Hunches on web directions

This is a bit of a risky post. I enjoyed the NMC Metatrends in educational technology, and this evening, a post on “what I’m obsessed about“. I usually try to include links and  explanations but I could take forever to prep this. Instead, I’m going to publish it quick and dirty, with just a few links, and maybe follow up with something more polished another time.

So, these are some hunches I’ve had about where the web is going over the next couple of years. It’s informed by lots of things I’ve read, and conversations with lots of clever folk developing and analysing web stuff (see end).

Here goes …

This has always been part of software development, but now this is coming centre stage. And its not always about systems interoperating: its about standards (open and proprietary) for content/data that allow it to flow between places on the web. Characteristics of this orchestration of the flow are:

  • Migration – e.g how easy it is to migrate blogposts
  • Syndication – particularly rss
  • Rules – yahoo pipes led this for RSS, but now we have if this then that 

The interesting thing is that end users are starting to have this capability: we don’t have to code to orchestrate.

I had thought that html5 plus e-pub plus mobile versions plus apps would lead to convergence: more samey platforms/tools. But then i had an aha moment: because of the orchestration trend, I think i’m seeing more hybrids. Say there are 15 common activities, the hottest tools won’t do all 15. They’ll do 2-5 of them really well. So people will create bespoke paths, unique orchestrations, depending on their key activities.

Its been said before but I think its reaching the mainstream. The barriers to buying, downloading and installing software have never been lower, through App store, google play, amazon, facebook apps etc. It means people are becoming more comfortable with trying and discarding software. “There’s an app for that” (on android too) is fun, its a sign of identity. We use instagram like wearing ray bans: apps are brands. In another way, hopefully that should improve quality:  a more responsive supply of software. The agility is in the market itself. I can’t believe I’m saying the market should help improve the product. But what’s the cool factor in kickstarter? Crowdfunding. A healthy app marketplace would have some of the same effect.

Zero, cheap, premium
The orchestration trend plus the marketplace trend means that we’re only starting the beginning of freemium. Just how we change our shopping habits, I think we’ll experiment with mixing and matching apps. Recipes will mix free and costed, some recipes will focus on free, some on budget products. We might even get go compare models of orchestration recipes we will keep tweaking. We get bored, we try a new freemium product, we commit, we cancel the other subscription. Also I just heard the concept of “frugal innovation” today and it resonates a lot: cost matters.

Free via social data
Some of the giant infrastructur-ish services will remain free by trading on our social data: google or facebook or twitter. This is aka “paradata”, and my interest in it is because perhaps it can fund the web remaining free (as in cashless) at the point of use. Which I don’t have a problem with, personally (see my earlier post). If you haven’t got your head around the adage that “if you’re not paying you’re the product” read this. Oh, and to make this work, we’ll see a lot stronger pull towards identifying ourselves through logging on through one of those services. In the future, the business funding the internet knows you are a dog (see quote, 1993) and what’s more, it knows you favourite pedigree chum (rule of the age: verb every noun). I know some think the big services will disappear and the bubble will burst or whither. The question is when: next year, 5 years, 15 years?

Everything is data, and data is good enough
The services around twitter and facebook are good examples of how our status updates are mined for space, time, sentiment, URLs.  To borrow the phrase from open data folk: data mining is “good enough” for marketers to fund. In academic circles with its attention to accuracy, these approaches are sometime perceived as not yet mature enough. But data doesn’t need to be perfect. Its all about the patterns. Texts, images, sound will all be mined for patterns that can reflect our semantic universe back to us. Services like format shifting, translation, text to speech are going to get a lot easier to orchestrate, and with low cost options.

Smart licenses and smart remix platforms
Machine-readable copyright licences are going to develop further. The key to that is that providers and users both benefit from the flow of authorship/ownership and permissions data, no one loses. In one conversation with one very clever guy a couple of years ago we coined the phrases “beautiful attribution and elegant citation”: basically it’s going to get easier, even automatic. And these will co-evolve with smart web remix platforms. Pinterest took the big risk. Those that follow might be more respectful of rights. The services / standards / tools / that mix content together without orphaning them will grow. The remix platform that also handles rules and accounts in an elegant way will be a key milestone.

So, they are my hunches. In other words, If I was a venture capitalist, that’s what I’d be investing in. I’m not, obviously. Otherwise I wouldn’t be sharing my hunches with you 😉 I’d be very interested for links and leads on fleshing this out. It’s all a bit meta. This is 2012 and meta is the new black.

[As well as online sources, ideas in here have come from conversations with Brian Kelly, Tony Hirst, Nicole Harris, Sarah Currier, Peter Robinson, Sheila McNeil, Paul Walk, Mark Power, David Kernohan, Phil Barker, Andy McGregor, Ben Showers, Doug Belshaw, my family … and, well, I’m lucky enough to know a LOT of clever people. So, lots. And sorry if I left you off.]


4 thoughts on “Hunches on web directions

  1. Interesting thoughts! I haven’t come across the orchestration concept before but it occurs to me that the most important person in an orchestra is the conductor, so who is the conductor here? Or is it a conductor-less orchestra, and if so how does that work?

    You ask for links and leads. Is this of interest? A few weeks ago there was an item on Business Daily explaining Freeman Dyson’s theory that hay was the most important invention in history. “Apparently, the Romans and Greeks did not have hay. Dyson argued it was only when some peasant from the dark ages had the idea of drying cut grass that effective storage of food for cattle and horses was possible and that that – in turn -generated an explosion in urban development. He concludes, perhaps rather grandly, that hay gave birth to Vienna and Paris, to London and Berlin, and to Moscow and New York.” The programme then suggests that mobile apps might be the new hay. I thought this was a useful idea because it identifies a small but trackable cog in the larger mechanism of change. [more here ]

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