A new decade. I like the sound of that. I’m a bit late on these, but for some reason these predictions refused to be rushed. I haven’t had the contemplative time I usually get over the holidays, and I need a fair amount of that before I can really get my head around attempting something as presumptive as forecasting a year.
So I’ll just start writing and see what comes.
While past predictions have focused on specific companies and industry segments (like Internet marketing), I think I’ll try to stay meta this time. Except for Google, of course, which is still the only company in the Internet economy that can be seen from space. For now. But we’ll get to that.
1. 2010 will mark the beginning of the end of US dominance of the web. I am not predicting the decline of the US Internet market, but rather its eclipse in size and overall influence by other centers of web economies. In essence, this is not an Internet prediction, but an economic one, as the web is simply a reflection of the world, and the world is clearly moving away from a US-dominated model.
2. Google will make a corporate decision to become seen as a software brand rather than as “just a search engine.” I see this as a massive cultural shift that will cause significant rifts inside the company, but I also see it as inevitable. Google, once the “pencil” of the Internet, has become a newer, more open version of Microsoft, and it has to admit as much both to itself as well as to its public, or it will start to lose credibility with all its constituents. While the company flirted with the title of “media company” I think “software company” fits it better, and allows it to focus and to lean into its most significant projects, all of which are software-driven: Chrome OS, Android, Search, and Docs (Office/Cloud Apps).
This shift means Google will, by years end and with fits and starts, begin to minimize its efforts in media, including social media, seeking to embrace and partner rather than compete directly. This is a significant prediction, as Facebook is clearly Google’s most direct competitor in many areas, but Google will realize, if it has not already, that it cannot out Facebook Facebook, but it sure can be a better software company.
3. 2010 will see a major privacy brouhaha, not unlike the AOL search debacle but around social and/or advertising related data. Despite the rise of personalized privacy dashboards for most major sites, there is still no industry standard for how marketing data is leveraged, and there is a brewing war for that data between marketers, their agencies, and third parties like ad networks and measurement companies. Add in a querulous legislative environment, and it’s hard to imagine there not being some kind of major flap in the coming year.
4. By year’s end the web will have seen a significant new development in user interface design, one that will have gained rapid adoption amongst many “tier one” sites, in particularly those which cover the industry.
Despite nearly ten years of blogging, most publishing sites are still stuck in the mode of “post and push down,” which is, frankly, a terrible UI for anyone other than news hounds. Thanks to the three-headed force of social, gaming, and mobile, I think the PC web is due for a UI overhaul, and we’ll see new approaches to navigation and presentation evolve into a recognizable new standard.
5. (image) Apple’s “iTablet” will disappoint. Sorry Apple fanboys, but the use case is missing, even if the thing is gorgeous and kicks ass for so many other reasons. Until the computing UI includes culturally integrated voice recognition and a new approach to browsing (see #4), the “iTablet” is just Newton 2.0. Of course, the Newton was just the iPhone, ten years early and without the phone bit….and the Mac was just Windows, ten years before Windows really took hold, and Next was just ….oh never mind.
6. 2010 will see the rise of an open gaming platform, much as 2009 was the year of an open phone platform (Android). Imagine what might happen when the hegemony of current game development is questioned – I want open development for Halo and Guitar Hero, damnit!
7. Traditional search results will deteriorate to the point that folks begin to question search’s validity as a service. This does not mean people will stop using search – habits do not die that quickly and search will continue to have significant utility. But we are in the midst of a significant transition in search – as I’ve recently written, we are asking far more complicated questions of search, ones that search is simply not set up to answer. This incongruence is not really fair to blame on search, but so it goes. Add to this the problem of an entire ecosystem set up to game AdWords, and the table is set. Google will take most of the brand blame, but also do the most to address the issue in 2010.
8. Bing will move to a strong but distant second in search, eclipsing Yahoo in share. Of course, with the Yahoo deal, it’s rather hard to understand search share, but I measure it by “where search queries originate.” This is a pretty bold prediction, given the nearly 7-point spread between Bing and Yahoo now, but I think Microsoft will pick up significant share using cash to buy distribution.
9. Internet advertising will see a sharp increase, and not just from increased search and social media platform (PPC/PPA) spending. Brands will spend a lot more online in 2010, and most predictive models are not accounting for this rise.
10. (Image) This is probably a layup, but one never knows, layups are sometimes the ones you miss: The tech/Internet industry will see a surge in quality IPOs. However, at least one, if not more will be withdrawn as public scrutiny proves too costly and/or controversial. A corollary: There will also be a surge in M&A and “weak” IPO filings.
11. I’m out of my depth on this one, but it feels right so I’m going to go with it: We’ll see a major step forward in breaking the man/machine barrier. By this I mean the integration of technology and biology – yes, the same fantasy that fuels the blockbuster movies (Avatar, Matrix, Terminator). I’m not predicting a market product, but rather a paper or lab result that shows extraordinary promise.
12. I’ll figure out what I want to do with my book. SOGOTP, so to speak. Three years of predicting that I’ll start it is getting a bit old, eh? I feel good about branching back out into more contemplative fields, with FM in a strong position and our economy coming out from its defensive crouch.
As always, thanks for reading and responding. I look forward to 2010, it’d be hard to predict anything other than it’ll be a better year, overall, than 2009.