Taking a Look into the Future of the Web
1. Increased shift towards online sales. In 2000, when I asked the class I was teaching at FDU, how many of you have made an online purchase, only one person raised their hand. Now it’s the opposite. Expect double-digit gains in online Ecommerce again this year, while Brick & Mortar stores struggle to stay even.
2. Social Media starts making cents. That’s dollars and cents. Businesses and Brands of all sizes are catching on. This week we launched a ground-breaking Social Media site to connect Brands-to-Fans. Checkout Smile.ly and let us know what you think. The secret to making money online in 2010 will be getting your business connected to consumers through social media.
3. Search engines will interface with social media. Through integration with new real-time capabilities, search engines will be able to include real-time data (i.e. twitter posts). Awareness of your web-activity will allow search engines to include previously private data from social network friends. Search engines may eventually incorporate their own social element, using data from other web users to hone search results. This combination of search engines and social networking will help to filter results, leading to more refined searching. It may also mean more relevant and effective search engine advertising, with ads that incorporate friends’ viewpoints or personal preferences.
4. Sites with subscription fees. There is an increasing flow of professional video content online – whole seasons of TV shows, entire sports events, etc. Thus far studios and networks are only making money off advertising. However, as most video media migrates to the web, other revenue streams are going to be pursued. Video streaming speed and reliability will have to increase greatly. But considering how quickly it has improved over the past year, it seems likely that online streaming will reach near television quality over the next year. Most likely, there will be some sort of combination of advertising with subscription services. This will also only increase the irrelevance of broadcast television. Advertisers are shifting more and more of their dollars to the Internet, where results are trackable and more targeted. Expect more interfacing of computers with TV screens, or increased sales of cinema displays specifically for computers. It will take a long time for TV to lose its position as the top video media outlet, but the change toward the Internet is gaining pace.
5. Increase in people trying to find and save money online. Unemployment is expected to continue to rise and consumer confidence is lower than it has ever been. In 2010, increasing amounts of people will turn to the web to find a new source of cashflow. Members-only discount groups like Hautelook.com, Ruelala.com, and Gilt.com can expect to see a rise in traffic. Auction sites like ebay.com,swoopo.com, bigdeal.com, and gobid.com will also garner more interest as the amount of people looking to cut spending rises.
6. Land-line phones will be completely obsolete. The transition of video media from television to the Internet along with the increase in speed and reliability of online video streaming will only be another nail in the coffin for land-line phones in the wake of VoIP and services like Skype. Land-lines are already almost completely unnecessary due to cell-phones, and with quick, reliable video streaming, we should be able to have video-calling, and certainly voice-calling next year over the internet which is almost completely live and stutter-free. At that point, land-lines would be a completely obsolete technology. In my ideal world, we would have ubiquitous WIFI, and either super-portable computers such as the netbooks which are rapidly growing in popularity or just internet-capable phones, on which one could run reliable VoIP. If this were the case, the only fee one would have to pay for communication would be for bandwidth.
7. Broadening of Internet audience and in addition, broadening of high-speed internet access. Internet usage will continue to rise as more ways to access the Internet become available to consumers. The main forces behind this trend are devices like Internet-enabled TV’s, MP3 players, smartphones, and gaming consoles. Teenagers and adolescents are already Internet-active with a variety of devices, and this activity is only on the rise. The real change, however, will take place in adults age 55+, many of whom have already shown interest in consumer electronics, and are just beginning to discover social networking and other online media outlets. Hopefully this increase in the Internet’s user-base will also mean a redefinition of the US’s broadband standards. Currently the US is not even in the top-ten of broadband providing countries when it comes to household penetration and quality of connection. The FCC has been tasked with creating a National Broadband Plan by February 17, 2010, so we should see some changes taking place around then.
8. Proliferation of social gaming. This year, social games completely took over Facebook. 17 out of 20 of the top apps were social games as of November 23rd. Next year might be the year we can expect social gaming to expand out from their social platforms onto the general Internet. Social games which are independent from Facebook would use the social aspects of Facebook (interaction with friends within the gamespace) without the limitations Facebook places on email, instant messaging, etc. in the interest of maintaining privacy. Console gaming has also seen the beginnings of major changes brought about by high-speed Internet. Videogames, which are traditionally sold on discs in stores or online, are seeing an increase of digital sales. Services like Xbox Live and Direct2Drive allow users to download a wide variety of mainstream video games directly to the hard drives of their console or PC. Eventually we could expect most or all games to move to downloadable formats as increased connection speeds make this a viable possibility. This is just another example of storage devices such as CDs becoming obsolete for the transfer of software as the ability to simply download larger and larger files increases.
9. Increased utilization of crowdsourcing for various applications. What is crowdsourcing? Put simply, it’s when a company takes a project which would usually be handled by an employee or contractor and outsources it to the “Internet crowd” with an open call. Crowdsourcing represents a big step in the practical potential of the Internet. Wikipedia is probably the most mainstream example of crowdsourcing, where a huge source of information has been compiled, and its creation was really only possible because there were countless motivated contributors making it happen. Essentially, crowdsourcing is the first example of the collective brainpower of the masses of people connected through the Internet being utilized for practical purposes. As modes of communication and cooperation through the Internet only become more efficient; we can expect to see more companies realizing the potential of and taking advantage of crowdsourcing in more creative and interesting ways.
Some favorite Crowdsourcing Sites for you to checkout: Threadless, 99Designs, Namethis, YahooAnswers, MahaloAnswers, Kickstarter.
10. Further development of 3D technology and further penetration of 3d into traditional media. Avatar is being hailed as a huge step forward for 3D media. The truth is that Avatar is really just a milestone in the journey of 3D towards the mainstream. Movies have been playing around with 3D for years now, but mostly just as a gimmick. With Avatar, 3D is now an acceptable mainstream technology which we can expect to see more and more in media. Videogames have been working with different forms of human-interfacing, as we can see with the tremendous success of Nintendo’s Wii. 3D gaming is an old and in the past, generally unworkable concept. Perhaps with current or future technology, 3D gaming could be a reality. Judging by these developments, it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable assumption to say we could expect to see 3D on our computer screens by next year. If 3D becomes at all commonplace, expect to see it in online videos, simulations, and games. Basically all independent development happens on the web, so this is probably where we’d see the most creative innovation with 3D. If only we can get rid of the glasses! (maybe we can – check out this video)
Here’s a little online 3D doodling toy, the beginning of many?