Five Years From Now

clock Imagine what will happen in five years, especially with regards to technology and social media. Where have things been? Where will they go? What will be different between now and then? In thinking about the future, we can better understand our position in the present. I’m hoping that through this we can talk about trends and thoughts and ideas and plans. It’s fun, but it’s also a way to plan and consider our own paths. (This is fairly technology-focused. Feel free to spin your answer in the comments section however you want it.)

Here are some starting points for considering where we WERE, and then push them forward into where we’re going.

The Last Six Years

  • iPod and iTunes come out in 2001.
  • The first BlackBerry phone was released in 2001.
  • Firefox isn’t a browser until 2003.
  • RSS with enclosures (podcasting’s guts) happens around Sept 2003.
  • Gmail doesn’t exist until 2004.
  • WordPress got popular in 2004 (after Movable Type changed licensing).
  • IBM sells its ThinkPad division to Lenovo in 2005.
  • Facebook launches in 2004 and opens to the masses in 2006.

So where will things go? What I *really* want are your answers, but here are some thoughts from my perspective, to get your thoughts going.

Social Media Becomes “Communications” or “Entertainment / News / Marketing”

There’s a fork here: one side is the stuff we do inside podcasting, blogging, Twitter, and other platforms that’s mostly communicating back and forth between small groups of friends. We’ll just start calling that communications. You’ll think nothing of the fact that someone has written on your wall and you’ve left a voice post back because you’re on the run. It will be a video clip when you’re at the market showing just how great the fresh squash display looks, and your friends will send back Twitters of positive comments, all mixed and mashed, and without much thought about it. Some of what you consider podcasting (talking about your week, your town, etc) will fall into here.

On the other side of the equation, folks who are serious about using the same software for more targeted purposes will do so, only it’ll slip out of vogue that it’s “social media.” The term will slip off into the bushes and we’ll just think about entertainment, news, and marketing. Because a huge chunk of people are looking for ways that this stuff all helps them convey a message. I think those folks are using the terms we’re all using, but that we’re mixing and mashing the same stuff around for different means. Nothing wrong with this. I just think we’ll all start calling these things what we need them to be, and those will harken back to older terms for larger adoption.

BONUS NOTE: I think very soon, our email address will double as our phone number for most intents and purposes. Either our wireless telcos will add a translation field for email addresses, or a 3rd party service will manage a directory for such. Why should I know your digits? I know who I mean to address.

Media Flexibility

Just as soon as we stop with the format wars, I think we’ll get further into moving media around to where we want it, and in the form we want. As people are suggesting that Flash is thinking of abandoning the FLV format for h.264, this means that wireless technologies are more ready to catch that format, and that more standardized integration can happen. What does this mean? It means that I can watch a movie on my Apple TV at home, slide it onto my phone, and watch the rest of it at the airport waiting for my plane. My media will go where I want it to go, and I’ll stop thinking about it that way. It will just be what I’m watching.

Networks as Computers and Network Promiscuity

On the show floor of VON, I talked with the NetGear guys about their new network-attached-storage (NAS) solution. It’s targeted for the consumer market (and ostensibly the SMB market, as well), and not especially expensive. Mixing this with my own personal computing environment at home, I can imagine several related trends happening within five years:

  • Keyboards and screens will be one input to several networked computers. Game controllers like the XBOX 360 will be another. The difference? They’ll back-end into the same general environment, with only their front-end processing differences to separate them in our minds.
  • Other devices will share the network, including a media player over by our TV screen, maybe another in the kitchen to manage smart appliances or at least manage another destination appliance or two.
  • Portable devices (wireless or wimax) will connect me to my home system remotely, or virtual, or at least network portals between my stuff and your stuff.

Further, networks everywhere will be better equipped to understand which devices are attempting to access it, and they’ll know better how to manage access/billing. It’s ludicrous that I have to go through a several keystroke and click process to get logged into the T-Mobile network for wifi. They know me. I know them. Why not make the wifi universe a lot more seamless, just like roaming for wireless phones in the US? And if not in that format, then either WiMax or EVDO, or another of the technologies. (In my mind, I want stronger networks more ubiquitous instead of weaker network more portable).

The Future of Telcos and CableCos

Quite often, I think that I want telcos like Verizon and cable companies like Comcast to become fat dumb pipes. But then I have a realization that they really COULD do lots more for me. They have two choices, I believe: figure out some of these new services faster than others, adopt the best of breed, or get out of the way by turning dumb and letting other people build the crazy stuff we need. We NEED new technologies to get some of this done. Think of how some of this could work:

  • What if your wireless company helped you mix and match your cell phone and your landline phone (unified communications), but then also helped you mix and match your network connectivity, your storage solutions, your social networks, and your presence information?
  • What if your cable company delivered content portably, provided extras for mashups, gave you the ability to port media between devices without thinking much about it?
  • What if the promise of Microsoft’s Origami platform, where I could take my XBOX360 game over onto a handheld device, and then take it off on the road (playing Halo3 in the men’s room) was facilitated by my telephone company?

But I can already hear Jeff Pulver groaning. He’s convinced (and rightly so) that the telcos and cablecos aren’t going to figure this out, and that they should get out of the way and let interested 3rd parties do it.

Some Other Trends

I’m using almost 100% Google Apps for my typical office software needs. I could just as easy use Zoho products (sometimes I mix and match). I don’t need offline software for most of that. I think that the blur between Internet software and on-device software will continue, such that we have offline modes of most of our online apps, and that simplicity in applications continues to be the trend for MOST things we do.

And Now, YOUR Turn

Where do you see things going in the next five years? Does any of this above resonate with you? Where am I wrong? Correct me. I’d love to open this up to all of you.

Photo Credit PrASanGam

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