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    2.2 Rates of technological change

    The conventional notion of "Internet time," in which technological change is accelerated tremendously, is a myth. Rapid change does occur occasionally, and the adoption of Web browsers is frequently cited as an example. Less than 18 months after the release of the first preliminary version of the Mosaic browser, Web transmissions constituted more than half of Internet traffic. However, this was a singular exception. Cell phones, faxes, and ATM machines took much longer to spread. Even on the Internet, new systems are usually adopted much more slowly. How come IPv6 is still basically invisible? Why is HTTP1.1 spreading so slowly? How about TeX and its various dialects (which go back more than two decades)? Even at universities, e-mail took a while to diffuse. The Internet has changed much, but it has not made for a dramatic increase in the pace at which new technologies diffuse. A typical time scale for significant changes is still on the order of a decade. This was noted a long time ago: "A modern maxim says: People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years." (Licklider, 1965, p.17)

    Further discussion of rates of change is available in Odlyzko (1997b), which presents many examples (such as music CDs, ATM machines, credit cards, and cell phones) supporting the thesis that consumer adoption of new technologies is slow.[5] Thus we should not be surprised if electronic scholarly communication does not turn on a dime.

    The rare rapid adoptions of new technologies (aside from unusual situation such as that of the Web) appear to be associated with the presence of forcing agents that can compel rapid change (Odlyzko, 1997b). On the other hand, sociological changes tend to be very slow, taking a generation or two.

    Aside from simply observing that historically, new technologies have been taking on the order of a decade to be widely adopted, one can also build statistical time simulations that explain this time scale. For instance, we know that usage of electronic forms of scholarly information has typically been growing at 50 to 100 percent per year. This is shown in various tables in this paper. On the other hand, print usage has shown little change. Supposing that print usage remains static, from the moment electronic usage breaks the one percent threshold at which it is likely to be noticed, growth rates of 50 to 100% would only yield parity with print usage after approximately a decade.