Todd's 2009 Predictions & Recap

It's predictions season again. As I mentioned on Friday, the Society for New Communications Fellows got their heads together a couple weeks ago on this very subject. I won't spoil the fun by sharing all of our trends and predictions, but I will look back at my own predictions from last year and some of the big trends we saw. In my next post, I'll look forward even more and make some predictions for 2010.

The Birth of Web 3.0
Despite the continued prevalence of "2.0" everywhere we turn, last year I issued a few trends/predictions on my own blog, focusing on the semantic web, or "Web 3.0" as it's sometimes being called. Here's exactly what I said late last year -- I gave a two-year timeline, so hold my feet to the fire next year on these:

  • Trust. Trust is one of two remaining economic scarcities in the Internet Economy—there’s just not much of it out there. Chris Brogan put it nicely: “Though a company like Microsoft spent millions and millions of advertising and marketing dollars trying to improve our perception of the brand, none of us gave a sh!t until Robert Scoble came along and put a human shape around their online and event presence for us.” The trust barrier will be solved by understanding how human “trust agents” (as Chris puts it) work, and by allowing us to layer “trustworthiness” over all of our online interactions (not just in search, but social networking, bookmarking, blogging, etc.)
  • Attention. Attention is the other economic scarcity remaining. There are only 24 hours in the day, and we have to sleep for a good chunk of them. The competition for the rest of them is fierce. Applications that are smartest at competing for our attention—or at helping us understand what we should be paying attention to—will have a distinct advantage in the web 3.0 world.
  • Agents. Chris Brogan talks of human trust agents, but digital agents will finally come back into the public’s view as well. I’m not talking about the old school “tickler” agent (”Hey, don’t forget you’ve got to pick the girls up from soccer practice tonight”), nor am I talking about Google Alerts (”You asked me to keep an eye out for blog posts mentioning ‘Web 3.0?, so here you go…”). It’s closer to the kind of capability you see in good contextual advertising (my favorite example of which is all the “Bacon Salt” ads I get on Facebook after I signed up as a fan of the bacon page), but it’s both cross-platform and cross functional. As just one small example, you tell it that you want to be kept abreast of upcoming social media events, and it checks, Facebook, Evite, Meetup, etc. and shares with you the events it finds, allowing you to sign up for them through its own interface.
  • RSS. I can’t tell you how wrong-headed so many interpretations of Forrester’s recent report are (Paul gets it right in this link). RSS is not dead. It’s simply buried so deep that most people don’t even know it’s there. But that doesn’t mean they’re not using it. Content syndication will be at the heart of web 3.0. It empowers almost everything I’ve been talking about in this post to some extent. Don’t sell it short. Look for ways to use it and build applications around it.
  • Semantic Web. I’m sorry. I hate to use this term. It has such negativity surrounding it. But let’s put all that bias aside for a second, and ask ourselves a question: What if there was a way, for instance, that my blogging software could understand that what I was writing about—in plain English—was an event I was trying to promote, and could translate that information so that it could automatically be shared with Upcoming, Evite, Eventbrite, Facebook, etc.? Tell me that wouldn’t be cool. The AI behind something like that isn’t too far away—hell, the Turing Test is pretty close to being passed.
  • OpenID! A conversation between myself, @RodBegbie, @al3x and @sbtodd on Twitter made me realize how important something like this will be to Web 3.0. If you assume that trust and interoperability will be at the heart of Web 3.0—go ahead, try to argue otherwise—then an idea like OpenID becomes critical. It provides a common identity platform for interoperability. YES, to quote Alex Payne, “It’s confusing for users and developers, it doesn’t bake security in, and it doesn’t solve a problem that non-geek users care about.” But it’s just confusing because nobody’s been able to explain it well. Security can presumably be fixed. And Like I said on Twitter, it might not solve a problem most non-geeks care about*, but down the road they might!

    * THIS geek certainly cares about it. I am LIVID every time some sites password security mechanism forces me to create YET ANOTHER password that I will ultimately forget. And what about interoperability? To make that happen, you’ve got to give away some security. For instance, for a lot of the cool (not to mention necessary) Twitter apps, I need to share with them my Twitter username and password. Having a security layer on top that ultimately ensured that Twhirl doesn’t have to know my password, or that I didn’t forget the super-strict password that I had to create especially for one service, could ultimately make my life easier.

Trends in 2009
The SNCR fellows called out some interesting emerging trends in 2009. Here are some highlights:

  • The line between journalism and blogging has blurred to the point that U.S. government is starting to pay attention (e.g., recent FTC rules)
  • Business schools have gotten on the social media bandwagon (finally)
  • It's easier to measure more aspects of your PR, advertising, marketing and social media programs; and big companies are rethinking how they pay for services based on this
  • Speaking of measurement, ROI was on everybody's minds and lips (but we're still not quite sure what to measure)
  • Government 2.0 is slowly, sporadically becoming reality, but (here's a surprise) very slowly
  • Privacy continues to be renegotiated
  • Customer service is now social
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