With the first decade of the new century and new millennium coming to a close, its time to look forward at some of the prognostications that several of today's visionaries have divined from their social media crystal balls.
These predictions are meant to be thought-provokers more than a specific road map, and derive from an eclectic assembly of thought leaders,entrepreneurs and folks who are in the trenches every day dealing with the evolution of social media in our very many global neighborhoods.
Based on this research, I have also added findings from my own humble analysis that supports, questions and occasionally disputes some of these predictions.
Southeast Asia, Next Social Media Hotspot
Jimmy WalesJimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia thinks the most important changes ahead will be forged by the “next billion people coming online, mainly in India and China.” He discussed the cross-cultural impacts as people from various backgrounds, cultures, and linguistic heritages “mix and match in amazing ways.”
In Southeast Asia, it has been the year of Facebook. The world’s leading social network has overtaken former leader Friendster in markets including Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
This year I interviewed Shane Lennon, senior vice president of marketing for GyPSii, a location-based social network. On this topic, he noted that their company has "secured relationships with China Telecom and China Mobile." According to Lennon, "while social networks are built around the premise of who you know (a rather limiting force)," he sees "more of a future and one that’s playing out in China right now - that connects people (based) on where they are located." (see more on the topic of location-based networks below).
Web 2.0 Attacks & Political Tension
In a recent Websense report, it was noted that Web 2.0 attacks will increase in sophistication and prevalence. In the coming year, their analysis suggests that there will be a greater volume of spam and attacks on the social Web and real-time search engines such as Topsy.com, Google and Bing.com. In 2009, researchers have seen increased malicious use of social networks and collaboration tools such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Google Wave to spread attackers’ wares. Spammers’ and hackers’ use of Web 2.0 sites have been successful because of the high level of trust users place in the platforms and the other users.
On August 6, I reported on Twitter's announcement that it was "defending against a denial-of-service" attack which was initiated when hackers commanded a whole army of computers to attack a particular site. As the story played out we learned that this attack was based on a very old turf dispute between Russia and Georgia. In my estimation, it is clear that social networking will become a new battleground for opposing forces around the globe to threaten and harass each other. This coupled with the Iranian Election Protests, I predict that more of this these types of global tensions will bubble up over into the social media space in 2010.
The Growing Popularity of eReaders
Sarah Rotman EppsJames McQuiveyAccording to Sarah Rotman Epps and James McQuivey of Forrester Research, eReaders will get apps, too. "As anyone with an iPhone knows, apps are where the magic happens: They make the device infinitely more useful." iRex Technologies, which has a B2B e-reader business in Europe and is launching its first consumer-targeted e-reader in the U.S, will release an SDK (software development kit) so that software developers can make their own apps for the iRex DR800SG. Rotman and McQuivey said they "wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon launch a Kindle app store, too, including anything from a social-reading app from Goodreads to an enterprise app from Microsoft or Oracle would make e-readers vastly expand the possibilities for consumers and businesses."
As far as the iPhone replacing the Kindle, there is evidence to indicate the contrary. While the "Kindle for iPhone" is a possibility, particularly since a user doesn't have to purchase another expensive device, the iPhone's small screen is cumbersome. My research indicates that for the voracious reader, the Kindle’s size and feel is more comparable to the book reading that many of us have grown accustomed to. Its advantage over an actual book is its light-weight and the ability to store hundreds of books in one self-contained device.
Magazine and Newspaper Apps
Sarah Rotman Epps and James McQuivey have also weighed in on magazine and newspaper publishers launching their own apps and devices. "Magazine and newspaper publishers aren’t satisfied with the way their content looks and functions on the Kindle and Sony Readers—they want color, video, interactivity, the ability to sell ads and control the subscriber relationship." Old media moves slowly, but in 2010 we’ll see them crawling towards some solutions. Time Inc.‘s John Squires is spearheading an effort to get other magazine publishers together in a joint venture, which would sell access to digital versions of their magazines that could be consumed on portable devices.
In November, I reported on ZenNews and its Zensify life-streaming app that provides a cutting-edge analysis of the latest breaking news stories from sources in real-time using a "tag cloud" visualization technology. All articles are available to read as click-thrus and include news from acclaimed news sources such as the The Guardian, AlJazeera, CNN and the NY Times.
Location-Based Social Networks
Pete CashmorePete Cashmore from Mashable recently reported in his CNN column, that "Fueled by the ubiquity of GPS in modern smartphones, location-sharing services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Google Latitude are suddenly in vogue...with Foursquare (potentially becoming) the breakout services of the year ... provided they're not crushed by the addition of location-based features to Twitter and Facebook."
Cashmore also believes that "location is not about any singular service; rather, it's a new layer of the Web. Soon, our whereabouts may optionally be appended to every Tweet, blog comment, photo or video we post."
In a recent report I published titled, "Pinpointing Popularity: Social Networking Gets Physical," my claim is that the potential of LBS lies in the hands of the major players who have been developing this technology for the last couple of years.
Whether or not ‘location’ becomes the must-have service for Twitter and Facebook to entertain and potentially absorb will most likely be based on monetization. And based on the forecasted numbers around the globe, it looks like location-based social networks are scaling fairly well in that arena - with Foursquare out front, not only striking deals with developers and new apps but also with restaurants, bars and gyms. As a result, my prediction is that Foursquare and perhaps Gowalla will monetize their networks to a lucrative position faster than Twitter in 2010.