2008 Predictions

I told my friend Kevin that I wasn’t going to write the boilerplate predictions post, but here I am writing a post titled 2008 Predictions! In thinking about it, this is less about what I think is going to happen in 2008 and more about the themes and memes that I find interesting.

1) A lot of websites are going to figure out that advertising is not a revenue strategy for them. After a knee-jerk shift to premium subscription many of these sites will either shut down or redefine who their economic customer is. I realize this is somewhat of a vague statement, but it falls within my interest area of business models that don’t rely on an end user to pay for the service.

2) Relationship and privacy granularity become an integral capability within social networks. To date these services have dumbed down what it means to be a “friend” in that it’s binary, in other words, if you are in my contact database you are by definition a “friend”. Inserting relationship and privacy tools within these networks to better control sharing will become important and more people come online with these services and the shortcomings become more glaring.

2a) We will definitely see a major data security lapse in one of these networks next year. Despite being opt-in private (meaning by default everything is public) doesn’t mean that people have no regard for their own privacy. As someone notable once said, the more you have to conserve the more conservative you become… I’ll adapt this to privacy to suggest that as more of our lives becomes public, the more concern we have for ensuring the parts we want to remain private stay that way.

3) The march to a new media model will continue as print publications increasingly decouple the discrete operations of actual printing and distribution from writing operations. More journalists will make the jump into the blogosphere to augment their brand. It’s not enough to acknowledge that media itself is undergoing tectonic change without also looking at the changing consumer dynamic. We are not just going online for news, we are shifting from media sites as destination to aggregators and portals as where we surround ourselves with the media that interests us.

4) Very much related to #3 above is the topic of relevance and discovery of content. Search engines only go so far in helping me to discover new content, while they will get better they will also only get incrementally better. I am witnessing the development of an entirely new category of content tools that do what expensive proprietary services, like Lexis-Nexus, have had a lock on, help me discover new content that is related to what I have demonstrated an interest in. We are seeing this in full force in the RSS business right now, with companies like AideRSS and Fav.or.it doing something more than delivering content, and sites like DailyMe and Orglex offering powerful personal publishing.

5) Email is the most powerful social network in existence. Somebody (please) will come out with a kick ass address book service that integrates with third party sites. Google could easily do this with Gmail contacts, in fact many sites today can import Gmail contacts. However, Gmail contacts offers limited options for contact details and is not extensible, for example, where do I add a field for Twitter profiles? The only solution is a generic “custom” field. I had high hopes for Windows Live Contacts when they released their API, but I find the entire Live experience to be frustrating… at some point Microsoft’s dogma got stuck in all the wrong places.

6) Speaking of Twitter, this service becomes the most habitual of all the social networks I use. It will be really interesting to watch how the service evolves in relation to the number of users that make it part of their routine.

7) Also interesting to me is Second Life, but for a reason that will likely seem very abstract. I was talking with Greg about video conferencing and how the real value isn’t that I can see him but rather I can judge his signals (which are obviously connected). I can see when he thinks something is funny or interesting or boring, all of which I cannot do very well over IM or the telephone. SL has the remarkable ability to insert social signaling in the context of a virtual reality, and this reminded me, of all things, the Tamagotchi. The trivial digital pet that is now over a decade old introduced something very significant to electronic devices, feedback and the expectation of attention. SL is kind of like this in that if I don’t stimulate my avatar (in the non-kinky sense) it is apparent to everyone else in the virtual space. I flip back and forth between thinking that SL is amazing to it’s digital pet rock, but it’s clear that there is something meaningful going on there.

That’s it for now. If you have read my blog for even just a short period of time you will know that I am eclectic in what I find interesting. I don’t consider myself to be a truly original thinker, I tend to piece bits and pieces together from people who are original thinkers and make connections that are not entirely obvious. One thing that should be very obvious today is that the last couple of years have been transformative for the tech industry on many levels, and where we find ourselves today is in a place that would have defied prediction a few years ago.

I don’t think it’s a matter of being right or wrong with regard to these things, but picking what is meaningful for you and applying that to new problems and opportunities. We’re all in the common pursuit of context.

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