So, One Year Later, How’d I Do?

Each year I make predictions. Each year, I review them and see how I did. Then, I make some more. Alright then. Here's my 2004 predictions post, written in late December, 2004. As much as I might wince at the one or two clunkers, I'd say I did pretty…

Crystal Ball-TmEach year I make predictions. Each year, I review them and see how I did. Then, I make some more.

Alright then. Here’s my 2004 predictions post, written in late December, 2004. As much as I might wince at the one or two clunkers, I’d say I did pretty well on most. Here’s running commentary on each – original in itals, my comments in bold:

1. We will have a goat rodeo of sorts in the blogging/micropublishing/RSS world as commercial interests push into what many consider a “pure medium.” I’ve seen this movie before, and it ends OK. But it’s important that the debate be full throated, and so far it looks to be shaping up that way. I’m already seeing these forces at work over at Boing Boing, and I am sure they will continue. We’ll all work on figuring out ways to stick to our principles and get paid at the same time, however, I expect that things might get more contentious before they get better, and 2005 may be a more fractious year in the blogosphere as we evolve through this process.

We’ve sure had debates about taking advertising this past year, and we’ve had important folks who have sworn they’d never read a feed if it had an ad in it (update: Dave contacted me and said he does read feeds with ads in them, but sure doesn’t like em..). And we’ve had a lot of speculation about how much blogs are worth given all those eyeballs paying attention to them. I think I got this mostly right, but the debate is not at full throat quite yet.

2. Along those lines, things will not go as swimmingly as we’d like with regard to “monetization.” As the majors get into the space and start throwing around their weight and lucre, some folks will make bad decisions, and others will freeze and make no decisions at all. It will get harder to innovate before it gets easier. We’ll all be surprised by the lack of what we consider “progress” in the RSS/Blogging world, and expectations of major publishing revenues will not materialize as quickly as perhaps we think they should. However, we’ll in fact be making huge strides in understanding the path forward, it just won’t seem like it. By the end of the year, the world will begin to realize that “blogs” are in fact an extraordinarily heterogeneous ecosystem comprised of scores, if not hundreds, of different “types” of sites.

While I have not written about this much, I have to say, this is proving very, very true, in particular the parts about “it will get harder to innovate before it gets easier.” Now that I’m deep into development with FM, and have been in conversation with loads of folks at partners, peers, and the Big Guys, I am convinced there is *a lot* of work left to do to create robust platforms for blog publishing. Not the publishing software, mind you, though that can always get better. But the professional tools like statistics, analytics, and monetization platforms. We’re really, really early on all those fronts. One such place is RSS, where the majors have all made significant announcements, but it is entirely unclear what the business model will be for the content creators who drive value in the first place.

3. There will be two to five major new sites that emerge from “nowhere” to become major cultural influencers along the lines of the political bloggers of 2004. One of them will be sold to a major publisher/aggregator for what seems like a large sum of money, driving the abovementioned #2 and #1.

Well, hello MySpace,, Bloglines, flickr, and on and on….

4. Meanwhile, the long tail will become the talk of the “old line” media world. To capture some of that value, we’ll see a slew of deals and new publishing projects from the established brands that seek to capture the idea of community journalism, affiliate commerce sales, and collaborative content creation.

I think Chris has managed a major media coup – he owns the idea of The Long Tail in mainstream culture, and *before* his book has come out. That’s the power of a good blog (and Wired, of course). Meanwhile, the scramble to get into the citizen journalism and/or “user generated content” game has grown into an all out race, and the dire predictions from all sides about how the newspaper and even the cable business are threatened or near death now come daily.

5. Google will do something major with Blogger. I really have no idea what, but it’s overdue. Six Apart will grow quickly but face a crisis in its implementation as its core users demand more features that are “unbloglike” like customer databases and robust publishing support tools. This (and other things) may drive Six Apart or one of its competitors into the arms of Yahoo or AOL or even – gasp – Quark or Adobe or Marcomedia.

OK, I am simply, entirely wrong on this one. Unless you count splogs as “something major.”

6. Ask will continue to consolidate traffic by buying smaller search sites.

True, but then again, I didn’t predict IAC buying Ask, did I?

7. Yahoo and Google will both test systems that combine local merchant inventory information with search, so that merchants can use search as a direct sales channel. By the end of the year, there will be no question that the search companies are in direct competition with the ecommerce companies, but it won’t matter – there’s room for them all. Paul Ford will continue to get droves of readers to his related, and very prescient, three year old post on how Google takes over the world.

I think I nailed this one. Local merchant info is now uploadable to Google and Yahoo local, as well as Base. And when Base launched, Ford’s traffic went way up, I’m told….

8. Microsoft will lose search share before they gain it back later in the year when the integration of MSN search starts to scale with new versions of Office and IE . Net net, however, MSFT will gain total in total search sessions from last year, and its technology will get much, much better.

Recent figures show that my timing was off by a bit, MSFT is
losing share right now, but will gain it back soon, I’d wager. And the technology *is* getting much better.

9. Firefox will near 15% of total browser share. Firefox faithful will wonder why it’s not much much higher. But MSFT will release a very good upgrade of IE, see #8.

According to the latest figures I have seen, Firefox is right at about 15% market share in the US (10% worldwide). And MSFT planned a major IE update this year, but it’s late (no kidding…). IE 7 is due next quarter.

10. A third party platform player with major economies of scale (ie eBay or Amazon) will release a search related innovation that blows everyone’s mind, and has everyone buzzing about how it redefines what’s possible in search.

Thanks Amazon, for that
Alexa move last week, you made me look damn smart, and just in time.

11. The China question will become a critical issue to the search community. Defining the China question will in itself be a major task of 2005. How do search companies go in without being “evil”? Is the tradeoff worth it?

Well, this sure came up big time for Yahoo this year, and Google and Microsoft had a major China problem, but it was about hiring, not ethics. Google opened an office and went into business. So far, no hue, no cry.

12. By the end of the year, there will be no question that search is a media business, and that the major players in search are major players in the content business.

I think I gave myself a softball on this one…it was true then, it’s true now…

13. Something major will finally happen at Tivo. We all hope that it’s a sale to Apple, but if it is a sale, it will more likely be to Comcast or DirecTv.

Not a sale (yet), but deals with both that helped stabilize the company and give it some lift.

14. All year, Apple will be rumored to launch a video iPod, but it won’t – it’s still too early. By the end of 2005, we will just be starting to see traction in the video over IP market and its connection to search. Google will introduce Video search at some point in 05, but it will stay in Labs.

Holy sh*t, I was plain wrong on Apple, but right on Google Video – and yes, it’s in Labs.

15. Mobile will finally be plugged into the web in a way that makes sense for the average user and a major mobile innovation – the kind that makes us all say – Jeez that was obvious – will occur. At the core of this innovation will be the concept of search. The outlines of such an innovation: it’ll be a way for mobile users to gather the unstructured data they leverage every day while talking on the phone and make it useful to their personal web (including email and RSS, in particular). And it will be a business that looks and feels like a Web 2.0 business – leveraging iterative web development practices, open APIs, and innovation in assembly – that makes the leap. (More on this when I start posting again).

I think I was right in spirit – upon some reflection and with history’s calm glance, this past year will go down as the year that mobile became the story on the Web. But I was ahead of the market in the rest of my prediction – this will take more time than I thought. I’m pretty sure the “Web 2.0” business I mention in the prediction exists right now, I just don’t know its name, yet. Do you? Then let us know!

16. Perhaps most recklessly…I will finish my book. The reviews will be mixed, as my attempt to satisfy both the exacting audience of Searchbloggers and the more general audience of a major trade hardcover may fall flat. Many will say I tried to do too much, others that I didn’t do nearly enough (how’s that for airing my deepest fears in public?!). However, I’ll be happy with the effort, and the book will do OK, thanks mainly to the support of this community. So, ahead of time, thanks for your support this past year. I learned more from this process than I ever thought possible, and I owe it all to you, who grace my site with your time and input.

Wow. I did finish it. And I’m pleased to say that I was largely wrong about the reviews – they’ve been really, really gratifying. As have sales, personal emails, my conversations with folks about the book, your kind words on this site….I’m going to have to stop now, I’m making myself all weepy. I want to do it again. Imagine that!

17. Lastly, I will be involved in starting a new business in the field of media and technology. It will start very slowly, and I’ll screw up as much as I possibly can in the early stages, before imposing it on the rest of the world. Hopefully, you’ll all be there to keep me honest as I try to figure out a few ideas I’ve been simmering for the past year or so.

I got this one right also, but I rigged that one – I knew I wanted to start FM, and now that I’m deep into it, I have to say it’s just as thrilling and terrifying as the book, but more so – this time, I’ve got many fellow travelers, including, again, all of you. Thank you for a great year, and here’s to the next one (and yes, my predictions for 2006 are coming soon….)

PS – Here’s this same post (how I did on my 2003 predictions) from 2004

6 thoughts on “So, One Year Later, How’d I Do?”

  1. John, what you say about me is not true. I subscribe to quite a few feeds that have ads in them. I don’t like them, I can’t imagine that anyone does, and if they don’t distract too much, I don’t bother unsubbing. I try to consider the value of the feed against the negative impact of the advertising. Also I try to correctly characterize what you say, I would appreciate it if you would do the same. Thanks… Dave

  2. very interesting post John, i found it very helpfull to know what is true and what not. in many seo blogs can you read many lies and if you read many, you loose the view what is true and what not.

    PS: Cool Book 🙂

  3. Hello:

    While I agree with the statement, “the major players in the search business are the major players in the content busines,” I (a novice to search) am curious to hear John’s and others’ comments/thoughts on this trend. Which pieces of evidence are most convincing? What traditional content providers are most at risk b/c of this trend?

    Thanks for your insight!

  4. [i]OK, I am simply, entirely wrong on this one.”[/i]

    you also didn’t pick Adobe buying Macromedia – just for one more part about how you got that one wrong.

    Other than that though – not bad – bring on the 06 Predicitions.

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