Fred Wilson — VC @ Union Square Ventures — often recites his rule of thumb of social internet services. It is the 100–10–1 rule. He sees with social internet services that on average 100% of users consume, 10% of users interact and 1% of users actually create.
So how can we apply this to personal fabrication? As a social service, there are many options for personal fabrication. I am thinking of:
- sharing of designs between designers
- making designs available for fabrication to others
- cooperative design of products between designers and users
- product configurators made by designers for users
- online creation tools for users which interact with all the above
All these options can make personal fabrication a social activity. When you apply the 100–10–1 rule of thumb, the opportunities for scaling such a service become immediately clear. As far as I know there are no exact figures available on how many 3D modelers / product designers there are in the world. But let’s assume there are 5 million of them. That would turn social fabrication into a 500M users opportunity. That is Facebook and Google territory. Just imagine 50M users interacting on personal fabrication and the effects it can have on product design and how we design products. This is a very significant opportunity. Of course, the big caveat is that not all 3D modelers / product designers are interested in social fabrication. Maybe only 10% or less. That still leaves a 50M opportunity.
I do wonder what will happen to this ratio. I think it will change over time. I have no data available how this ratio looks like per demographic, but I can imagine that young people are much more engaged to create and interact than older generations. Now when they get older, start their careers and families, I can imagine that some of them drop off. But in general I expect that the creators and interactors groups will become a larger portion of the total users.