We are nearing the end of 2007 so human nature forces me to look back and forth, thinking about things that happened and things to come. I am by no means a good trend or technology predictor, but here’s my take on it.
Looking back the most talked and blogged about subject is probably Facebook and it’s plans with monetization of their build up social graph. The story remains a top item on TechMeme, and it is a controversy as most either love or hate their Beacon attempt. Now that we are slowly recuperating from the privacy backlash they received, the next thing already being discussed is the possible inflation of visitor numbers or even the stealing of people from other companies. Facebook is now getting payback for the hype that was created around it. This almost seems Dutch behavior. In Holland we tend to talk anyone down sticking his head above the play field. Facebook is in that league now and I predict for 2008 that they will get into more trouble than they are already in right now. Not because they might be doing things wrong, but more likely because they are becoming too popular and the blogging community seems to be smelling blood. And that isn’t good. Fear isn’t what Facebook needs now. It needs leadership and making the right choices together with its users.
Looking forward towards 2008 I feel that the time is there to make some major changes in the current web. We need technological barriers to be taken down by developments such as Android, openSocial, OAuth, and OpenID. It will take time, but in the end the user wins. I’m not going to worry too much about the technology needed, it always finds a way. More interesting is to think about human nature and the needs that we might need fulfilling in 2008.
More than 2006, when Time Magazine unfortunately called YOU the most important person of the year, I think and hope 2008 will be the year where the user gets his long-wanted freedom back. 2008 will be a year in which we will see the first brand/portal/network/social graph/device- agnostic services pop up. What does all of that mean? It means that the portal or network concept we are so used to is slowly replaced by initiatives where the user isn’t locked in, but viewed as a traveler reaching a place where service is required.
If you think about the user becoming a traveler instead of a profile in a network or social graph then you quickly realise that current service isn’t all that fit to service the traveler. We have walled gardens, locked data, privacy issues, spam, free but ad-based web business models, crappy mobile to Internet solutions, locked mobile phones and networks, a total lack of standards, competition on the network and profile layer instead of on the application service layer, customer “lock-in”, advertisers “lock-in”, iPhone wannahaves, Beacon, DRM, etc. Essentially things that are meant to keep you locked into a specific place, instead of letting you move around wherever you want to go.
But a traveler really doesn’t need all that. What would you take with you when you go on a trip? Basic needs probably include:
A passport that identifies you at all destinations, a traveling bag where you can keep your personal belongings, money, food, drink, a good map for the area you travel to, a language guide, and easy ways for you to: obtain relevant information/keep track of/meet/interact with friends and strangers.
It is a very basic and simple list of needs. Translate these needs onto the (mobile) web and we can easily come up with services that address these needs. Entrepreneurs need to think more in terms of running a gas station on a freeway waiting for a car to arrive and servicing the traveler, instead of becoming an amusement park owner, letting children drive a Donald duck car, but only if you visit Disneyland. This sounds easy enough, but with it comes a radical change in business models. Not based upon page views or clicks, as these are easily inflated, but based upon user value.
As Rolf Skyberg puts it, the network should become the commodity. The question is, who’s going to do the plumbing?
My hopes for now lie with new initiatives like OpenSocial, and Android, because they do the open “talk”. Let’s see if they can do the “walk” too. Let it be noted that I could care less about the Social Graph, web 3.0, or whatever you want to call it. It is time to free the people, who will take the first step in 2008?