Future Webtrends

I’ve always wondered about large scale web trends – the over arching movements, or trends, that define certain periods of the web. The Dot Com Boom. Web 2.0. The Real Time Web. The Mobile Web. If you have ever seen me speak, there is a good chance you have seen my talk on The End of Time.

The premise of The End of Time, as it applies to the internet, is that we are there now. The meaning of a “real time web” as its labeled today, is one where the amount of time it takes to get information from me to you is practically irrelevant. The activity on the web recently moved beyond issues of time, now focusing on filtering through everything that is already there. In filtering the message from the noise, today we find ourselves enamored with geo-location service like Foursquare which brings us information instantaneously about our nearby surroundings.

A WebTrend Law?

Each March, I like to recap on my experience of SXSW interactive and focus in on the major movement of the year. I’ve taken special note since Rocketboom came out of SXSW with major steam during the much talked about ‘online video’ movement in 2005. The following year, videoblogging went mainstream with the purchase of YouTube in 2006. The next year, in 2007, Twitter hit SXSW big-time, and the first adopters were talking all about it. The next year, in 2008, Twitter hit the mainstream coming out of SXSW. At SXSW 2009, Foursquare was on everyone’s mind, and in 2010 during SXSW, it went mainstream.

After returning home from my 7th consecutive year at the conference, I decided to take a step back from the trend of the year and take a few more months to congeal an idea I may have stumbled upon here that is much greater than just the trend of the year.

Webtrends, it seems, appear to be happening in exactly two year cycles, and there appears to be two phases to each cycle, each occurring annually. In the first phase of a two year cycle, a new movement reaches it’s tipping point, becoming identified collectively by the first adopters of various internet sectors and subcultures around the world. This leads to the second phase, mainstream adoption. 

Funny enough, while its not actually SXSW itself that dictates movements, the conference has traditionally provided the seasonal variables that bring the various first adopters together from around the world, and also the mainstream media, expediting and somewhat pushing over the edge each new boiling trend. It’s important to note that people may have been working on any web trend a decade or more before it’s identified collectively as a trend, yet a trend does not occur by the nature of the right idea, but rather the right idea at the right time.

Consider the following trends, matched by date, as they each appeared collectively in two phases (it gets  a bit muddier the further back in time we go, though seems to hold up):

—-cycle #4 —

2010 Geo-Location movement goes mainstream – Foursquare, Gwaolla [March 15, 2010 – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/technology/15locate.html ]

2009 Geo-Location movement is identified – Foursquare [March 14, 2009 – http://dembot.com/post/86411509/foursquare ]

—-cycle #3 —

2008 Social Media movement goes mainstream – Twitter / Facebook / Friendfeed (Presidential Election) [May, 2008 http://dembot.com/post/35935024/the-real-reason-why-friendfeed-is-working ]

2007 Social Media movement is identified – Twitter [ March, 2007 Twitter hits tipping point: http://medialoper.com/twitter-hits-the-tipping-point/ ]

—-cycle #2 —

2006 Online Video movement goes mainstream – YouTube [April 27, 2006: Video blogs ready for prime time http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2006/05/01/8375939/index.htm ]

2005 Online Video movement is identified – CBS Eve News, [Aug 19, 2005: Vlogging Puts Broadcast in the Hands of Everyone who Wants It: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/08/19/eveningnews/main788618.shtml [Dec 2005 Videoblogging ]

—-cycle #1 —

2004 Online Photography goes mainstream – Flickr launched in Feb 2004, Blogging goes commercial – Howard Dean Scream (Presidential Election)

2003 Online Photography is identified – May 25, 2003: The New York Times publishes an article reporting on the rise of photo blogs, citing the Pancake Bunny phenomenon as a primary example. [flickr, webshots? / digital camera]

—-cycle #0—-

2002 Blogging goes Mainstream

2001 Blogging is identified – TEXT  Blogging movement is identified as finally (after many years) showing signs of worldwide influence –  Instapundit,  Daily Kos,  Drudge….

What’s Next?

So what’s in store for 2011? Having run it’s two-year course already, Geo-Location will become a darling. SXSW 2011 is going to be chock full of Geolocation services, no doubt, and these companies will be in style, continuing on for years to come as will filtering services of social media, online video and blogging, etc. The next movement is not easy to see this year, even to the most astute Digerati. This week, we will see SXSW release its panel picker, with more submissions than ever before as the conference continues to get larger and larger every year. This will give a bit of a window into some things, but much of this will change. Whatever it will be, we will see it congeal over this year and it may become evident this March. Personally, Im not willing to take the risk in suggesting the next movement this early – I don’t expect to see it until I experience it next year.

But darn it, I do have a hunch which I can’t help but consider just for fun. I don’t believe it at this point, but simply wonder if the next big movement will involve ‘Personal Banking’, or person-to-person business tools like Jack Dorsey’s credit-card reader, Square, which easily allows people to transfer money to each other. Dorsey’s fob already seems a bit antiquated to me for what can be done with today’s image recognition and a simple photo, or what could be done to bypass the credit cards all together. The credit card companies have been jumping in lately too, it’s the obvious next step. Aside from the government which seems to always need it’s tax, it should be easier for me to transfer money to you if I owe you $20 from last night, or want to buy your TV. Currently, the credit card companies make too much of the $ and it’s too consolidated into just a few companies. What about other forms of electronic money? With the upcoming political election happening over the next two years, the focus of all of that activity will center around one main objective: micro-donations from individuals. The easier it is for me to give money to my political party, the better. The political parties are setting theses systems up now.

Whatever happens, we shall see.