What is Digital Disruption, and How Does it Impact Business?

The modern internet is shaped by a handful of companies, each of which wields unprecedented power over the things we see, do, buy and think. Amazon, Facebook, Google: each of these started out as a disruptor of an existing market, providing a service which the players of the time hadn’t spotted the demand for.

This is what’s called digital disruption. While we can easily point to a few high-profile examples of the phenomenon having an enormous and profound impact, the truth is that it’s often more low-level and difficult to spot. If you feel that your business might be impacted by disruption, then investing in the appropriate technology insurance might be a worthwhile step.

What is Digital Disruption?

Let’s take a look at a definition. Digital disruption, put simply, is any change caused by an emerging technology to an existing marketplace. We might think of the term ‘disruption’ as having a negative connotation, the effects of this change can often be positive. An old, inefficient way of doing and seeing things is shouldered aside; a new, better way takes its place.

Digital disruption is an inevitable consequence of the way the internet has been shaped. Some might even argue that it’s a law of nature: inferior practices will always be displaced by superior ones. It’s just that many of these superior practices have yet to be discovered.

Examples of Digital Disruption

Google wasn’t the first search engine to arrive on the internet. But it did succeed in displacing all of its rivals. At the turn of the millennium, Yahoo’s servers were beginning to creak under the strain of demand, which was constantly evolving. By contrast, Google had invested years of research into an entirely different approach – a flexible file system which could be easily adapted to meet the changing demands of its audience. Along the way, Yahoo had the opportunity to buy their rival for sums that today would be considered trivial – first $1 million, and then later $3 billion.

In many cases, disruptors are purchased by the big players they’ve disrupted. You might consider Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012 or WhatsApp in 2014. By this point, however, the disruption has already taken place.

Disruptions of the Future

If it was easy to predict where the disruptions of the future would come from, then the existing players wouldn’t be so easily caught off-guard. We can, however, look at the likely culprits:


Bitcoin and the associated currencies have been around for decades, but their value is now skyrocketing. It might be that they finally mature into viable currencies with stable values in years to come.

Distributed Cloud

By spreading cloud services across multiple physical locations, costs can be reduced, and shocks can be more easily absorbed.

DNA Data Storage

This new form of data storage promises to allow for huge amounts of data to be crammed into a relatively miniscule space. This creates synthetic DNA, which can theoretically store exabytes of data in a single gram.

Annika Bansal

Annika "The Chick Geek" is the founder of AnnikaBansal.com. Small Business Sense shares small business ideas, tips and resources for independent Entrepreneurs and Small Business owners.