The WIRED 100: Britain's digital power list
David Rowan on the movers and shakers in Britain's digital power list
Does Facebook touch our lives more than Google in 2011? Is Spotify more influential than Skype at this moment? They're the sorts of endlessly open questions bound to generate furiously divergent online comment threads. But could there be a more objective way to measure influence in today's digital economy? What if the startup entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers themselves were to vote on who really has the power to touch the rest of us?
That's the thinking behind the WIRED 100 – a detailed survey in this month's WIRED magazine of the people shaping the digital world. For the second year running, we set out to name the designers and innovators, the venture capitalists and CEOs who really matter – a snapshot in time of those who in 2011 define the WIRED world in the UK.
The results are revealing. Top of the list is Facebook's Joanna Shields, the London-based exec responsible for the business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. With 30 million users in Britain, half of whom return every day, Facebook has the reach and now revenue to give Shields real clout. Indeed, she knocked Google's UK boss Matt Brittin off the top spot to number four in this year's list. The UK remains Google's second biggest territory in terms of revenue - £2.15bn in 2010 – but the consensus among those we polled was that it's now Facebook's moment.
It's not exactly science, but survey sought to be as objective as possible. These projects always divide opinion, which is why we wanted to tap a wide range of views. First, we approached every member of last year’s list and sought their nominations for 2011: we asked them (anonymously) to name up to ten newcomers, ten who should drop off the list, ten who should be higher than last year, and ten who should be lower. We then asked the WIRED community through wired.co.uk for must-have names; and members of the editorial team sourced further suggestions from their own professional networks. We collated all the data and sought to reflect the various scores in as fair and objective a manner as we could, prioritising those names with multiple nominations. We also decided to exclude anyone directly employed by WIRED or Condé Nast, to avoid any impression of conflict.
Overall I find the final list to be pretty representative of this year’s influencers. It seemed right that Groupon and the microchip manufacturer ARM should be prominent – and that the man behind a whistle-blowing website called WikiLeaks should be in the top ten. Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey are there from politics, plus media execs such as TechCrunch's Mike Butcher and the Telegraph's own Milo Yiannopoulos. By definition, all those featured need a strong UK connection – if not by fighting extradition here, then by basing a business here. And what hope the list holds for the future health of Britain's digital economy: with world-class entrepreneurs such as Mind Candy's Michael Acton Smith and Net-A-Porter's Natalie Massenet, and investors including Robin Klein and Brent Hoberman, who needs to look to Silicon Valley for role models?