I have a question, but first I need to draw out some data points.
Firstly, we have Eucalyptus, a project that aims to replicate AWS's Elastic Computing Cloud APIs. This is being used by Sun and others to pitch data centers on the idea of being able to compete in the Cloud Computing game. In short, cloud computing is about to get comoditised.
Secondly, Erlang, Haskell, Scala, Clojure and various other languages are chasing how to best expose concurrency and network IO in a programmer friendly way. I believe we are on the cusp of beating this challenge. Actually, I think Clojure already has, but it's going to take a while for the reality to shake out. And for programmers to either accept they have to learn a new language, or go and open a cafe.
Given the two points above, the game change I see is that it now becomes pizza + beer pricing to host a webapp on a EC2 node that can service 2,000+ concurrent long poll connections. Development could be done on a $20/month node, early roll out on $50/month node, and when it gets really popular you can scale up to the 15.5G of ram beast for $800 a month. But all those prices are about to fall massively, thanks to the return of Moore's law, and the explosion of AWS EC2 wannabes.
So, what can you do with a server capable of mainting say 5K connections? Think FaceBook, but real time. Think livejournal meets twitter. Think corporate business workflow applications with the ability to co-operatively (aka, socially), work with co-workers.
In short, we are about to see a qualitative shift in the way people work together. And this will enable people to act together in ways that will make the 5k person parties organised over fb look positively pale in comparison. Yes, this is going to threaten pretty much everyone in a position of power, be that government, business, or religion. It's about to become affordable for everyone to host real time communication hubs.
On the upside, this means that we are about to start a process of learning how to group communications well. Honestly, everything we've done so far has sucked, and sucked badly. The biggest thing I'm getting out of Gladwell's Outliers is that up until now we have badly wasted the one reasource this planet that can make a difference. Us.