Innovation doesn’t know what day it is. It’s also true that we never seem to predict the most interesting things which actually do happen. Oh sure — years of speculation preceded Apple’s iPad announcement last January. But did anyone actually figure on the iPad?
With trepidation, then, I’ve committed to a forecast at years’ end, a moment of no moment for either tech or media. Sadly, there is no fiscal year option in the pontification game that could postpone this to a more sensible time in Q2.
So, in the spirit of tradition, I offer my First Annual Backward Compatible Tech Forecast.
1) The social net works (really!)
2010 was a franchise year for Facebook. It grew to a staggering 500 million members. Privacy-indifferent CEO Mark Zuckerberg beat out even badder-boy Julian Assange of WikiLeaks to be named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” But 2010 was also the year of the niche social network. These small services hew to a more traditional definition of “community” by introducing strangers who share a common interest, like GetGlue and Foodspotting. Or, like Path, they harken to a quaint definition of “friend” by limiting one’s circle to 50. Yelp and Goodreads and Gowalla have been with us for a while, but the mass medium that are apps makes signing up and sticking with narrow networks effortless. And they are a lot easier to manage.
2) Can you see me now?
Skype had some big problems at the end of the year, but this Internet telephony pioneer is poised to deliver, on a wide scale, the most tasty combination since the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: mobile video conferencing on “everywhere” data networks. This is part hope and part belief in a process which, while hampered by carriers in 2010, seems increasingly inevitable — perhaps more so now with the new FCC net neutrality rules. Video phones have been rejected by every human with bad hair since AT&T showcased one at the 1964-65 New York City World’s Fair. But video calling is a hit in the age of the webcam. And since the smartphone set always has one handy, the only real impediment are carrier bandwidth caps.