation of capital. Good luck with that.
How does one say “Agile Ajax” in Portuguese?