Diffusion of Innovation

Jul 18, 2023

If you’re reading about it on Twitter, it’s probably too late. How do innovations diffuse across the Internet?

Everett Rogers, a sociologist, is best known for his book, Diffusion of Innovation, which would become the basis for Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma. Rogers was the first to categorize adopters into five classes based on their innovativeness — innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

Identifying those groups is important, but a related question could also be interesting: Where do those groups share or get their information?

This is an important question for startup founders, investors, and anyone else that puts a premium on the freshest information (the information barbell).

Startups like WhatsApp, Mojang (Minecraft), and Oculus found their first users in niche forums before finding a wider audience. There seems to be a general pattern. But the pattern changes as user behavior changes (we’re not on ICQ anymore). There’s some level of causation that you can logically attest to (news aggregators cannot be the first source, by definition).

But here’s an attempt to capture the zeitgeist in 2023.


  • Code pushed to GitHub (and issue trackers for OSS)
  • Preprints of Research Papers
  • Personal Blogs
  • Email lists, niche forums
  • Discord communities
  • Reddit (for subreddits that are discussion-focused)

Early Adopters

  • Academic Journals
  • Industry Blogs
  • Niche Twitter, Niche Reddit
  • Patent applications (in software, these usually lag the actual innovation)
  • Industry News (e.g., TechCrunch, Independent Substack Writers)
  • Industry meetups
  • Podcasts

Early Majority

  • Market Maps (Venture Capital)
  • Industry Conferences
  • Analyst Reports (e.g., Gartner, McKinsey, etc.)
  • Webinars

Late Majority

  • Mainstream News
  • App Store Rankings
  • Trending
  • Television


  • Curriculum (College or High School)
  • Books
  • Wikipedia
  • Documentaries, Movies