The Ten Internet Trends of 2007

December 17th, 2007

When we look back on 2007 in a few years, these ten topics and companies will be the milestones that will be referenced and debated:

  • 1. Google Pushes Its Power
  • 2. Aggregators Polluted by the Mobs
  • 3. Mobile Web. Why?
  • 4. User-Submitted Profits
  • 5. Apple Leaps
  • 6. Microsoft Tumbles
  • 7. DRM. Die. Die. Die.
  • 8. Main Stream Media Invasion
  • 9. Politics’ Internet Fruitfulless
  • 10. Social Network Assimilation

1. Google

Google is currently the most powerful technology company in the world. With dominance in search and advertising, profits and stock prices have been impressive.

This year will be remembered as the point that google starting flexing its power to change people’s actions on the internet. Matt Cutts confirmed that google would punish people buying and selling links to influence search engine placement.

Google decreased the clickable adsense area which decreased some publishers’ income by well over 50%.

Google has openly started attacking social networks such as Facebook by joining the smaller networks through the OpenSocial API and by socializing Google services such as Google Reader. This dilutes the power that any one social networking system has. Google’s purchase of Jaiku is a direct competitor to IM candy Twitter. Google’s Android dilutes the potential power of a cellular network as well.

Wikipedia and squidoo will soon be feeling the google crunch next. Collaborative content is one of the most amazing products being created and delivered on the internet. Google’s Knol wants to compete here as well. Like many others, TechCrunch is worried about the conflict of interest:

Google says that Knol pages will be indexed into their search engine but will have no special ranking. That’s a little bit untrue, since they’ll be hosted by Google and will have the advantage of Google’s hefty PageRank to lift them in search results. And since no one will be auditing Google to ensure that Knol pages are treated just like everyone else, there are bound to be claims of conflict of interest.

This first started by competing with Microsoft through online services. Is Google’s strategy to dilute any potential collection of power?

2. Web 2.0 Aggregators

Digg and Reddit have moved away from tech. Sad.

Mob Rule. Tyranny of the Majority. Ochlocracy. Whatever you call it, these sites are the weak, fluffy versions of what they used to be. As the less-geek have moved in, the content of these aggregators have followed. Even the creators cannot control the sites anymore.

Unless you have a large social connection within these sites, you have no chance of getting an article viewed… (unless you pay for it.) Socializing is more important than quality.

Although I view both of these sites on a daily basis, they are frequently gamed, overcome with political manipulation, often filled with spamish links, and are utterly unrealiable as news sources.

What’s the alternative? You can always read what the A-List boys’s club is echoing about on techmeme. Or you can watch the main stream news… which is frequently gamed, overcome with manipulation… You get the idea.

3. Mobile Web

The mobile web is growing and growing. However, unless you are selling ringtones, nobody has figured how to make money from it. Even mobile web experts are puzzled on the exact nature of making money through mobile devices.

Plus, does there have to be a special “mobile web” anymore? The iPhone displays regular web content through a cell interface. Instead of manipulating content to look pretty on tiny browsers, manipulate the cell web browser to view existing content well on the cellular interface. When was the last time you remember visiting a mobi site?

4. User-Submitted Profits

Everybody is making money on the back on the users.

NewsVine, Squidoo, Wikipedia, Digg, Reddit, YouTube, Facebook. If you really think about it, none of these companies would work without the public building content for them. You are building content for them. Congratulations! When do you expect your check?

Even blogs and forums get boost from comments and discussions created within their communities. (Please comment, please, please, please…)

How long will people continue to sow content in the sites of others for free?

5. Apple

I personally believe that this was an amazing year for Apple. Apple stocks are certainly booming.

The iPhone has changed the cellular landscape that parallels how the iPod changed the portable musical player market. Apple’s commericals are painfully clever in their attacks against Microsoft. Leopard’s problems have been far less damaging than Vista’s which has helped as well. Overall, more and more people are considering moving to Apple’s platform.

Apple has shown areas of weakness, however. The AppleTV push has really died for the general public. With an anorexic iTunes movie selection, the AppleTV has little appeal to the nongeek. iTunes itself is having growing pains with content providers. NBC/Universal have decided to play hardball with TV shows and music. It’s difficult to know how it is going to play out. Apple is understandingly becoming weaker and weaker for DRM as well.

Being less ambitious than Vista has played well for Leopard. However, the new OS X is still causing growing pains for a lot of people. Feeling the vapor, we are still wondering where the much promised ZFS is?

6. Microsoft

As a one time Microsoft zealot, I am pained to see what has happened to Microsoft this year. Vista is failing because it has taken users too many steps as once. We all had to throw away most of our old hardware when XP rolled out. Most of us accepted this because the pre-XP experience was so unstable. XP was the successful promise of easy usage and stability. I wanted to install XP for my parents because I knew it would make things easier for them.

Today the market is different. Things worked pretty well before Vista. People do not want to sacrifice most of their hardware to get things working correctly. Plus, now we have 32-bit versus 64-bit discussion and “ultimate” products that add little except confusion.

Away from the OS, Microsoft’s search engines and ad networks are stagnant, and Microsoft certainly seems to be trying to kill html email usability. From my experience at FOWD, Sean Siebel is not an impressive “User Experience Evangelist.” At least Scoble tried.

Microsoft has made a few positive steps this year. The Microsoft Home Server is a new idea for a new market. If done well, it could be an essential box in every household. IE7 is a large improvement over IE6. Microsoft is investing in Facebook. Even the second Zune release (and the free software upgrade to the first version) is finally generating a little positive Microsoft buzz. Silverlight and Surface are sexy and innovative.

7. DRM

Could 2007 be the year that DRM finally starts to die?

Die. Die. Die.

Shawn Fanning’s original idea of drm-free Napster could exist in several different forms over the next few years. iTunes Plus and Amazon’s DRM free shows that the big guys are creeping into this direction. Steve Jobs thinks this way, too.

Radiohead’s In Rainbows “pay us what you want” experiment is exciting. Saul Williams and Trent Reznor are doing something similar.

Give them the music for free and sell them on the other stuff. It’s coming.

8. Main Stream Media

How about give them the content for free, too?

The New York Times is finally free. Online circulation is having to make up for the dying dead trees distribution:

Nationwide, average daily paid newspaper circulation declined 2.6 percent in the six months that ended Sept. 30, compared with the previous year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an independent organization that monitors the industry. Sunday circulation dropped 3.5 percent nationwide during the same period.

As the main stream media looks to supplement eyeball views with online content, their articles are appearing more and more in news aggregators. How long until we figure out that some of digg’s top users are on the payrolls of popular newspapers or public relations companies?

As advertising dollars move from TV and newspaper to the internet, the main stream media is following. How much this will drown out the current boom on citizen journalism is unclear.

9. Internet and Politics

Howad Dean’s success and subsequent failure seemed to grow from within communities within the internet. Was online activism a good idea too early? Will the traditionally nonvoting, young, internet crowd actually play any role in the upcoming elections? These are the questions that campaigns are asking .

Campaigns are on MySpace, FaceBook, and YouTube. You can not read digg or reddit without reading about Ron Paul or Kucinich. Of course, strike911 received active buzz throughout the internet without getting support from the general public or receiving any real main stream press.

This campaign cycle should be a great test to see if online voting and protesting will cause any offline results.

10. Social Networks

Online social networks have continued to grow throughout 2007. The large players like MySpace and Facebook are ubiquitous. How they are changing our interactions with our personal worlds are staggering. The influence and entertainment role of TV is being largely supplanted by these social networks. For many, offline social interactions are first initiated and planned online. Small niches of personalities and beliefs can find like-minded partners.

The success of YouTube and Flickr is obviously dependent on their social interactions. Digg and reddit are driven by social interactions. Dating networks are thriving.

As more of our social lives are played out online, more of our personal information is accessible online as well. More of our personal actions and characteristics are targeted by advertisers. More of our actions can be collected and used against us. Will an insurance company be able to find out that you are a member of a tobacco social group or a Huntington’s disease facebook group? The ultimate balance between profit and privacy will be difficult.

11. Memes?

Oh wait.. I left out lolcats. I am not sure if that’s a trend or a plague, but 2007 is certainly the a year of it. Or maybe it’s not a trend, maybe it is a meme. Who knows anymore…

Conclusion:
As I reread my article, my overall feeling is that our experience on the internet is becoming more complex. The name “google” no longer gives most people warm and fuzzy feelings. Digg and reddit are often manipulated more than main stream media. Facebook is looking to trade privacy for profits.

The idea of a “do no evil” company is more likely an untruth than an oxymoron. Previously, we thought it was possible on the internet. No more.

Of course, I would not want to do without Facebook, Digg, Reddit, or Google. We all benefit from the battles between Apple and Microsoft. Companies need to make money to survive. The balance is tough.

The real world continues to invades our idealist internet utopia. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” but I would rather be here than anywhere else.

If Digg is a young teenager, Slashdot is its parent.  Slashdot is now developing “Firehose” to keep up with Digg’s success.

The story of how Slashdot inspired Digg is well known.  Now, digg has surpassed slashdot, and slashdot traffic is actually slipping.

Now, the old fogey slashdot has announced a new (dare I say, Web 2.0) youthful, digg-like voting system–Firehose.  If you are a paid subscriber to Slashdot, go login and check it out. 

( Leave a comment to this post and you will be eligible for a slashdot subscription too. )

Firehose in action…

Here is slashdot’s description of what Firehose is…

The Slashdot Firehose is a collaborative system designed to allow users to assist our editors in the story selection process. Try tagging and voting on the entries below, and by using the ‘feedback’ menu by each entry. The hose can contain submissions, RSS Feeds, bookmarks, journal entries and Slashdot stories. Please send your feedback to hose@cmdrtaco.net but be forgiving of beta code!

Here is a break down of the various components:

SlideFilter:

Sliding this filter toward the red isolates the more popular, more voted articles.  In contrast, sliding the filter toward the darker colors increases the noise.  This compares to Slashdot’s current ability for users to view comments at a certain moderation level or higher.

Control Bar:

  • a — Play or Pause the Updates
  • b — Sort by Popularity or Time
  • c — Sort by Ascending or Descending
  • d — Toggle Abbreviated or Full

Voting:

The thumb up and thumb down allows users to vote on an article.  Once a user has voted, the icons dynamically change to show a user’s vote.  I believe the color highlight on the left side is a measure of an article’s popularity.  These colors likely correspond to the colors in the slidefilter.

Once an article is accepted for front page submission the title bar turns from gray to the traditional slashdot #004F50 green.

Different Views:

I showed an example of the expanded view in the examples above.  Here is an example of the compressed view. 

This view will likely increase the ”catchy title” popularity effect that already weakens Digg’s effectiveness.

Coding:

What was probably the most surprising to me is that the new slashdot layout uses yahoo’s ajax developer toolset.  The yahoo references can be found throughout the source code:

<div id=”firehose” class=”aduserbox”><script type=”text/javascript”>
  YAHOO.slashdot.App = function()

YAHOO.util.Dom.getElementsByClassName

Display Bugs:

True to the beta tag (and to slashdot tradition), the new layout is not yet IE7 friendly. 

More User Generated Content / Socialization:

Slashdot users are famous for generating content.  Their superior comment system has been the cornerstone of their success.  Early adoption of a blog-ish journal system has helped as well.  Slashdot also developed a primitive friend/foe system long before social networks became popular.

Slashdot seems to be continuing to build on this process.  Now journal entries can be automatically added to the firehose.  This will encourage people to post in their journal and thus generate more content for the slash lords.

Discussion2 is slashdot’s introduction of ”JavaScript/CSS” into its well known threaded/moderated comment system.

Discussion: 

I think everybody saw this coming.  I have mixed feelings about it.  Do you remember the first time you parents did something to appear “cool” to your friends?  I can remember when slashdot users slamming javascript as a security weakness were the norm; now slashdot is sliding into AJAX.

The strength of slashdot IMHO has always been the comments of its expert users.  The stories were just an excuse to read the opinions of the real, non-journalistic experts. 

Will these changes promote more interesting stories and increase the interest?  Will the quicker pace scare off the hardcore experts that are powering the place?

As a slashdot fan and subscriber, I hope these changes make the system stronger and more successful.

If you have a slashdot account but do not have a subscription, maybe we can help.  If you leave an insightful or funny comment (and your slashdot ID), we’ll pick a couple of give away 1000 page view subscriptions.  Then you’ll be able to play with Firehose too!