Technologies come and go, in electronics, in engineering, in heavy industries. If you follow the news, clean technology such as tesla electric cars, the hadron collider, or new aeroplanes like the SpaceShipOne were hot this year. But if we sum up what has been going on in 2008, the Internet is by far the most exciting technology. It’s the only field that went through several revolutions, brought brand new and real usages in mainstream society, and even experienced downturns, all within the same year.
Here are 12 top trends in the Internet which prove why the Internet is the most exciting technology this year:
1. Revolutionary use of the Internet in the 2008 US presidential election
Barack Obama and his team created the first ever political campaign in history which entirely leveraged the internet as a policital medium. By using a social network to rally partisans and connect local communities on his website, by using viral videos, twitter, facebook and myspace, Barack Obama demonstrated to americans and to the whole world how a 21st century political campaign should be run, by using the most modern tools. Expect other politicians, non-profit organisations, and lobbyists to follow Barack Obama’s path and leverage the Internet in the same way.
2. Real-time Video Goes Mainstream
2007 was the year of youtube and youtube clones. 2008 was the year of real-time video streaming websites: Justin.tv, ustream.tv, Qik, etc. We have on our minds the unfortunate live suicide on justin.tv, but these new tools also bring new uses such as real-time coverage of conferences, new usages by podcasters and video-bloggers. On ustream for instance, viewers can ask questions to the show’s host in real-time, opening new dynamics and models for shows.
3. The year “web2.0″ dies
Prior to the summer of 2008, we had “celebrities” like Michael Arrington, Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble idolizing TechCrunch, web2.0, mashups, Facebook applications, and fashionable startups like cuil or seesmic. Now, all we hear now is layoffs, crashing valuations, and the very same Michael Arrington telling startups that the party is over, a correction which is probably earned.
4. Web Applications brings Web Engineering
Here are 3 different developments in 2008, which are closely tied:
- New web browsers, such as Firefox 3.0 and Google Chrome, were released this year, with Google Chrome seen as Google’s operating system, where their products could be run and trusted by users.
- Web applications matured in 2008, offering solid alternatives to companies wanting to switch from desktop applications. Zimbra, 37Signals, Google Apps, Salesforce, SugarCRM, and many other web startups are now offering productivity applications, CRMs, project management, finance, or collaboration software.
Those 3 different movements have a created a whole new category for software engineering, web engineering, and I won’t be surprised to see complete web engineering courses offered in 2009 in colleges and universities.
5. The Mobile Revolution: the iPhone and Android
The Apple Application Store is without question a major innovation in 2008. It was the first time a company managed to offer a compelling platform for developers, with easy distribution, no hassle on testing on multiple devices, and clear delivery. The iPhone is a game-changer and all other cell phones, such as BlackBerry, Nokia, Sony-Ericssons are now compared to the iPhone. While new, Android is also very promising, because of its openess and will make Apple and Google compete for better platforms, for the benefit of customers.
6. Virtualized hardware for web developers
In the same sense that we’ve got now applications somewhere in the Internet, virtualization has grown tremendously this year, giving web developers the option of having hardware not on a real server, but somewhere in some data center. Virtualization brings on-demand, cheap, and flexible resources, with an entire industry of providers, products, consultants and services created in less than a year.
7. The Omnipresence of social platforms
While “web2.0″ has died in itself (see point 3), there’s one technology which is here to stay: social platforms. Facebook was again for 2008 the fastest growing website. For instance, it’s used by more than 75% of Canadians, and words like “Facebook friend” or sharing pics on Facebook are now common, even for the most un-connected of your friends.
8. Information overload; Bloggers’ Voices are now unheard
This is a direct consequence to #7. In 2007, if you had a personal blog, it was still possible to get the word out, and have an impact for a few weeks or days. Now, platforms and messages have exploded. Early adopters are joining twitter, identi.ca, friendfeed, facebook or any other social service. In Twitter’s example, it has remplaced blogging. It also remplaced bookmarking. Attention span has reduced to 0, with blog readers commenting a tidbit on twitter, or on friendfeed, and then going the next minute to another url pointed by another tweet. Of course, there are still popular blogs, but all the popular ones are now backed by corporations, with full-time staff working on content creation.
9. Netbooks are In, and they are made for the Internet
I have written the first few lines of this article in a coffee shop, on an Acer Aspire One. It doesn’t have an optical drive, runs a less than satisfactory OS (Windows XP), with a maximum resolution of 1024pixels by 800 on a 9″ screen. But it doesn’t cost much, doesn’t weigh anything, and is perfect to browse the web on Firefox or Google Chrome. You toss it somewhere in a backpack and you’re ready to work anywhere. Products like the Acer Aspire One, Asus’s eee PC, the HP Mini 1000, or the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 are the fastest growing hardware segments for laptops, and brings new usages for mobile workers, telecommuters and students.
10. Application Platforms and APIs for Every Website
This year, we’ve seen Facebook Apps (again), Salesforce App Exchange, myspace, the new LinkedIn business applications, and new initiatives like Facebook Connect, Friend Connect for Google, Myspace Data Availability. Those platforms and APIs show the future of the web, where every website will have an API for third-party web services which can re-use the data in a novel way. If you run a website, think on how you can offer a platform. Twitter’s success can be explained alone on its very liberal API.
11. Near-Death of the PC as a Gaming Platform, except for MMORPGs
World of Warcraft, Sins of Solar Empire, Warhammer Online, Age of Conan are massive successes on the PC, and one of the only reason why consumers bought desktops in 2008. Multiplayer Strategy games or FPS video games such as Team Fortress 2 are also still relatively popular. As with the other trends listed in this article, PC video games have each created their own ecosystem, with fans-created forums, artwork and communities.
12. The Exponential Rise of the Internet Access in Asia
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