By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
July 23, 2018

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The two biggest stories of the last twenty years have been the Internet and China.

Both have been on my mind of late, particularly the intersection of the two, namely the Chinese Internet industry embodied by its two biggest players, Alibaba and Tencent.

I bring up the twin trends because both have been heavily hyped. Journalists, investors, entrepreneurs, careerists, and the like can’t seem to stop talking when these trends get massive. And for good reason. Watching the venerable venture capitalist John Doerr running around these days talking about “objectives and key results,” or OKRs, I can’t help but think about how prescient Doerr was about the Internet two decades ago. It was always easy to joke about Doerr’s Internet cheerleading back in the day, when he argued that the emerging industry was under-hyped and still in its first inning. Except that it was.

Sure, mistakes were made, fortunes were lost, opportunities were squandered, and hands were overplayed. But the Internet is essential today. Doerr called that one.

It is similarly easy to get carried away with China and its techno-future story. The New Yorker is just out with a magnificent read on how, whose CEO Richard Liu spoke in Aspen last week, is changing the very nature of life in rural China. This transformation can’t possibly be over-hyped, so thorough is the change.

Yet that doesn’t mean everything will be up and to the right. The Chinese Internet companies will run out of growth opportunities or investments eventually, which is why they already are looking overseas for expansion. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, as lucid and cogent an onstage presenter I’ve ever seen, opined in Aspen that there’s nothing fair about Tencent and Alibaba having servers in Silicon Valley while Google and Facebook can’t have them in Beijing. There will be repercussions for this.

Success stores are better when they’re complicated. And they always are.

Adam Lashinsky


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