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future of television, music, commerce,
business collaboration, gaming, and who
knows what else (see “The Web Is Reborn,”
p. 46). As HTML5 elements are woven
into the fabric of the Web, expect creative
developers to stitch them together in ways
that wreak havoc on the market share of
existing companies. HTML5 will make it
easier and cheaper than ever for entrepre-
neurs to commercialize innovative Web
services and make them accessible from
every computer, phone, and television.
The expected economic windfall
reflects a broader trend that my col-
leagues and I have brazenly dubbed
Bessemer’s Law. In 1995—at the dawn of
the commercial Web—it cost about
$20 million to develop, test, secure, and
scale an e-commerce application. The
time and money required to launch a
scalable, secure commercial Web ser-
vice has since dropped by half every two
years, thanks to new technologies like
Java, Apache, Adobe Flash, A JAX, XML,
Amazon cloud servers, and soon HTML5.
Today, $150,000 is a sufficient engineer-
ing budget to launch an online startup.
This opens the door for entrepreneurs,
but it challenges them later, when they
need to attract people, capital, and cus-
tomers in a market crowded with startups.
Bessemer’s Law also challenges estab-
lished venture capital firms like ours.
Tempted by the favorable economics of
bulkier funds, VCs have been writing
larger checks to later-stage companies.
But cheaper online startups promise the
highest returns to seed-stage investors—
the so-called Super Angels. They fund the
$100,000 needed to develop an HTML5
Web service that, if successful, will raise
its next round from a large VC firm at a
1,000 percent premium. Consequently,
we have constrained the size of our ven-
ture fund so we can continue to focus
time and capital on seed-stage startups.
It will take another year or two to nego-
tiate the details of the HTML5 standard.
Meanwhile, engineers at Adobe, Micro-
soft, MIT’s Media Lab, and elsewhere
are already rendering it obsolete through
their work on multitouch interfaces,
location awareness, reality augmenta-
tion, and other new Web technologies. As
Bessemer’s Law marches toward another
decade, it’s hard to fathom the cascading
impact on our businesses and our lives.
DaviD CowaN of Bessemer veNture PartNers has
iNveste D i N CoNs umer i NterNet startuPs B lu e N ile,
hotjoBs, liNkeDiN, PlayDom, aND Zoosk.
Compact nuclear power plants
may be a lifeline for a struggling
industry, writes jasmina vujic.
Nuclear power can play a significant
role in meeting the world’s environ-
mental and energy challenges if sustain-
ability issues are resolved. China, for
example, is constructing more than 20
reactors and plans further growth. There
and in other countries, the nuclear indus-
try is being revitalized, along with regu-
latory development and research on the
long-term sustainability of the nuclear
In the United States, however, the field
has been sorely neglected for more than
30 years (see “Giant Holes in the Ground,”
p. 60). Construction of new nuclear power
plants has ground to a halt, while support
for research and for training the next gen-
eration of nuclear engineers has suffered.
In recent years, the Obama administra-
tion has effectively eliminated the Yucca
Mountain repository for spent nuclear
fuel, which had been approved by the
previous administration. But on the posi-
tive side, it has awarded $8.3 billion in
loan guarantees for constructing nuclear
plants and formed a blue-ribbon com-
mission to find new ways of dealing with
starting an internet company
with the potential to reshape how
we use the web has never been
cheaper, says David Cowan.
In 2004 a cabal of programmers in the
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
grew frustrated by the slow pace of inno-
vation in Web standards. They splintered
off from the standards body to forge speci-
fications for making Web pages interac-
tive without proprietary browser plug-ins.
Three busy years later, their leaders—Ian
Hickson of Google and Dave Hyatt of
Apple—prevailed on the W3C to recognize
their work as the fifth official version of
HyperText Markup Language (HTML5).
Updating an arcane technical standard
doesn’t ordinarily disrupt global indus-
try. But in this case users, Web develop-
ers, and investors are eagerly anticipating
websites with true drag-and-drop inter-
faces, video and audio playback, docu-
ment editing, game play, and more.
The applications that follow such a
leap in Web functionality will shape the
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