We all like to look into the future and make predictions when December arrives. So here it is: our definitive list of technology trends you should keep a look out for in 2011. It’s by no means exhaustive but these five trends will be keeping our minds active now and in the new year.
1. The Rise of Tumblr
Every generation signs up to cultural phenomena they can call their own and in the next year we will see more individuals turn to Tumblr instead of blogging sites like WordPress and Blogger. With over six million users, a billion posts and a fresh round of funding resulting in $30 million to play with it is poised to redefine our concept of blogging. Not everyone can spend eight hours a day creating content that reflects their take on the world but they can discover and distribute pieces of content they find using Tumblr’s simple interface, while still maintaining a sense of authorship (check out another application called Paper.li which is reinterpreting this in another way)
In 2011, the subtle but significant elements that have been contributing to Tumblr’s growth over the past few years will continue to evolve. These include the clean and elegant templates on offer for people to post everything from photos to video embeds, as well as the company’s intention to segment the micro-blogging marked by being know as the platform of choice for designers, artists and creatively minded producers.
There isn’t a company in New York at the moment that isn’t installing a Tumblr blog or revamping their existing one.
I share office space with Soraya Darabi, one of the co-founders of Foodspotting, a mobile app that allows people to take photos of their food on their phone and upload them to a public profile, while also capturing important location related data (like what restaurant the food was spotted in). The company has raised around $750k in seed funding and from overhearing conversations at the water cooler, they’re rapidly growing in users who are producing a remarkable amount of location based data that is not just about food.
When you mention Foodspotting alongside Foursquare and Gowalla you can start to see that location based information is going to play a more significant role in 2011, especially when the next wave of consumers upgrade to next generation smart phones. I predict that we’ll start to see location-based services extend into other interesting verticals like music, fashion and travel. This will either be driven by new start-ups looking to enter the market or existing players such as Gilt and Last.fm who extend their offerings to their already large databases of users. Whether or not these applications will be profitable isn’t a question that the industry seems to be concerned about at the moment, so expect more investments and innovation going forward.
3. Friend-to-Friend Exchanges
I was at a tech meet-up at the Lincoln Centre earlier this year where I saw two very funny young guys get up and explain how they had made an application for their phone that allows them to “bump” payments between each other. They even devised a scenario and performed a skit where they could simply pass money between each other using their phones. I walked away laughing at the scenario, PayPal walked away and made it a core feature of their iPhone app.
What I found interesting about this technology, which is yet to take off, is that it is the closest thing we have seen to technology mimicking the physical exchange of money between individuals. Expect this technology to creep agonisingly into mainstream banking over the next five years but while you wait, look out for applications that allow similar content exchanges between users, using a mobile device (think video, files, photos, coupons). I downloaded the PayPal application to my phone and used it with my wife’s phone and it’s amazing how useful it becomes once you have experienced it – and how esoteric it sounds if you haven’t.
4. Live Video
2010 opened with live runway shows for New York Fashion Week by many of the top designers (our favorite being the Rodarte show). This is the first time we’ve seen this being executed successfully across an industry besides sport. Later in the year I watched the Arcade Fire play live from my laptop instead of going to the show at Madison Square Garden and enjoyed every minute.
As broadband gets faster and video-streaming technology gets better, it becomes clearer that live video will become part of event monetisation across a wide variety of categories in 2011. Music is the main arena that could forge ahead in live video, especially if labels and acts can find enough trust with online broadcasters and the right model to capture revenue. We’re not talking your indy band playing at the local pub but pay-per-view models could open up for larger international acts.
In the user-generated live video space services such as Justin.tv and Ustream have introduced iPhone applications that allow you to live stream video directly from your phone for free and it is remarkable how easy it is to achieve good production quality. I’m not holding my breathe, but it is conceivable that content platforms will catch onto this technology and start doing some innovative work with not only live streaming but the instant chat functionality which adds an additional social layer onto already a rich communication medium.
Finally, have you tried the new Skype video conferencing? While it has a few bugs and usability issues in this first version, I have no doubt that it will start to change the way in which companies communicate both nationally and internationally. We already host all of our interviews for positions on video Skype. I think we’ll hopefully see greater adoption and collaboration as a result in 2011.
Yes, I know that it is 2011 in a few weeks but outside of the United States people and businesses are just learning the influence of Twitter as a communication and discovery tool. Remember: people in the US never really understood text messaging so when Twitter came along they took to it like the rest of the world took to text messaging. However unlike text messaging, Twitter has both a social later as well as an online access point (have you ever sent a text to someone from your computer?). Combine this with the emergence of push notifications to mobile devices connected to wi-fi and 3G networks and it’s not too hard to image Twitter replacing text messaging and therefore connecting us to links, images, media, coupons and just about anything our friends and marketers can think of pushing to us.
And speaking of Twitter replacing things we use every day, how many of you are finding that you are spending less time on Facebook every day? Yes, I know that talking about the flaws of the most dominant player in the market is like throwing a stone at the Empire State Building but as Naval Ravikant and Adam Rifkin wrote in Techcrunch earlier this year, Twitter is inherently more interesting because it provides an open way of connecting strangers who share common interests: something that Facebook is genetically unable to do. Twitter allows you to have a conversation with someone you don’t know without making you feel like a stalker. It’s kind of like the difference between living on campus and renting an apartment in the wild, wild city. You can’t live on campus at Harvard forever – well you can, but after a while you’ll start complaining you know everyone and wish you could go out and meet new people not inside your social network. In 2011 I think we’ll start to see more and more people wanting to go beyond their comfort zones and explore what the internet has to offer besides following updates from mum, dad and some girl called Mo Sa Ra who has 1000 friends and a sexy smile but is most likely just another social media expert using you as friend fodder.
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