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Predictions for 2009

– What Does the New Year Hold in Store for the Web?

I decided I was going to take a stab at what’s going to be hot and what’s not, in 2009 with regards to the Web, the Internet, Social Media, Social Networking, etc. etc.

Crystal Ball

Most people, these days have heard of Social Networking giant Facebook.  What most people probably don’t realise, however, is that Facebook is not generating any real Value for money, for it’s advertisers.  As a once frequent customer of Facebook, I used to spend countless hours on Facebook, discovering old school friends, uncovering the past, and reconnecting up with those people, but now that that’s done, and we occasionally communicate with each other, it seems like all that fuss has just gone away..

Instead, it’s been taken over by Twitter – that provides more immediacy in the conversations, more instant engagement, and more real feedback, and sense of community…  It’s like blogging, in short form – but even Twitter has yet to monetise – and therein lies the challenge…

In 2009 – I predict we’re going to start to see a number of self-monetising startups.  Built on the back of services like Twitter, and Facebook, they will increase user engagement and provide a platform for real conversations to take place, that lead to tangible results.  Peer to peer marketing,  and WOM marketing, is going to slowly start creeping into the marketplace, replacing the traditional CPC and Keyword based advertising.

Online/commercial advertising is also going to slowly start to change.  With metrics, and measures for ROI on social media, and community impact assessments starting to emerge, people will be able to directly see the difference in a pound spent, buying keywords, vs. a pound spent, thanking a vocal supporter of a brand/product.

With all this public display of conversations around brands, and products, consumers will start to get a real life line into the companies they consume from, and through concerted peer pressure, and publicly mocking, and naming and shaming those organisations with bad practices, and unsustainable models of business, there will start to be a greater shift towards companies publishing more openly and more transparently what they consume, produce, and re-sell.  Consumers will also more strongly advocate, and support companies, and examples of people doing things “right”, so the early adopters will get additional kudos, as well as experience significant positive gains, from being ahead of the curve.

Equally, this lifeline will allow companies to understand more accurately, what the clients are looking for, and prepare them to share useful information, about their work, or their services, or their products, which will then get translated into a sale.

One of the biggest changes that will come about during 2009, will be the rise of the educated, empowered consumer, who, armed with the right knowledge, connected to the right friends, can co-ordinate and organise mass rallies across the country, and internationally, whenever a wrong is enacted, or some organisation acts in a way that is inappropriate or uncalled for.

Video will see a downturn, whilst mobile micro blogging services will become even more mainstream, and start to be offered as integral to the package, as SMS, or Data.

Advances in micro-blogging will extend into the developing world, where more people with cell phone usage will be able to communicate using a hybrid blend of asynchronous communication, via a twitter like service, something akin to SMS, and a mobile handheld device.

We may also start to see more handheld devices, that act as “internet” gateways, providing access to services like Qik that let you stream audio, or video directly online, for all to see, and also permit the easy access to email, social networks, and status updates.

There will also be a clear convergence in the market place between online social networks, and messaging/email platforms, that will mean people will log on, in once place, and from there, they will be able access all their rich conversation streams.

Information will start to be referred to as flows, with different streams of information providing information about different topics, and subjects.  Individuals will start to be trusted as sources of reliable information, and their streams will be more publicly in demand, whilst people with polluted information streams will start to be more openly ignored, and blocked.

Managing information streams, and selectively filtering and distributing information flows, will become an art unto itself, and experts in various fields and different disciplines will generate these information flows, and start to publicly publish them.  As a consequence, not only will these experts be known for the quality of the work they produce, but also the quality of the information streams they generate.

Marketing, and advertising budgets will slowly start to be spent increasingly on cultivating communities around the customers, and people recommending products, and services, will start to see incomes being derived from referring, and recommending products and services, based on genuine experiences, and real authentic recommendations.

So in 2009, keep an eye out for services like SocialMedian who allow you to crowdsource your news from your peers.  Any service that can tap into your networks wisdom, and share with you the “best” wisdom as determined by the people you choose to associate with, will definitely be a time saver, and a crowd pleaser, in a world where increasingly information overload is the order of the day, watch out for more crowdsourcing tools rising to the fore in 09.

Also, watch out for services like Gist, and Xobni – who purport to save you time, in your inbox, and help you create context around, the chaos that is “email”, and messaging.  What they do, is start from your inbox, and help you find and organise, and sort the people you’re talking with, allowing you, to an extent to start to identify either other useful information about a person, or to start to help you find more of what a particular person you’ve spoken to has said.  I think these tools will have a limited shelf life, as they mature, since they aren’t necessarily tackling the problem of email in the most elegant of ways, but props to them for attempting to engage with such a behemoth of a challenge ;)

What will really start making a real impact in 2009, will be services that start helping you navigate your social graph, across social networks.  There’s potential in services like PeopleBrowsr who are looking to start bringing some of those information streams from different platforms, through a single service, and then tagging and grouping information streams, and republishing them..

But the real winners in 2009, in my eyes, are going to be the services that can help you effortlessly navigate your social graph, across any platform, and keep the information flowing, without relying on you having to set up the context of groups, and people you know in each platform.  A single login screen, that brings you all your content, in one place, and lets you see all the content from your friends in one place.

Friendfeed sort of works, in that in theory you can bring all your content into one place, but it’s interface, and usability leave a lot to be desired.

2009 is going to be the year of the “Social Browser” – helping us organise, filter, and co-ordinate our information streams, regardless of where they come from, or how they are generated.  When we want to know what people are upto – we’ll be able to find out.

So watch out 2009 – “Surfing the Web”, is soon going to become a thing of the past, and people will increasingly start to “Surf their Communities”..  Now let’s see how the year plays out..

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