Last year, when I wrote this same post for 2008, it was much easier to make predictions because everything was on the up and up, people took more chances. We no longer have that environment. When people are in survival mode, they care less of long-term trends, and care a lot more about very very short-terms trends that affect them quickly and directly. So this year I will make predictions that will affect us in the here and now.
1) White House 2.0: Two years ago, when I postulated that social networks would develop political structures within them, I never thought that the political structure would develop a social network. That was, indeed what happened with the Obama fundraising juggernaut, and there is no reason to think it will stop with the election. The Web 2.0 summit had a fantastic panel with Gavin Newsom, and Arianna Huffington, that touched on a lot of the things I will write about. First, Americans will start getting emails directly from their president.
They will be able to respond, and their opinions collectively gathered, and delivered to the public. There will be a direct line from you to your president and you will be able to log on to your myWhiteHouse.gov, or something similar.
Using this direct line, the president will be able to fundraide directly from the people and create a budget outside the budget. Now, lets get realistic. Raising $1B for a campaign was big an impressive. Raising $1B given the scale of the government isn't. We will see how far this can go, but I think it will start and it will affect you. Technology will make this easy and possible. As Arianna said so well, Obama will look more and more like "an independent candidate with the backing of the Democratic Party." A lot of social networking innovation will be created by, or embraced by the new administration.
2) A Big Twist on Social Games: It's very easy to say that social games will be big in 2009 because they already are (which was my prediction for 2008, and that was right). It is also easy to say that in recession years, cheap games are what people will want. I am not saying either of those. What I am saying is that social games become the new pick-up place to find a girlfriend, wife, friend with benefits whatever you. fancy. Why do I think this? Very simple, a lot of people are playing social games, and 100% of those people are horny. That simple. The more time people spend doing one thing, anything, the more it gets used for sex.
So this is finally the golden age of gamers! For years you have been told you are geeky for playing games, now you can actually benefit from it. So show your potential girlfriend how articulate you are by playing scrabble. Doesn't matter if you are young or old. If you are in your twenties, you are a word whizz which will impress somebody, if you are in your 60's you are an opsimath, even more impressive. Either way, get out there and play. Show how big your brain is, or how well you know geography or how good your mouse flicking skills are. It will impress somebody on the opposite sex. The numbers are on your side. Finally.
The dating sites will have to take notice of this and if I am right, they will start offering casual games.
3) Two Companies To Watch in 2009: We are in a recession and everybody knows that increased government spending is one way out of it. Across the world, from Istanbul to Sand Hill Road we will have new roads, bridges, more infrastructure. Our cities and roads will get newer and prettier, but will they also get smarter? They most certainly will. That's my prediction. With ubiquitous computing and petaflop supercomputers, it is about time our infrastructure gets smarter and IBM is the best positioned company to do it. Not only they have the resources, but the vision, as outlined at the Web 2.0 conference earlier this year. The presentation is here. They give the example of Stockholm, that deployed a smarter traffic toll system that reduced traffic by 22%, emission by 12-40% and increased public transportation use by 40,000 people. With sensors practically everywhere, M2M (machine to machine) communication will grow and make everything more efficient. Another example IBM gives is a pack of meat that has a sensor that tells the store when it is going bad. In the last two decades comptuers replaced labor, they did the job, now they will start doing it better and better.
Google is the other company to watch. Not because how well they'll do in search, not because of ad revenue they will get when others are losing (which both may be true), but because of their non-search products. In 2009 we will see big wins in their products such as Picasa. Why? Their competition like Shutterfly, has to spend money to acquire users, they have marketing costs (look up their 10-Q if you want to confirm), they lose money because of it. Google leverages search and the massive traffic it generates and acquires users relatively free. They can focus their money not on marketing but building a great product. And they have, Picasa is getting better every day. In tough economic times, their compeittors will not be able to keep up the user acquision engine because they'll have to conserve cash and deal with their issues. Google won't have this problem, and I expect big growth to come from Google's non search products in 2009 as their competitors (including Yahoo) start feeling the pain. Coincidentally, Techcrunch has a post today on up and coming Google products. They will be the winners.
4) Android will continue its success: I called this one last year when many wireless pundits didn't believe. It is already a success, with a phone launched less than a year from announcing the platform. 2009 will make it clear that it is the ONLY alternative to the iPhone. Expect to see 10+ phones with it, and most importantly, I am expecting fantastic new apps to come.
5) Friendly bots/Semantic Web: We need these and we need them bad. Luckily they will start showing up in 2009. Why? We simply generate far more information than our ability to analyze it. Lots of entities help us organize this information, but we need our own. We need semantic technologies that summarize things for us. Twine (disclaimer a Velocity portfolio company) does this well. We need bots/crawlers/agents that get us better information and search for it while we are sleeping. We need "Google Alerts" on steroids. For example, I need a bot that scours every travel site every night and give me results summarized for me on the best deals. I need a bot to scour every soccer site and forum with my criteria and get me what's new. This may sound like RSS but it is not. RSS subscribes me to content. I need to subscribe to information. A startup will figure this out and get funded in 2009. I'd like to meet them.
Trends, predictions they may happen they may not. But one thing is certain about 2009. It will be a tough year, and everybody has to figure out how to do more with less; everybody, all the way from Obama to you.