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Are Early Adopters Leading the Web Astray?

I’ve been following all of these posts about whether the Internet is boring (if stable equals boring, then I’d say it’s pretty darn boring) or whether we’re in a digestion phase for technology (which I do think is the case and is a much more interesting discussion). I think there is something a bit different going on and I figured I’d share my thoughts.

Most models of technical diffusion that I’ve seen have some concept of early adopters using new technology and helping move it to the point where it needs to “cross the chasm” and become mainstream. One issue I’ve always had with these models is that it places an inordinate amount of faith in the ability of early adopters to effectively shuttle these technologies to the point where they become mainstream. If early adopters choose the wrong technologies (or they fail to materialize), those technologies don’t cross the chasm and more or less die on the vine.

Right now, it feels to me like early adopters are off experimenting with technologies in the microblogging (Twitter) and lifecasting (Jaiku, uStream, spaces are far from going mainstream. I’m not saying they won’t get there, but right now they feel like there is a long way to go from where they are to a more mainstream audience. One to two years ago, a lot of early adopters I know were playing with technologies like video sharing (YouTube, Dailymotion), social networking (Facebook), and new voice applications. Right now there just isn’t anything that I see the early adopter crowd playing with that has a very near-term likelihood of going mainstream.
Thoughts? Is there a technology that you think is deep in the early adopter category that do have a likelihood to go mainstream? Go ahead and drop something in the comments or send me an email.

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