A sea change is a significant and/or systemic transformation. The term is frequently used in business and IT (information technology) contexts as an alternative to the less current buzzword, paradigm shift.
Here are a few examples of how the term has been used:
- According to some speculation, Google Wave (the predecessor to Google +) was expected to enable a sea change in business collaboration.
- The trend towards distributed computing was described as a sea change. (John Gage of Sun famously described the transformation from isolated desktop computers: "the network is the computer.")
- Open APIs (application-program interfaces) have been described as fostering a sea change in application development and interactivity.
"Sea change" originated in Shakespeare's, play "The Tempest," which was written about 1610. Ariel sang the following in a song to Ferdinand, describing the physical transformation that the sea had wrought in his father (who had drowned).
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
According to Michael Quinion of World Wide Words, "sea change" first began to be used metaphorically in the late nineteenth century.