Bill Gates totally predicted Netflix in 1994 Playboy interview

Microsoft's co-founder described a future movie database where you can "select and get video on demand." Yep, that's Netflix.

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
2 min read
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Bill Gates in Paris on April 28, 1993.

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Today, Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates spends a lot of time on a health and education initiatives supported by his foundation. But back in the early 1990s, Gates was hard at work developing the earliest Microsoft Office and Windows software.

He also gave a 1994 interview with Playboy where he basically predicted the future of information sharing on the internet. Here's an excerpt:

Say you want to watch a movie. To choose, you'll want to know what movies others liked and, based on what you thought of other movies you've seen, if this is a movie you'd like. You'll be able to browse that information. Then you select and get video on demand. Afterward, you can even share what you thought of the movie.

But thinking of it only in terms of movies on demand trivializes the ultimate impact. The way we find information and make decisions will be changed. Think about how you find people with common interests, how you pick a doctor, how you decide what book to read. Right now it's hard to reach out to a broad range of people. You are tied into the physical community near you. But in the new environment, because of how information is stored and accessed, that community will expand. This tool will be empowering, the infrastructure will be built quickly and the impact will be broad.

That sure sounds like Netflix to me, as well as a pretty insightful take on broader data sharing on the World Wide Web. The interview is no longer available on the magazine's site, but you can still read the complete conversation on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.