Content collaboration tools shift into hyperdrive

Evolving content sharing stays true to its roots

We think of content collaboration and its tools as comparatively recent additions to the digital landscape. But humans have been creating, storing and sharing content since the early days of the Bronze Age about 5,000 years ago. To record allocations of goods, the best tool available to the ancient Sumerians was a reed stylus to impress complex cuneiform symbols on soft clay tablets. Collaborative content back then was straightforward, long-lasting … yet somewhat vulnerable.

Fast forward to the mid-1940s, when the first thoughts of using computers to store and share information emerged. "A memex," wrote engineer and inventor Vannevar Bush in 1945, "is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records and communications, and which is mechanized, so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility." Sound familiar?

After eight decades of fits and stops, content collaboration and its tools were catapulted into new frontiers during the COVID-19 pandemic when employers and their employees and customers migrated to remote locations. The resultant hybrid workplace and commercial environments are forging innovations in collaborative content creation, storage, security, sharing … and thinking.

"[C]loud-based, personal and team productivity technologies, along with collaboration tools, will form the core of a series of new work hubs that meet the requirements of various remote and hybrid workers," Gartner reported in August 2021. Its digital workplace survey, conducted in late 2020, revealed that nearly 80% of workers are using content collaboration tools, an increase of 44% compared to 2019.

In this handbook, we explore the origins of "mechanized" content collaboration and its abrupt ascent to today's embrace of the cloud, AI, machine learning, 3D technology and the metaverse to dynamically interact with people, augment and unify workflows, and securely store, share, manage and distribute content across departments, cities, oceans and perhaps beyond.