Nielsen’s Future Predictions

Here are some interesting predictions Jacob Nielsen made in his late 1999 book Designing Web Usability. He was looking into the short-term future, the five or so years following the publication.

Some are quite accurate, others not so much.

The Kingdom of Tonga becomes the world’s richest country by hosting many large and successful sites that cater to Asia, North America, and Australia through fiber-optic links.


Most sales people are replaced by customers who refer other customers to products and services they have like in return for getting a commission or loyal-customer points. People who give bad recommendations get poor satisfaction ratings and are not listened to in the future.

Yelp? Amazon affiliate program?

Despite having given away all the money he made from software, Bill Gates becomes the world’s richest person a second time due to earnings from his online businesses. His entry in Encarta 2020 refers to him as a media mogul who got a start in the computer business.

Hehehe, Encarta. You’re so funny Jacob. Although, Gates has become quite the philanthropist. Foul ball.

Computer companies stop cloning the Macintosh and base user interfaces on information retrieval and other means of managing millions of information objects. The anti-Mac design becomes a reality.

Big strike two. I think the exact opposite has happened.

Because of the abundance of portable devices with wireless modems, people will be online at all times and can be reached anywhere. Privacy becomes precious. Users will pay extra for screening services that allow them a respite from the world. Being out of touch will be seen as a status symbol.


This one is eerily accurate. Not necessarily the screening part, but about how connected we would all become. I don’t think anyone really knew how prevalent the smart phone would turn out to be. Being able to get off the grid for a few days now really does seem to be a luxury.