The year that will be: a closer look at predictions for 2008

Part way into the new year is usually a pretty good time to reflect back upon the predictions made for the upcoming months.  With a bit of luck last year’s hype has begun to fade away and some patterns of how things will pan out begin to emerge. 

A great weakness of the internet is that anyone and everyone can have an opinion and share it with the world. Conversely, diversity of opinion and viewpoint is also one of the internet’s greatest strengths.  With that in mind, I chose to look in more in detail at some fairly diverse views of what 2008 may hold in the hope of seeing a common vision.

That great American brains trust, PEW Internet (part of the PEW Internet and American Life Project) had a few interesting ideas (with at least one bad one) in the PEW predictions for 2008:

  • consumers going green and starting to choose products based on power consumption over raw performance
  • rise of ultraportables and smart phones (part of a growing trend for truly mobile computing?)
  • a bandwidth crunch as everyone streams video (it wouldn’t be a predictions compilation without one person predicting this)
  • social network growth slowing, forcing the plethora of networks to compete with each other and maybe even innovate
  • honourable mentions for WiMAX and virtualisation

Web mavens Read/Write Web had a much longer list of where it will be at in 2008, but the condensed version predicts:

  • semantic apps (Richard McManus’ favourite little thing, despite the fact that no one else knows what he means)
  • the big boys Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla owning the market with web services (think Amazon’s S3 and Mozilla’s Weave)
  • various acquisitions (Thinkfree and Zoho web office suites)
  • open standards (keep dreaming, guys)
  • more acquisitions (Twitter, Tumblr, Digg)
  • mobile everything
  • epic fail for OpenSocial

Douglas Karr at the Marketing Technology Blog ironically needs 7 separate elaborated points to explain that 2008 will be about the "micro" with:

  • smaller and smaller social networks
  • greatly increased granularity in web service customisation
  • "micro blogging"
  • quick and dirty video recording and uploading services like QIK and Seesmic (think whatever Scoble has attached himself to this week)
  • geo-coding everything.

Then there’s Adam Ostrow of Mashable and his delightful list of 2008 future guesses (which I have already disastrously misread once, hopefully I won’t again):

  • News Corp selling Myspace (and guess what, News Corp is considering trading Myspace for a slice of Yahoo)
  • Hulu getting popular (I still maintain that streaming TV shows to your computer is a substandard way of doing it until computers in the living room is a nearly universal concept – I like to think that I’m pretty geeky, but the closest I get to that is watching some video in full screen on my laptop)
  • mobile everything
  • blogs becoming the target of acquisitions (if VentureBeat can get A-Round seed funding, acquisitions can’t be far behind)
  • Gmail out of beta (the Google Operating System blog has word that the beta tag should have come off years ago)
  • Facebook going mainstream (you mean it isn’t already? – two weeks ago I had my late middle-aged boss and another 60 something co-worker ask me about Facebook within hours of each other)
  • start-ups avoiding acquisition by grouping together
  • Microsoft buying out Yahoo! (yes, Adam is the only one I know of who actually predicted this would happen this year)
  • LinkedIN suddenly realising it has no sustainable business model and getting bought out.

There is a lot of difference but I do see some core points coming through.

Mobile computing one form or another is going to be big this year.  Apple has lead the way in making the old seem new again with the iPhone (still not available here in Australia) and the MacBook Air.  It goes deeper than the latest sexy Apple gadget.  The Asus eeePC sold out in Australia the first weekend it came on the market.  Since that release, it seems like a week can’t go by without another company launching a cheap, low-end ultra-portable.  Smart phones are becoming less for the corporate types and more for the trendy consumers and even my decidedly old-tech 3G Motorola Razr V3x gets used on a daily basis for surfing the web and checking my news feeds.

Markets do seem to be segmenting, and fast.  Last week I joined yet another social network, this time one reserved for the exclusive use of Golden Key Honours graduates (yay me!).  6 months ago this would have been set up as just a group on Facebook, but the growing popularity of white-label solutions like Ning means that just about every conceivable micro-group can have its own exclusive online community where everyone can shun difference together.

It’s a bit of a no-brainer to suggest that there will be acquisitions aplenty.  I’m not sure if I agree with the proposed targets, however.  Sure, Twitter has massive mind share and owns a large chunk of the micro-blog space but the service is up and down like my credit card bill and no one can agree just how the hell to make any money off it (coincidentally, also like my credit card bill).    There are plenty of up and coming services that will be available at the right price at the right time.

As for my own tips, I’m not quite sure what to expect.  I see virtualisation in my future, particularly when it comes to testing some development ideas as they go forward.  Niche social networks will gain in popularity (and none of them will be acquired – trust me on this one).  Mobile computing will become the thing to talk about but the devices themselves will struggle in the absence of either widespread free wi-fi hotspots or extensive and stable 3G network coverage with affordable data plans (neither of which Australia has in abundance right now – I guess no mobile gadgetry for me then).

2008 – the virtual mobile social network with an attractive price tag.  You read it here last.



Photo credit – psd "A vision of the web in 2008"

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