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Rand Fishkin: The Future of the Internet & Tech’s Role in Our Survival

May 30, 2024

In this interview Turing Fest 2024 speaker Rand Fishkin, cofounder and CEO of SparkToro, discusses the future of the Internet and emerging tech. He explores the potential impact of political shifts, such as Trump’s possible re-election, the DOJ’s lawsuit against Google, and a TikTok ban, highlighting both the threats and opportunities for those who are paying attention. Rand also delves into AI ethics, the untapped potential in analytics, and the evolving landscape of remote work.

What new technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the product development, marketing or tech world in the next 12 to 24 months?

There are a lot of unknowns in the political world that I suspect could drive this. For example, if Donald Trump wins the US elections, many more monitoring systems may be put into place on American Internet usage, more blocking of content would likely be made legal by the Supreme Court, and the American Internet overall may start to more closely resemble China, Russia, or Iran. That would likely create a lot of challenges for American users, but also drive a tremendous amount of technological investment for workarounds, backdoors, and spoofing systems.

Another example could be the United States Dept. of Justice’s lawsuit against Google and whether that effort results in a breakup of the company. Even just separately Google Search and Google Maps or YouTube would result in massive economic and technological opportunities.

Similarly, if TikTok is banned from the United States, there will likely be other players and gaps to fill.

Considering recent advancements in AI, what are your thoughts on the ethical implications? From your perspective, what are the critical ethical challenges that need to be addressed as AI becomes more widespread?

I think it’s less about ethics (which the tech world and capitalism more broadly has repeatedly proven its unwilling to consider) and more about governments and the law. If governments agreed that crawling and indexing content without permission to train an AI meant that any copyright holder could sue the LLM employing their work, things would change quiet rapidly!

How do you envision the integration of emerging technologies like VR or AR evolving in professional environments where you work?

I don’t think either of these technologies will have any impact on any of my companies. In the health sciences and video gaming spaces (and a few others), there’s more interest.

In your opinion, what is the next big opportunity for tech innovation that you feel is currently being overlooked or isn’t receiving enough attention?

Analytics is a terribly under-invested-in space. Mostly because Google is not only the monopoly power, but they also use their monopoly in Ads to make sure no one else can integrate well, forcing GA to the be default (and making it free only worsens that condition). I’d love to see someone with deep pockets and a 10+ year mission make a solid go at competing.

From your own experience, how do you see the continuing evolution of remote work and its technologies impacting your own work-life balance?

A lot of folks are never going back to in-office. And, conversely, many other discovered they don’t like remote work. The future is freedom and flexibility, at least for those knowledge workers that have enough leverage through their networks, resumes, and skills to be highly desirable.

Can you share a bold prediction about how you think technology and sustainability will intersect in the next ten years?

Climate change will almost certainly predicate dramatic migration by people who can no longer reasonably live in climate-destroyed regions. Countries and governments will be faced with the terrifying prospect of how to handle large immigration influxes vs. anger from citizens who hate/fear/bias against people not like themselves. Large amounts of surveillance and counter-surveillance tech will be wielded as part of this horror.

Or… humans will invest in climate-modifying technology (for better or worse) in an attempt to preserve and/or return to the climate and habitability of the 20th Century (or even try to improve it). That would be a high-risk, but potentially fascinating technological endeavor as well.

If you could implement changes to the way people work based on your own routines and practices, what specific adjustments would you make to improve productivity or well-being?

Get more sleep. 8-9 hours a night. Start workdays and schooldays later. Recognize that more, better quality work can be done in fewer hours if the people doing it get more sleep.

Reflecting on your own journey in your field, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just starting out?

If you can rapidly find a single sector/skillset you can be good at, enjoy doing, and build a reputation in, you’ll benefit from a factor similar to compound interest in the financial world — compounding personal reputation/influence/network.


Rand Fishkin is cofounder and CEO of two companies: SparkToro, makers of fine audience research software, and indie game developer Snackbar Studio. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through his writing, videos, speaking, and his book, Lost and Founder. When Rand’s not working, he’s usually cooking a fancy meal for the love of his life, author Geraldine DeRuiter

Info on Rand Fishkin’s Turing Fest Talk “Zero-Click Marketing”:

The digital world has become a zero-click world. Traffic referrals from every major network have fallen precipitously. Searchers and browsers expect native content and instant answers. Brands, especially those looking to gain a foothold in the ruthless competition for web traffic, are left struggling for scraps.

A mindset shift is needed—marketers can’t be stuck optimizing for clicks, measuring impact based on referral traffic and single-visit conversion rates. The old tactics are dying. To survive, marketers must prioritize earning engagement and growing audiences on the platforms themselves. We have to conform to new algorithmic rules and new user expectations—that’s where Zero-Click Marketing comes in. In this presentation, Rand will show how it works, why it’s needed, and how to apply this tactical shift to every channel and campaign.

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