January 4th, 2008 by dawa riley
In order make big predictions regarding what innovations might occur within our industry moving forward, it is useful to look back at the past. The following acknowledges some of the 2007’s biggest achievements.
The Facebook Platform
In May this year, Facebook released its “Platform” or software environment which allowed third party developers to build mini applications that can be installed on users profiles. Such a move by Mark Zuckerberg et al. was met with an unprecedented success. Within the space of six months, 12,000 applications were developed that users could install. They included the ability to draw graffiti, to play Scrabulous, donate to charitable causes and compare movie tastes. Some applications were created for advertising and marketing purposes by companies such as Microsoft, Washington Post, Flixster and TripAdvisor whilst others were designed for fundraising and entertainment. As a result of such a move Facebook saw its user base increase a whopping 89% from last year with the biggest growth being in the 25-34 age group. It remains to be seen whether Facebook will eventually succumb to the billion dollar offers made to purchase it and how they will evolve a sustainable business model moving forward which capitalizes on the rich social graph they are building.
Hot on the tails of Facebook’s success in the social networking arena, Google announced OpenSocial in October this year. OpenSocial is a set of common API standards that several social networking sites have already pledged to adopt including: Orkut, Linkedin, hi5, Ning, Friendster, Plaxo and now MySpace. This standard will make developers jobs easier by allowing them to re-purpose their code across multiple platforms and allow the end user to have a more integrated experience. The support of companies such as Oracle and Salesforce.com for OpenSocial suggests that the adoption of business-oriented social networking applications could be on the increase at the enterprise level. The evolution of a richer social graph across networks allows businesses to reach more customers and suggests that social networking sites could become more profitable than ever.
Radiohead Stick It To The Man.
In spite of the somewhat modest earnings from their decision to self release their album via digital download, Radiohead succeeded in challenging traditional music industry business norms. Their bold move showed that it’s possible to circumvent the iron grip of the RIAA and the music industry. This could pave the way for new distribution models and encourage other artists to take risks by exploring new mediums for reaching their consumers. With start ups such as Amie Street, Music Nation and the Hype Machine pioneering new business models it’s anyone’s guess how things will move within this space going forward.
Apple’s release of the iPhone has revolutionized the way we think about cell phones and has set new expectations for usability and interaction design in mobile devices. Its ease of use, touch screen technology, native applications and inclusion of the safari web browser has meant that people can interact with information and consume data on the go in a manner never seen before. Apple’s announcement that it will be releasing an SDK for third party developers suggests that Smartphone wars could be heating up this coming year.
In the last quarter of this year, Google announced Android, an open-source mobile phone platform which will allow third-party developers to build applications to reside on it. In conjunction with the Open Handset Alliance, Android is set to revolutionize a proprietary, locked-down technology and open it up to never seen before innovation possibly surpassing what Facebook did for the social networking world.
One Laptop Per Child
One of my personal favorites is Nicolas Negroponte’s OLPC initiative launched with the aim of “empowering children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child”. The XO laptop consists of specially created hardware and software designed to be “extremely durable, functional, energy-efficient, responsive, and fun”. OLPC is changing the way school age children interact with each other and technology and provides an opportunity for them to “connect, chat, share information on the Web, gather by videoconference, make music together, edit texts, read e-books, and enjoy the use of collaborative games online.” It’s great to see an initiative which empowers children to learn and connect with each other on such a large scale and it will be interesting to see how it evolves moving forward.
The final groundbreaking achievements are trends within our industry that have grown momentum in the past year and which are set to pave the way for good things to come.
The Semantic Web
When the semantic web will replace web 2.0 remains to be seen but pioneering work is currently being undertaken within academic institutions such as MIT particularly in the realm of building enabling technologies such as the Simile project and Piggybank. Companies such as Twine, self-described as “a revolutionary new way to share, organize, and find information” are taking things to the next level. The result will be an immense repository of information accessible for a wide range of new applications that will revolutionize our digital world.
Opening up Data and Platforms
This year, many companies have shown a willingness to open their platforms and data to third parties. A wave of start-ups are emerging which owe their existence to accessing other companies’ data. A growth in the popularity of niche search engine sites such as properazzi.com, greenmaven.com and Rapleaf has been made possible by the growth of open APIs and forging alliances with data providers. Collaboration within the web sphere looks set to continue and new business and revenue models will likely emerge from this. Competition for users will continue to be as fierce as ever and if the trend in opening up data and platforms to third parties continues we can be assured of some innovative and ground breaking new applications. There seems little doubt that companies willing to open up will fare better than those which remain proprietary and closed.
Web sites have sprung up in the past year exclusively devoted to championing environmental causes. Yahoo launched 2 websites devoted to all things green including the aptly named Yahoo Green (http://green.yahoo.com/) and Be a Better Planet (http://better.yahoo.com/planet/). Furthermore, there is a growing momentum for companies within our industry to adopt energy efficient practices. Companies such as Google and AMD are going green with their datacenters and installing alternative-energy systems such as solar panels and low carbon emission generators. As some of the key players within our industry take environmental concerns seriously, we can look forward to many more green initiatives moving forward.