The 2010s: A decade of disruption

What a difference a decade makes, especially one as chaotic, confounding, exciting and disruptive as the 2010s.

For a stark example, look no further than the value of the biggest American companies then and now.

When 2010 started, ExxonMobil was tops, with a market cap of $328 billion. When 2020 starts, ExxonMobil probably won’t even be in the Top 10. Instead, one of two tech titans — Microsoft or Apple, both of which were near the top of the list in 2010, too — will probably take the crown, with market caps likely above $1 trillion.

Starting now, CNBC.com will roll out a series of articles explaining how this and other massive shifts happened over the past 10 years. We will look at the biggest changes in the worlds of business, markets, money and politics — as well as the companies, people and forces behind them. Check out this list of the best performing stocks of the decade.

Yes, disruption has become a buzzword, overused and abused by PR reps, entrepreneurs and “thought leaders.” But when it comes to the 2010s, it’s an appropriate term. What else could you say about a time when Donald Trump, reality television superstar and veteran of several tabloid sex scandals, was elected president of the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world?

Who could’ve predicted just how many industries Amazon would stir up in just 10 years?

It was also the decade where we welcomed Big Brother into our homes and pockets. “Siri … look up George Orwell quotes, and play ‘1984’ by David Bowie.”

There were plenty of other disruptions that shook everything from our collective personal finances and buying habits to the globe’s economic and business foundations. China emerged as an economic leviathan. The Supreme Court allowed an even bigger tide of money to flood into presidential politics. Disney took over the entertainment world with the help of a snarky, iron-clad billionaire, a talking raccoon and a limitless well of comic book intellectual property. In the next few weeks, our reporters will dive into all of these subjects to see what we’ve learned and maybe figure out a bit about where we’re heading.

We will also examine the mushrooming presence of e-cigarettes, how Obamacare evolved as a political force and why electric car maker Tesla grew out of being a mere niche brand and into a headline-making company.

We’ll see which companies were the most important for the decade and look back on some of the biggest moments on CNBC TV over the past 10 years. We’ll start with Carl Icahn’s epic fight with Bill Ackman.

And, of course, we’ll look to the future. Who and what will be the biggest disruptive forces of the next 10 years? Which stocks are in the best position to make you the most money? Which trends actually matter?

All these reports and more will come out in our Decade of Disruption series in the coming weeks.

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