Yahoo debuts ‘future of search’

March 25, 2011

(WIRED) — Yahoo is looking to one-up Google and its own search partner Bing, offering a new search experience it describes as the “fastest thing you have ever seen.”

The new product called Search Direct combines instant search — showing results as you type — with instant answers, so that typing in “amzn” instantly shows a full box with stock quotes about Amazon.com. For searches it has no answer to, it shows search links immediately in an easy-to-navigate box above a typical search-results page.

Yahoo, which looked to have abandoned the search game when it outsourced its search backend to Microsoft, says Search Direct — and its emphasis on user experience — is the future of search.

“I want you to remember three words: ‘answers, not links,'” Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s vice president for search told a room of tech reporters in San Francisco as he demo’d the product.

Search Direct is live on search.yahoo.com and other U.S. Yahoo search properties, but not the homepage yet. The same experience will soon come to all search boxes on Yahoo, Seth said, and it will find its way to non-Yahoo properties as well.

The product has “answers” for 15 categories of entities, including movies, professional athletes, music, celebrities, weather info, news, shopping, local and stocks.

The new search builds on Yahoo’s attempt to stay relevant in the lucrative search market by focusing on user experience, now that it has farmed out the expensive infrastructure to Microsoft, in exchange for ad-revenue sharing.

“People still come to Yahoo and search on Yahoo,” said Yahoo chief product officer Blake Irving.

Yahoo compared the new experience favorably to Google’s own Instant Search, saying that Google’s feature merely shows search-result pages faster, while this brings people answers incredibly quickly.

WIRED: Yahoo and Microsoft join search forces

Search Direct doesn’t require a fast net connection, the company said, and the system is built using infrastructure that Yahoo owns. That could put the feature in conflict with its search partner Bing.

For instance, Yahoo says it can come up with new ad formats that fit in the Search Direct box, but it hasn’t yet figured out how or if it would share that revenue with Microsoft, as it currently does with search ads.

Yahoo emphasized that it had built instant search first (though it never released it) and that it owns patents on both that technology and the new technology.

Neither Irving or Seth would say what Yahoo would do with those patents.

Irving tried to be diplomatic.

“Licensing is something we have done in the past and continue to do in the future,” Irving said.

Yahoo expects to license the service to others around the web and seems confident it’s built the future of search — even as the tech world has written the firm off as a third-place player destined to keep falling behind.

It’s not clear if Yahoo’s figured out search’s future, but Direct Search is incredibly fast and could prove to be so useful that we’ll all soon forget when we had to type a full word and hit Enter to figure something out.

And combined with Yahoo’s promising new tablet-publishing platform Livestand, we may just be seeing a revitalized Yahoo that is actually a tech company once again, despite its recent financial woes and layoffs.

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Copyright 2010 Wired.com.


5 Predictions for 2011

February 10, 2011

Here are 5 Technology predictions for 2011, but first how did we do with the 10 predictions we made a year ago for 2010. I’ll highlight a few here and you can read more at https://outofchaosblog.wordpress.com/?s=predictions

1. Increased shift towards online sales. Online sales increased 30% plus for most retailers over this last holiday season. Amazon’s sales hit a record $10 billion in the last quarter – a 33% increase from same quarter last year. Whereas Brick & Mortar stores were lucky to eeck out 2%. With the rough Winter weather in the Northeast and Midwest, expect more folks to do their shopping from home as 2011 gets underway.

3. Search engines will interface with social media. Where is most of the online content coming from these days? Social media, of course. So it only makes sense that the Search Engines, to keep up, have to produce Social Media results and they did as predicted last year. You’ll even see realtime Twitter feeds appear scrolling on some of your Google searches.

5. Increase in people trying to find and save money online. Well this is no surprise, but the trend picked up speed with the use of smartphones last year. You could actually take pictures of products in the store and then get the best prices online. This was a real factor this past holiday shopping season for the first time. Shopping for my wife’s favorite perfume at the mall, I found myself shopping prices by Android and it was much cheaper online!

8. Proliferation of social gaming. Social gaming took off last year. Games like Farmville, Angry Birds, and even Poker took off in Facebook and on other Social platforms.  Expect to see even more robust games this year.

10. Further development of 3D technology and further penetration of 3d into traditional media. We predicted it but underestimated the traction it would have. Besides the huge success of 3D Movies. 3D TV and Games are invading the scene. 3D TV  will go past the early adopters this year to the mainstream as expensive clunky 3D glasses are replaced by either light inexpensive ones or no glasses at all!

Predictions for 2011

1>     Digital eBooks Replace Paper Books. Book publishing is changing so fast that blood is flowing in the street. Amazon sold more eBooks than paper books for the first time. More and more authors are bypassing traditional publishers to to go direct to eBook. This isn’t just no-name vanity publishing. Authors like Stephen King have already done this. The fact that eBook versions of Bestsellers are 60% to 80% cheaper than their paper siblings provides a strong financial incentive for this change. Throw in saving the trees and reading in the dark and why wouldn’t you switch?

Kindle

Kindle

Personally, I have been reading eBooks for years but I have always enjoyed the tactile experience of reading a real book and I’m a big reader! However, this year, I downloaded the free Kindle software onto my Android and I find the reading experience and the convenience just beats the traditional paper experience. I’ve gone 100% eBook and am starting to unload, sell and clear the clutter of my paper library out of the house. I believe you will all ultimately do the same.

2>     Social Applications dominate the Web. By now you’ve either played or heard of Farmville and Angry Birds. Since these programs cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 to create and are yielding $ million(s) per month, you can bet you will see many, many more. These fall into a new category called ‘Casual gaming’ and it is attracting a much broader demographic ,including women and older people, than the hard-core Xbox and Playstation gamers.
And it’s not just games. You will see multi-media rich and business applications popping up inside Facebook in abundance this year.

3>     Apple becomes the most valuable Company in the World: for a company that was on life-support only a few years ago, this is an amazing statement. Apple’s Market cap is already more than Microsoft and when it hits $422 per share(now $353), it will pass Exxon to be #1. With the iPad rapidly becoming the fastest  selling higher end product of all time; Apple iPhones for sale on Verizon’s network for the first time; and a seemingly endless stream of market-savvy innovations, I believe this will happen this year.

4>     A New Online Paradigm will arrive. Amazon, eBay, Google, and facebook – what do they all have in common? They leveraged the special advantages of the Internet to create brand new concepts of human interaction, communication and commerce. We used to call this the ‘Digital Advantage.’ Let me give you an example. The first step that traditional retailers take when they go from selling in the store to selling online, is take their store products, catalog pictures and descriptions and put them online to sell. This is all well and good and can work for some. The big breakthroughs come, when someone creates something online that can’t be done offline in the ‘real’ world. For example, eBay can only exist with the digital connection it can make globally to run an auction with millions of participants not just 100 people in a barn. Facebook uses the digital connection to keep us in touch in ways that we never could before.
So what’s next? I believe we are still in early adolescence with the World Wide Web and great new paradigms seem to come along every 2 years. We’re due. What will it be? I don’t know yet – do you?

5>     Electronic Fashion Takes Off. When we were kids, did anybody carry their school books in a backpack? Of course not. Now, where did that fad come from and do you know any kids without a backpack? Well all these devices we carry around need to go somewhere. Guys, in particular, don’t want to start carrying handbags and women don’t have much room left in theirs.

So expect more companies like Scottevest, with its line of iPad and iPod compatible clothing to spread like backpacks across the landscape. See

Now the first round will be utilitarian like Scotte, but expect color and fashion to enter soon after.  In fact, if you’d like a diamond iPad case, for $20,000, you can but it now!

diamond-ipad-case

Diamond iPad Case

http://www.ipadaccessories.com/ipad-cases/world%E2%80%99s-most-expensive-and-ridiculous-diamond-ipad-case

If you have some other predictions of your own, please share them here. If you can imagine it . . . .


Videochat and Social Media: The Missing Link

June 22, 2010

  

It’s time to take videochat seriously. Videochat a prime example of futuristic technology that would’ve seemed unimaginable 30 years ago but is currently available. You can have a decent-quality video phonecall with someone thousands of miles away in realtime – why hasn’t this technology taken off? The key lies in social media.

Now that Apple is taking on videochat with “Facetime” on iPhone 4 we can expect some major steps forward in the technology and hopefully in the popularity of this area of communication. Virtually all computers nowadays are equipped with webcams, but people are generally only using these to record video rather than to make live calls. Usually people blame this on the lack of quality and consistency in leading videochat programs like Skype, but in reality the quality is there, it’s just not being used. The problem with current videochat programs can be understood more deeply if you look at them in comparison with videochat’s predecessor: instant messaging.

The online plain of videochat currently looks almost exactly the way instant messaging used to. Sites like stickam and tinychat provide public video chatrooms as well as the ability to create private rooms, similar to the old aol chatrooms. Skype can be equated to AIM, the instant messaging program used ubiquitously for the past 6 or 7 years – at least by middle and high school students. But instant messaging has moved on; now almost all instant messaging dialogues take place over facebook chat, a huge change considering the past popularity of AIM. Skype has the same problem AIM did, it requires you to seek out your friends through their service and create a buddy list which is unique to Skype. Facebook Chat stole instant messaging away from AIM simply because every friend you could ever want to chat with is at your fingertips; you don’t have to find out their special username – you’re already friends with them. Considering the natural trend of tech it seems logical to say that we can expect videochatting to become easier, more reliable, and following these, more popular. The moment it’s possible to create a lightweight decent-quality videochat program within Facebook – expect Skype to disappear.


Google Chrome OS: Evolving the Operating System

May 26, 2010
 
“…the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web.”
-Sundar Pichai, Google VP Product Management

The Question

Consider that statement. It’s not a bad point. When using your computer, how much time do you spend on the web versus using purely offline software? Maybe that proportion is more reasonable at work, but consider how you use your computer during free time. Think about the way your kids use their laptop; the way the general public use their computers and phones and any web-enabled device. The truth is that most of the functionality of computers has shifted onto the internet. If most people look through their programs nowadays they realize that perhaps the only programs they’re using are the ones that came with Microsoft Office – word processing, spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations. The other program used most often is probably iTunes or some other media player. How many of these can be replaced with free online applications which have equivalent capabilities or even more advanced and useful tools due to their foundation in the internet? Is your entire operating system one of those programs?

The Answer

With the ever-increasing interest in netbooks, the popularity of the iPad and smartphones which use lightweight operating systems; it has become clear that peoples’ priorities have changed when it comes to leisurely computing. We want functionality, sure, but with an emphasis on speed and ease-of-use. Imagine, then, an operating system which runs exclusively on netbooks. An operating system that starts up and is running in a matter of seconds; where the only real program is an internet browser and the functionality is defined by internet-based applications. Imagine that it is open-source (meaning anyone can develop and improve the project) and that the operating system itself is free (meaning the price is defined only by the hardware you’re willing to pay for). This operating system is the Google Chrome OS, due out in the second half of this year (probably towards the very end of it). But let’s talk about Chrome in detail:

  • Speed: Because the Chrome OS is basically entirely internet-based, it’s extremely lightweight and therefore extremely fast. The speed of your computer’s functionality is defined by the speed of your internet connection.
  • Security: You might think that with everything you do on computer occurring on the web you’ll be more vulnerable to viruses, malware, and hackers. That won’t be the case though, as Google is working to make the Chrome OS the safest browser available. The first thing it’ll have going for it is the same thing that keeps Apple’s Mac OSX safe from malicious attacks: it simply will not be as popular as Windows. Hackers and the like are interested in doing as much damage as possible, so there’s just no incentive to write a virus that’ll affect an operating system that doesn’t have the largest market share. But Google isn’t satisfied with trusting hackers and viruses to just ignore their system, in fact the entire security system of the Chrome OS will be based on lack of trust. Chrome won’t trust any of its applications, and they will all run in “sandboxes” – sequestered virtual space which keeps the app from having an effect on other apps, the structure of the OS, or from involving itself with the network. In a way, Chrome won’t even trust itself, in that every time it restarts the OS will analyze its code and if it has been compromised, it has been designed to fix itself. Also, because it is open-source, Google will have countless developers discovering any bugs or flaws, constantly alerting Google to these issues, and finding ways to fix them.
  • Functionality: The biggest qualm probably any user will have about the Chrome OS is the fear that they will lose the core “usability” of their computer. No one would really like to admit to themselves the majority if not nearly all of their computing power is spent on internet usage. And the truth is that we do need the more heavy-duty software every once in awhile: students need to write papers, almost everyone needs to make spreadsheets and presentations. We don’t trust these lightweight user-made apps to handle those important functions for us. But what people often don’t realize is that Google has created web-based application versions of these programs, and in most cases they are just as good and often better than the ones Microsoft has provided us.
  • It’s called Google Docs and it’s sleeker and faster and in lots of ways more useful than Microsoft Office. Because it’s internet based, Google Docs allows you to collaborate on documents in real-time with other people in other offices or other countries instead of constantly making changes and emailing things back in forth or having to share screens. And because it’s from Google, Docs is constantly being improved and updated in response to users’ needs and requests. Not to mention the obvious: Google Docs is much faster than Microsoft Office can ever hope to be. Oh and it’s free, very much anything Microsoft has ever offered.
  • So that’s Chrome’s advantage over Windows, but what about Apple’s OS which also runs on applications and pretty much introduced and popularized the idea? The main difference is Google’s Open Source Philosophy. On Google’s Chrome OS, all web-apps are Chrome Apps. Apple closes off its hardware in two ways: it’s only open to applications written within Apple’s special framework, and it must be approved by Apple and not contradict their interests as a company in any way. Apple has been known to prevent applications from reaching the public because though they would drastically benefit users, they would take profit away from Apple. Consistent with its image as a company, Google prioritizes the users over itself, and any app available on the web is available to someone running Google Chrome OS. This means you have all of Google’s online software capabilites, plus the countless applications designed by users on the web, not to mention the embedded media player Google plans on providing which you can bet will be more open than Apple’s iTunes (Have you ever tried to get a music file into your iTunes that wasn’t bought from Apple or on a burned cd? I wouldn’t expect those issues from Google)
  • Cost: Google plans on providing the Chrome OS for free on dedicated netbooks. That means that how much you spend comes down only to the companies who sell the netbooks. Considering prices now, you might expect at most to spend $300 or $400 dollars for a netbook which comes with Chrome. Basically, it’ll cost you less to have a fully functioning computer than it costs just to buy Windows alone.
  • Conclusions

    Google Chrome OS enabled netbooks will start coming out later this year, and it’s hard not to imagine getting one (if you can stomach the conversion away from your current programs). The Chrome OS will provide in a lightweight package what seems to be missing in devices like the iPad: an actual computer, not just a scaled-up smartphone. The significance of Chrome is that it marks an evolution of computing deeper into the internet. By shifting the major functionality of computers onto the internet connectivity becomes key and collaboration becomes the bedrock of creation. Chrome seems to be in line with the natural, beneficial evolution of technology – faster, cheaper, and more connected. Apple will sell you a product that looks better, costs more, is more stimulating but when it comes down to it, does less because Apple is so obsessed with image that it closes its development process off to the public. Microsoft will sell you a product that does quite a lot but is plagued with problems and is slow both in functionality and adaptability. I’m putting my stock in Google, which as it moves into the field of operating systems, is set to provide users with everything users need and want: a faster operating system, a better operating system, an operating system based on an open platform which is adaptive and ever-expanding, an operating system that costs you nothing at all.

    Chrome OS Announcement: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html

    Chromium Open Source Project Announcement: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/releasing-chromium-os-open-source.html

    Google Docs: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/next-generation-of-google-docs.html


    Twitter – Getting Started

    May 3, 2010

    A friend of mine recently said to me, ‘I just don’t get Twitter.’ You may have heard or thought this yourself. It’s the fastest growing digital medium for News, Social Interaction, and developing new business relationships.

    So to help my friend and others, here is a simple ‘Get Started Guide.’

    1> Most important: follow a lot of other people. If you follow someone, they will most likely will follow you back. But who to follow? Use the Search box and put in topics that interest you like ‘Baseball,’ ‘Investing,’ etc. Then read the Tweets that come up. If somebody has made an interesting comment, click on their picture to read their profile. If you like, follow them. They will most likely follow you back.

    2> Post interesting stuff yourself, because when the people you follow look up your profile, they’ll want to see that you have something interesting to say. Then they will be more likely to follow you.

    3> Retweet things you find interesting. Retweets not only show up on your profile but also show up to all the Followers of the person you retweeted so some of their followers may follow you.(That’s a sentence you could never imagine writing 10 years ago!)

    4> Read a Blog Post I did awhile back that you may find helpful.
    https://outofchaosblog.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/pathfinder-newsletter-twitter-your-way-to-success/

    5> Most of all interact, learn and have fun with it!


    A Guide to Advertising on Facebook

    January 14, 2010

    Targeting

    Facebook presents businesses with the opportunity to reach their target market throughout the entire marketing cycle. While a small percentage of users are ready to purchase while they’re browsing Facebook, a much larger percentage of users are going to make a purchase in the future rather than at the moment they see your ad.

    Fortunately you have the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with your customer and that’s what Facebook is most useful for. It’s a platform to build ongoing relationships and “remarket” to your customers, as Facebook says in some of their own marketing copy. Understanding that these users are not ready to purchase is key to success on Facebook.

    Often times on Google, advertisers will create an ad which targets every person in a single country and then split test two ad versions against each other. On Facebook this model will do nothing but cost you money. Placing a generic ad that’s targeted at an entire country, without any additional targeting, will do nothing but get you a lot of clicks and waste a lot of money for the most part.

    Define Your Market

    In order to become an effective Facebook advertiser, you need to have effectively defined your market. This will help you to take advantage of the 11 targeting factors that Facebook currently provides. To help define your market, you can go through the market segmentation process. This involves defining the need your company satisfies and then more thoroughly defining who your customer is.

    After exhaustively defining who your customer is, you’ll be more effective at defining the targeting factors to be used in Facebook advertisements.

    Split Test Ads By Demographic

    Let’s say that you’ve created an advertisement that’s targeted at CEOs of companies in the Northeast region of the United States. You can create two advertisements and compare which version of the ad results in a larger response. An example lesson learned would be that “CEOs in the Northeast region tend to respond better to ads with the word ‘influence’ over the word ‘power’”.

    As you narrow your targeting, you can begin to adjust your advertisements even further. For example, as a second step you can now create separate ads for CEOs in the Boston area and CEOs in the New York metropolitan area.

    Targeting Factors Outlined

    Facebook provides 11 targeting factors for advertisers. Below is an outline of each of those factors:

    1. Location – Facebook enables advertisers to target by country, state/provice, city, and metropolitan areas. All advertisements are required to have a location selected. This should be pretty straight-forward as to which location you’d like to select.
    2. Age – Age is a standard demographic factor. Most marketers that have a well defined target-market will be able to select their age.
    3. Birthday – This is one of Facebook’s latest advertising targeting filters. It should be pretty obvious what types of ads should be presented to people whose birthday it is. Try wishing the user a happy birthday and offer them a gift for higher conversion rates.
    4. Sex – Gender is another typical targeting filter for Facebook.
    5. Keywords – Keywords will are based on a user’s profile information including Activities, Favorite Books, TV Shows, Movies, and more. What types of products do your customers like? Spend time on this field and you’ll be rewarded.
    6. Education – While you can target based on their level of education, this is most effective for targeting ads based on the schools that people went to. Want to announce a reunion for the University of Illinois class of 1996? This is a great way to promote it.
    7. Workplaces – This is another great targeting filter. Oftentimes you will know the companies that your target market works at. If you are looking to get new clients or looking to spread awareness within specific organizations, this filter can be priceless.
    8. Relationship – Want to target people that are about to get married? This is a great tool for that. If you are a bar or club, you most likely want to go after those people that are single. While this filter can be useful, you also need to keep in mind that selecting any of these settings will remove all users that haven’t selected a relationship status in their profile.
    9. Interested In – This factor is useful if a user’s sexual preferences are relevant to whatever you are advertising.
    10. Languages – If your ad is in English but the user speaks Chinese, it’s probably not a good idea to be displaying ads to them.
    11. Connections – The connections allow you to include and exclude users based on pages, events, and applications that the users have joined and you happen to be the administrator of. If you’ve created a Page and don’t want the ads to display to people who have already joined, this is a great way to avoid duplicate clicks.

    If you aren’t taking advantage of the numerous targeting factors then you aren’t using Facebook advertising effectively. In order to have an increased conversion rate on your advertisements, increase the targeting in order to make the advertisement more relevant for the users. Relevance will get people to respond to your ad.

    Why is this powerful?

    • The demographics are far more accurate than most data (age, sex, gender preference, relationship, etc.)
    • The deep data – being able to choose to market to employees of specific companies – should be an amazing tool for the right advertiser
    • The keyword associations that people have with their Facebook accounts are correlated quite highly with true interests
    • The “approximate reach” number gives you great insight into your target market size (even if you never place an ad)

    Building Relationships

    Facebook is about relationship marketing, not direct sales. That means it’s more important to build a relationship with a potential client or an existing customer than to close a sale right away.

    Through Facebook advertising, users can become a fan or RSVP to an event directly from an ad. At that point, you have the opportunity to interact directly with that individual and build a relationship. If you had directed a user to your website, you would have been forced to have them enter a form or make a purchase right away. The odds of getting a user to fill out a form or make a purchase immediately is far less than getting them to become a fan of a Page or RSVPing to an event.

    In addition to having an increased conversion, you are also now able to reach out to individuals directly if you wish. For example if someone RSVPs to an event, but you don’t know who they are, you can send them a message welcoming them to the event and inquiring about more information. This form of relationship building is used to build lasting customers, not one time purchases, and it is core to Facebook marketing.

    Measure initial conversions as fans, comments, and likes. Since most users will not make a purchase right away, you need to make sure that you are at least engaging them. Follow-up with your fans often and consistently.

    Think Long-Term

    In terms of sales, the payoff will be further down the line so be prepared to spend over weeks and months, don’t blow your budget in a day. Unless you are an affiliate marketer (who has distinctly different goals), you should be invested in the advertising for the long haul. A one-week campaign is not going to bring you riches, but a long-term investment in advertising can produce measurable results.

    This means don’t spend beyond your means for one week and have no money left at the end. Instead, set reasonable budgets that you’ll be able to handle for longer periods of time.

    Monitor Your Ad Performance And Adjust Accordingly

    Put the daily spending budget into place at a low level while you see how much traffic and at what cost you will get it. Keep a close eye on your campaigns, especially the first week. (Weekends can vary drastically from week days.)

    Facebook provides advertisers with a number of monitoring tools including their basic ad manager area as well as downloadable data about each campaign you are running. If you visit the ad reports area you can download three types of reports to determine how your campaigns and ads are performing: advertising performance, responder demographics, responder profiles.

    The primary things to monitor are clicks, click through rates (CTR), actions, action rates, and CPC. Each of these variables will differ depending on what type of campaign that you’re running but in theory, the more targeted your ad, the higher click through rate you should have. Additionally, your click through rate will tend to go down over time as your entire target population views your ad and decides whether or not they want to respond.

    Test Landing Pages Versus Facebook Pages

    In traditional online advertising, users are directed to a landing page from which they are prompted to fill in information in a form. This information is then typically used to send marketing literature. On Facebook, you want to build relationships but if the relationships you are building aren’t generating any revenue, you may want to diversify your advertising strategy by including some landing pages.

    Yes, building relationships are extremely valuable and despite those users never making a purchase, they can become effective brand advocates that ultimately drive new customers to your business. For smaller businesses, investing in brand advocates is often considered to be a costly proposition which is why investing in some direct sales is always useful.

    The point of this law is that Facebook advertising combined with relationship marketing cannot be your only strategy. You need to generate sales and sometimes that means being direct and converting a customer.

    Creating Your Ad

    Conversion is primarily about two things: your ad copy and the landing page. If your advertisement doesn’t provide a call to action, there is a good chance that the user won’t respond. 

    Be creative. You will most likely be spending dimes on the ads, and there’s almost nothing to lose if they don’t work. This is a perfect chance to take a risk, assuming you’re closely watching your ad performance.

    Use great images. The wonderful thing Facebook ads open up is the ability to use images easily. For very low costs you can find images that you can purchase the rights to, and use on your ads.

    Sources

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/facebook-advertising-an-opportunity-to-reach-powerful-users-at-very-low-cost

    http://www.businessinsider.com/10-rules-for-advertising-on-facebook-2009-7


    10 Internet Predictions for 2010

    December 24, 2009

    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.combigdeal.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?


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