Visualizing Technology Hype Cycles (2000-2018)
Nothing captures our collective imagination quite like emerging technology.
In a short amount of time, technological innovations such as wireless internet and social networking have become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives, quietly transforming the way we live, work, and communicate. Other promising technologies have their moment in the sun, only to fade into obscurity.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle charts the roller coaster ride of emerging tech, from the first stirrings of public awareness to the point of wider adoption and economic viability. Today’s graphic is a retrospective look at which trends scaled the summit of the Hype Cycle each year since 2000.
Reaching the Peak
As the media searches for the next big thing, certain technologies tend to dominate the headlines. Meanwhile, venture capital flows into the companies racing to bring the tech to market, valuations swell, marketing departments generate excitement, and the expectations of the general public begin to grow as well.
One example of this phenomenon at work is the adoption of microblogging. Today, we don’t think twice about posting a tweet or updating our status on Facebook, but a decade ago, the act of posting a short public message was major shift in the way people used technology to communicate with one another. The intense buzz that sent microblogging towards the top of the Hype Cycle is corroborated by Google Search data.
Living Up to the Hype
A few technologies transcend the hype to transform entire industries. Here are some examples that lived up to their time in the spotlight.
Right from the beginning, the analogy of data breaking the shackles of folders and clunky external drives – instead zipping efficiently into the invisible cloud – generated a lot of excitement. It felt like the future of computing, and enterprises and individuals eagerly adopted the technology.
Today, Microsoft and Amazon’s cloud computing divisions each make $6-7 billion in revenue per quarter, and that number is still growing at a brisk pace.
Near Field Communication – the technology that enables contactless payments – is transforming the way people pay for purchases around the world.
The global contactless payments market is expected to reach $138.4 billion by 2023. Here’s a look at where NFC payments are making the greatest in-roads:
The Ones That Underwhelmed
During the Christmas season of 2009, Kindle became the most gifted item in Amazon’s history. This watershed moment looked like the end of physical books as the public embraced the e-reader as the new way of consuming text.
Fast-forward to today, and only 19% of adults in the U.S. own an e-reader.
Of course, not every technology that grabs the headlines is going to become the next iPhone. Here are some others that didn’t immediately meet expectations after topping the Hype Cycle.
Some concepts fail primarily because they’re ahead of their time. Such is the case with mobile commerce.
By 2001, more than half of Americans owned mobile phones, and this represented a huge opportunity. Unfortunately, early m-commerce was restricted by the limitations of mobile phones of that time period. It wasn’t until the introduction of smartphones that the concept really took off. Today, nearly half of all online transactions are made via mobile devices.
Few technologies reach the fever pitch that 3D printing did in 2012. From the $1.4 billion merger of the largest players in the sector to the reports of firearm blueprints circulating the web, you could forgive people for believing that the 3D printer was destined to become the next microwave. In the end, interest in 3D printing leveled off.
While it is getting used for prototyping in many different industries, it remains to be seen whether the technology will ever achieve the wide consumer-level adoption that was promised.
When 2019’s Hype Cycle is released later this year, it remains to be seen which technology will rise to the top. Based on the trajectory from last year, search volume, and current news reports, 5G is a strong competitor.
The World’s Top 50 Influencers Across Social Media Platforms
Which influencers have the most total social media followers? We tally up follower counts across all major platforms, from Twitter to TikTok.
Visualizing the World’s Top 50 Influencers
In the modern digital world, social media reach is power.
The people with the most followers on Twitter, for example, have a massive platform to spread their messages, while those with large, engaged followings on Instagram are an advertiser’s dream sponsor partner.
Social media can also be an equalizer of power. It’s true that many celebrities boast large followings across platforms, but social media has also enabled previously unknown personalities to turn YouTube or TikTok fame into veritable star power and influence.
Who has the biggest reach across the entire social media universe? Instead of looking at who has the most followers on Instagram, Twitter, or other networks, we ranked the most-followed personalities across all major platforms combined.
Who Has the Most Overall Followers on Social Media?
We parsed through hundreds of the most-followed accounts on multiple platforms to narrow down the top influencers across social media as of April 2021.
Sources include trackers of the most followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok, verified directly on site and with social media tracker Socialblade.
The results? A top 50 list of social media influencers consisting of athletes, musicians, politicians, and other personalities.
|Rank||Name||Category||Total Followers||Biggest Platform|
|#6||Dwayne Johnson||Film & TV||342M|
|#16||Ellen DeGeneres||Film & TV||254M|
|#20||Will Smith||Film & TV||217M|
|#26||Kevin Hart||Film & TV||191M|
|#31||Vin Diesel||Film & TV||176M|
|#39||Whindersson Nunes Batista||Other||144M|
|#41||Akshay Kumar||Film & TV||140M|
|#43||Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg||Gaming||139M||Youtube|
|#46||Deepika Padukone||Film & TV||137M|
|#48||Salman Khan||Film & TV||134M|
|#49||Priyanka Chopra||Film & TV||129M|
Unsurprisingly, celebrities reign supreme on social media. As of April 2021, soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was the most-followed person on social media with almost 500 million total followers.
But there are other illuminating highlights, such as the global reach of music. With large and diverse fanbases, artists account for half of the top 50 largest social media followings.
Also notable is the power of Instagram, which was the biggest platform for 67% of the top 50 social media influencers. This includes hard-to-categorize celebrities like the Kardashians and Jenners, which turned reality TV and social media fame into business and media empires.
Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)
The Most Followers on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube
However, it’s not only celebrities that dominate social media.
Personalities that started on one social media platform and developed massive followings include TikTok’s most-followed star Charli D’Amelio and YouTubers Whindersson Nunes Batista, Germán Garmendia, and Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg.
Politicians were also prominent influencers. Former U.S. President Barack Obama has the most followers on Twitter, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has more than 175 million followers across social media.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump would have also made the list with more than 140 million followers across social media before being banned from multiple platforms on January 8, 2021.
A Generational Look at Social Media Influence
While older generations have had to adapt to social media platforms, younger generations have grown up alongside them. As a measure of cultural importance, this gives Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z a rare leg-up on older generations.
Millennials, in particular, hold the lion’s share of spots in this top 50 list:
|Generation||# of Influencers in Generation||Top Influencer in Generation|
|Gen Z||4||Kylie Jenner|
|Gen X||10||Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson|
|Baby Boomer||3||Ellen DeGeneres|
The average age of the top 50 influencers was just over 37.
In our Generational Power Index (GPI), which measures the share of power generations hold in various categories, digital platforms were a key area where Millennials derived their power and influence. Overall, Baby Boomers—and to a lesser extent, Gen X—still run the show in most areas of society today.
Social Media Influence, Going Forward
As most fans and advertisers know, not all social media accounts and followings are homogenous.
Many influencers with relatively small followings have more consistent engagement, and are often able to demand high advertising fees as a result.
Conversely, most social media platforms are reckoning with a severe glut of fake accounts or bots that inflate follower counts, impacting everything from celebrities and politicians to personalities and businesses.
Regardless, social media has become a mainstay platform (or soapbox) for today’s cultural influencers. Billions of people turn to social media for news, engagement, recommendations, and entertainment, and new platforms are always on the rise.
Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?
Visual Capitalist’s first-ever Generational Power Index looks at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural influence in American society.
Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?
This year, our team put together Visual Capitalist’s inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI), which looks at power dynamics across generations in America.
We considered three categories in our quest to quantify power: economics, political, and cultural. And while it turns out Baby Boomers dominate when it comes to economics and political factors—cultural influence is a different story.
Here’s a look at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural power, and how this power dynamic is expected to shift in the coming years.
Generations and Power, Defined
Before we get started, it’s important to clarify which generations we’ve included in our research, along with their age and birth year ranges.
|Generation||Age range (years)||Birth year range|
|The Silent Generation||76 and over||1928-1945|
|Gen Alpha||8 and below||2013-present|
Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:
With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Cultural Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.
Share of Cultural Power by Generation
Overall, we found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power, at 36%.
|Generation||Cultural Power Share|
|The Silent Generation||8.8%|
*Note: figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, along with news media. For instance, over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 were members of Gen X.
Baby Boomers come in second place, capturing a 25% share of cultural power. They show particular dominance in traditional entertainment like books and art. For example, 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-selling books list were Baby Boomers.
However, these older generations fall short in one critical category—digital platforms.
The Dominance of Digital
Why is digital so important when it comes to cultural power? Because digital media becoming increasingly more popular than traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio).
In 2020, Americans spent nearly 8 hours per day consuming digital media, nearly two hours more per day than they spent with traditional media.
This divide is expected to grow even further over the next few years. With younger generations dominating the digital space, Gen X may soon lose its place as the top dog of the culture category.
Celebrity 2.0: The Social Influencer
As audiences flock to online channels, advertisers have followed suit—and they’re willing to spend good money to gain access to their target demographics.
In fact, spend on influencer marketing has steadily increased in the last five years, and it’s expected to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2021.
This shift to social media advertising is redefining the notion of celebrity, and who reaps the financial benefits of content creation. For instance, six-year-old Vlogger Like Nastya made an estimated $7.7 million per month from her YouTube channel in 2020. And keep in mind, this estimate is purely based on YouTube revenue—it doesn’t even include corporate partnerships and/or merchandise sales.
With all these shifts occurring, culture as we know it is at a crossroads. And as we continue to move towards a digital dominant society, those who hold power in traditional realms will either adapt or pass along the torch.
Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)
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