You can read about my background at gabrielromualdo.com/story. I started programming when I was 9, built hundreds of side projects in a pretty exciting developer community in the late 2010s, then worked in industry for several years before co-founding a startup last year.
When did you start your first really successful service? What technologies were used for this?
When I was 13, I built a chat app for friends & family — it was simple: type in a chat ID (ex: gabrielsroom or vladschat) and join a chatroom with anyone. What was interesting about this is that I built it to run entirely through IPv4 addresses, broadcasting to a local network. So anyone could run the server for the chat from their computer, and it would immediately be accessible only to people on the same WiFi/ethernet network. I ran this in my middle school, and it took off — there were hundreds of chats with people using it constantly. Why? The school had the ability to block any web address on the WiFi network, not a local IPv4 address, so they couldn't stop it from running & people messaging each other.
What service do you consider the most useful at the moment? Does it give you a lot to know that you're actually helping people solve their problems?
I'd definitely say Thirdbuy, which I co founded earlier this year — we allow anyone to invest in assets like art, gold, & real estate regardless of where they are. Super simple pain point: people in 100+ countries don't have the ability to invest like people in western markets do, and it's hurting them. We let anyone invest in real assets, through the blockchain, which is infrastructure most people in unstable economies are familiar with (ex: crypto adoption in LATAM is massive compared to US because of its use case as an inflation hedge).
In your opinion, what are the most promising tools (technologies) for creating web projects right now? In other words, if I'm starting my journey in programming just now, what should I focus on?
Everyone has their preferences; the hot technologies right now are: Next.js, Tailwind (often using TailwindUI templates), Firebase, Vercel or Netlify. The #1 thing I'd say if you're working on web projects is to join communities and groups: N&W by Buildspace is pretty good, and there are a bunch of other interesting programs too. Twitter has a massive community of young, ambitious builders — if you take a look at who I'm following on Twitter and follow a bunch of them, that'll give you a good sense.
What do you think the surge of interest in AI is related to? What are the biggest benefits and harms of this technology right now? Are there possible catastrophic consequences for humanity in the long run?
I'd say the surge is primarily related to ChatGPT & AI as a platform. AI is improving, but it's been extraordinary for a while. The biggest difference now is AI as an accessible platform. ChatGPT I think is pretty obvious: a public, completely free chatbot that is actually intelligent. Other apps are really using AI as a platform — big companies and institutions have had access to top notch AI + computers for a while, but now that OpenAI's APIs have taken off, anyone can start building their own AI frontends, basically cementing AI as a platform. This is akin to what Ethereum as a platform did to crypto, or what AWS S3 did to storage (ex: big companies had access to cheap storage, but AWS created cloud+storage as a platform, enabling frontends like Dropbox).
In terms of benefits, we're already seeing a surge of AI apps, especially productivity tools with subscription-based business models. These are getting widely funded too. I think this is the same kind of hype cycle we see in tech all the time, just like crypto, social, even internet back in the dotcom era. Lots of friends are starting AI companies, most of which will fail since most startups fail. Out of the boom will be a small yet very impactful group of AI products, probably productivity tools like Jasper and Speechify, where I worked for several years. There are certainly catastrophic consequences to humanity in the long run, although it's clear we're pretty far away from these kinds of extremely destructive scenarios.