The other night at dinner, a friend asked how the book was coming and what part I was working on now. I mentioned I was writing about communication and activity and about to start a chapter in our “What’s Next” section of the book.
The question started us talking about what IS coming next? Everything is moving so fast in this space. Frankly, the social web reminds me of “the web” ten years ago. It was all new and people were trying anything and everything. Everything was e-commerce this and e-commerce that – as if it was something special or different than just business. Businesses that had no business being online were going for it (remember pets.com). Businesses that eventually figured out how to do business online were doing brochureware, and every day you turned around there were 50 new startups that were going to change the way people did things. And eventually many of them did.
Sort of like now, except it’s 50 new social startups launching everyday that are going to change the world. Sometimes it is hard to keep up, not that we have to, but you never know when the next, can’t live without application might come along.
I think it will settle out, like it did last time. Some ideas are awesome – I can’t imagine how I lived without twitter. Same with flickr. or GoogleReader. Sites with cool and useful functionality will become part of people’s routine and some will thrive as stand alone and others will get bought and integrated into larger company consolidations. The cycle is the same. Eventually the “social” web will just be the web and it will be socially enabled in every part of it. It won’t seem like a hack or an add-on and I don’t think we will have to go to special sites that right now seem like a feature out of place.
Bandwidth improvements, wifi coverage and more mobility will ensure proliferation of the seeds we are seeing sown right now. I am also interested to see how this pushes the “cloud”. We were talking about the cloud more than 5 years ago and it is only in the last year that I am hearing businesses talk about it as a service or feature. I am not sure I want all my stuff “out there” although I would like it in my house, accessible from all my computers.
The real area that I find it hard to pin down is mobile. We are so behind in many ways in this country yet there are so many really interesting things being done with mobile and geo and social tools. I expect we won’t see the true wave of innovation in mobile until the kids who have grown up with technology and cellphones attached to themselves, are out in the workplace inventing new and amazing things to do with them.
Anyway, I am researching, for my “What’s Next” chapter around demographics and looking at youth and teens. I am reading as much as I can from the ethno study “”Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures” and from danah boyd’s PhD dissertation as well as other papers she has worked on. Fascinating stuff and super relevant to anyone working on social applications, whether mobile or web.