free html hit counter Thoughts on 2004 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Thoughts on 2004

By - December 21, 2003

I am not sure why all of a sudden I am struck with the urge to prognosticate, but all weekend long I’ve been thinking about what might happen next year in the search/tech/media nexus. I think it has something to do with the book – my plan is to finish it by about mid year, then pray that nothing major changes for another six months while the manuscript wends its way through the vagaries of the publishing process. It’s either that, or Jeremy envy.

So I’ve been thinking about a number of things, some small, some not so small, which might happen in the next twelve months. Given that I’m writing this on the eve of Winter’s Solstice, I give you Battelle’s First Annual Solstice Hopes and Predictions for 2004. I refuse to say which are hopes, and which predictions. This way, I can claim to be right next year one way or another. Take it for what it cost you on the way in…. (see list via link below)

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1. The Web becomes a platform (again). Thanks to commerce and service APIs, RSS, and the ubiquitous interface of search, geeks around the world are again leveraging the web as a platform for cool new tools. 2004 will be the year these tools break out in something of a pre-cambrian explosion, reminiscent of the Mac in late 1980s, or CD-ROM in the early 90s. Only cooler. Examples: Grokker, Bloglines, Amazon API.

2. Along those lines (and no surprise to this readership, but still and all…), blog ecologies of like-minded folks will garner increasing cultural and social power. We’ve seen this happen first in the technology and media space, and recently politics has figured it out too. 2004 will see the rest of the world join in, especially in natural communities where power is projected: think professional verticals of finance, law, medicine, marketing. Folks who you never thought would ever blog will be coming online and claiming power. As a result, more blog ecologies will impose registration and/or subscription (the money kind, not the RSS kind…).

3. The Dutch auction/OpenIPO model will be validated. Not that it isn’t already alive and working – WR Hambrecht is proving that – but 2004 is when a major player (and it need not be Google) will take the lead and fly the bird at traditional Wall Street approaches to going public.

4. Speaking of IPOs, we’ll see a major IPO ($100 million+ sold to public) in search that isn’t Google.

5. There will be a “Tylenol Scare” in search. One of the majors – AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google – or possibly more than one will be caught up in a major privacy and/or corporate responsibility crisis. The press and consumers will freak as they realize how important – and imperfect – this thing called search is. There will be much harrumphing, then everyone will calm down, learn from the incident, and move on.

6. Once a month, a new search player will be crowned in the press as “the next Google.” One of them, in fact, could be the next Google.

7. Second generation blog/RSS aggregation sites will come close to combining directory functions with LinkedIn- and recommendation-engine-like features – think Amazon+Yahoo for the blogosphere….

8. …at about the same time Yahoo, AOL, MSN, and Google will build or buy second-generation blog/RSS aggregation sites.

9. The world will realize the importance of our digital artifacts, and takes further steps to to preserve them.

10. Cable companies will control more than 75% of the PVR market, but a backlash/new TiVo-like device (possibly from Apple) will develop by the end of the year.

11. Microsoft will have a surprise hit product that has nothing to do with Office or Longhorn, causing a minor fire drill in Redmond.

12. I’ll finish my book, try to stop writing this blog, but find it impossible to do so. Meanwhile, a deeply cool, once-in-a-decade-magazine-I wish-I-had-thought-of will launch.

So what are your predictions?

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts on 2004

  1. michael savoy says:

    Re:Prognostication #5
    There will be a “Tylenol Scare” in search. One of the majors – AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google – or possibly more than one will be caught up in a major privacy and/or corporate responsibility crisis……

    The “Tylenol Scare” incident was a case of domestic terrorism orchestrated by some sick meglomaniacal nut case seeking to derive whatever perverse pleasure he sought to fulfill not unlike the anthrax mailings that erupted after 9/11 and have since stopped.

    The story illustrated how J&J, despite the nearly unanimous conventional wisdom that Tylenol was irredeemably damaged, brilliantly transformed the crisis by not only salvaging the Tylenol line, its invaluable brand name and huge market share but also managed to turn the debacle into a magnifciently engineered marketing campaign, its corporate leadership achieving superstar status for the monumental way it improvised and set the precedent for the future of all corporate crises from that moment onward.

    My confusion about Prognistication #5 is;
    It totally escapes me what exactly is it about the ‘Tylenol Scare’ that you chose to include it as an illustration of what you predict will be a corporate responsibility crisis within the search industry in 2004.

    IMHO, your analogy is awkward, convoluted and woefully incongruent, to say the least.

    Other than that I love your site as you are one of my favorite bloggers. Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! All the Best!

  2. J.D. says:

    Re: #9
    There already is an organization attempting to preserve our digital artifacts- They’re also doing plenty of other interesting things (such as building a giant clock in the middle of the desert-

  3. Marty says:

    Another prediction

    Pharmaceutical efforts to squelch USer’s purchasing Canadian drugs, based on patient safety, run out of steam as no one is able to produce any dead Canadians.

  4. Re: Tylenol Scare: I should clarify – I meant to invoke the corporate crisis part of the scare – i.e. something terrible happens that threatens the business and the company has to manage through it – not the actual incident itself. A less than perfect methaphor.

  5. pr says:

    Well I hope yr right about those first three because I’m hoping for great things from the PAM to be released in March 04.

    It may be a sleeper for a decade like widespread encryption was but I expect great things from this distributed predictive system. So do, (maybe ) those who sent Jim Bell to jail as the first DARPA contracts were let in early 2001.
    I trust for Jims sake that revenge is a dish…with a head or two on it.

  6. Regarding # 9 (preserving our digital artifacts), the IEEE Spectrum agrees, their 2004 Technology Forecast calls for “An Infinite, and Everlasting, Archive” – what they term computing’s “Holy Grail.” However, what most seem to be missing, I think, is that the metadata – the database of intentions – is a critical piece of what must be saved. Not just the blogs, the academic papers, the sites, the documents. But the traces of our culture as we move through them, the patterns of our thought, the declarations of our intentions…this is critical too. We must save both if our descendants are to learn from what we are doing now…

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  8. mirc says:

    thank you