the grass is greener on the internet

12 things to expect from 2012
January 4, 2012, 7:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t know about you, but I had an interesting year in 2011…and while I wouldn’t usually do a predictions post, this year I couldn’t resist…

Four things that we thought would happen in 2011 that didn’t – but which might happen in 2012:

  • The rise of gamification: Seth Priebatsch (founder of SCVNGR) has been talking about the game layer for years, but his call to action at SXSW touting 2011 as the year to watch was slightly premature. Instead, Gowalla shut down and Foursquare sold out. However, a few interesting experiments cropped up, such as TheNextWeb’s belt program. Expect to see more interesting developments next year, like medical mobile apps that gamify staying healthy.
  • Rise of the social network wars: when we heard that Google was venturing into social (again) it was obviously going to be big news, but the slew of articles labelling it a ‘Facebook-killer’ clearly did not understand that both networks are designed to allow their users to interact in different ways. Plus will not replace Facebook, but it remains to be seen whether the niche it occupied after the initial hype will grow or recede.
  • Adoption of NFC: every year seems to be the year NFC will ‘happen’. Well, 2012 could be the year – no, really! (I might regret this.) Previous predictions were based on the release of the mysterious epic iPhone 5 with everything ‘early adopters’ were craving for. The release of the 4S without NFC was one hit to the theory, but the fact remains that even if you have a NFC-capable handset there is not very much you can do with it. (Remember bluetooth? RFID?) However with governments like Singapore making a move to fund NFC as a POS (point of sale) technology, there may be enough momentum to carry NFC to the mainstream!
  • Collapse of Groupon and group-buying services: well, I thought it would have happened by now anyway.

Four things that started in 2011 that will continue:

  • A revolution in search: with Bing hot on its heels, Google spent 2011 doing some revolutionary, if controversial, tweaks. The Google Panda update brought higher standards for inbound link-building and more recently the algorithm was tweaked to give higher priority to content that originated from your social networks. Expect to see more targeted results based on your location this year.
  • Behavioural targeting takes over: if you haven’t already heard buzzwords like ‘big data’, ‘the marketing cloud’, or ‘social CRM’, then prepare for your boss asking you about them this year. The amount of data available is staggering, and the number of organisations moving to predict what you want before you want it is growing rapidly. eBay’s acquisition of hunch was just the start!
  • Windows Mobile steps up to the plate: Android continued its rise to challenge iOS, fuelled by strong sales of entry level smartphones in developing economies and the addition of strong flagship products from HTC and Samsung. However, Windows Mango is poised to come into its own with a great UI and strong backing from Nokia. While the app database remains modest, Microsoft has leveraged on the large number of existing Windows developers by making to easy to develop for both desktop and mobile.
  • The tenuous balance of online privacy: there have already been threats to take down Facebook by Anonymous, and with the amount of data that giants like Facebook and Google hold it’s not hard to see why there might be some anxiety. (Some people write letters to the newspaper, others take down websites of multinational corporations. We all express ourselves differently.) The more we share, the more data we have at risk, and the more we express opinions in a public space, the more that governments clamp down to protect our modesty/their power. So who owns your data once you’ve posted it online? The underground fight (and vigilante action) doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon.

Four speculations on 2012:

  • Synchronisation of social networks:with so many new social networks that allow you to publish and share content like never before (another phrase I would rather not see), your real-life network will end up spread across multiple platforms. Read: to stay in touch with everyone, you have to join everything. Sigh.Friendster already recognised the need to synchronise all of your social networks with their revamp as a gaming portal that connects to all social profiles. The rapid rise of new app Path might be an indicator that while most people on multiple social networks want to maintain the separation between their multiple online lives, they also want a place to bring it all together.
  • The rise of HTML 5: like social, mobile platforms have splintered off. In 2010 iOS seemed to rule the smartphone world, and in 2011 Android proved it could grow to match. With the rise of Windows (see above) it won’t be long before there’s a definitive split in the app world. From a usability point of view, this leaves an open window for HTML 5, though not all of the bugs have been ironed out. This prediction comes with a caution: since there’s very few people with a commercial interest in seeing HTML 5 succeed, it won’t come to prominence unless a major handset producer gets behind it or someone finds a way to monetise it for developers.
  • China’s social and electronics giants take on the world:a year ago I hadn’t heard of Sina Weibo, but the Chinese microblogging service has taken the country by storm. The unintentional benefit of China’s censorship of foreign social sites is that it has allowed its domestic services to shine. China’s strength in cheap production has also spawned consumer electronics giants that are starting to create innovation of their own, a la Japan’s emergence as an electronics giant in the 90s.As China’s economy and influence grow, expect more foreign companies to invest efforts in its social networks and for more of its devices to spread across the world.
  • Experiences are the new products: retailers are coming under pressure from online shopping. Like a pair of jeans but don’t like the price? Search for it online. Strong retail experiences have always been a differentiator, particularly service and the journey within a store. However, I expect more integration of the online and offline worlds to create a hybrid experience – like Nike’s use of QR and AR to provide extra product information, and RFID membership tags that allow personalised customer service as soon as you get close.

So what do YOU think?

As for my interesting year…next post will be a reflection on what I learned as the World’s Coolest Intern…


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