Kicking off the new year, I want to do a little prognosticating on some things I expect to happen in 2011. The general theme that emerged as I wrote this post is that the web will be moving beyond general search + ad-based business. That model won't be going anywhere anytime soon and is a workable fit for some; however, I'm seeing some shifts that will open up opportunities for innovation and disruption.
Search usage will expand beyond all-purpose, one-stop search engines (i.e. Google, Bing) to special-purpose or vertical search engines (i.e. iTunes Store, Twitter, Facebook, DuckDuckGo, Blekko, Wolfram|Alpha, etc.). Two reasons:
As we kick off a new year, I want to do a little prognosticating on some things I expect to happen in 2011. As I wrote this post, the general theme that emerged is that the web will be moving beyond the general search + ad-based revenue model. That model won’t be going anywhere anytime soon and is a workable fit for some; however, I’m seeing some shifts that will open up opportunities for innovation and disruption.
1. Search Beyond Google
A growing but vocal group of people are noticing a degradation in Google search results quality. Much of search degradation can be traced to companies that are either scraping long-tail content from sources such as Wikipedia and StackOverflow, or to those that are generating massive amounts of content from vast content farms. Both are exploiting search algorithms on a large scale with content that looks valuable to Google but is of little value to actual people. Demand Media and Associated Content are the two of the biggest sources for long-tail, highly-optimized content operations. Maybe this effect can be diminshed on the web as companies shift to business models not wholly reliant on ad-based revenue, which requires a steady stream of search traffic to make money.
Search is contextual. For example, iTunes Store is where people go to not only search for digital content, but also to buy and consume that content. General web search doesn’t serve this use case well as it only fulfills the search function and not the buy and consume functions. Amazon is similar to iTunes Store, but it covers much more than just digital content, such as listing and selling goods from other retailers. I could keep going: Craigslist for local listings, Wolfram|Alpha for structured data and computational searches, Twitter/Facebook for social info, etc.
2. More Pay-to-Use Websites
Consumer-focused websites and web services will actually start charging for their service instead of relying on ad-supported revenue. Apple helped familiarize the masses with buying digital goods, first with music then with iOS apps. The belief that everything on the web is free will somewhat diminish, and I could see more companies directly monetizing their product/service as people get more used to paying for digital goods. (Side note: I want to see some companies that make direct monetization easier on the web (like Apple did with iTunes Store) for both businesses and customers.
37signals, a big proponent of people paying for their products, must be feeling slightly vindicated. How many of you would pay to use Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / Google in exchange for a better overall experience, additional privacy protections, new features, etc.? I, for one, would in a heartbeat -- for a reasonable price of course.
3. Social Will Be Everywhere
Can we all drop the word ‘social’ and just call it the web? Facebook will continue its run for
social web dominance by gaining it’s 1 billionth user sooner than we all think, perhaps even before the year’s end. Facebook’s growth and popularity will give rise to more companies who embrace social from the ground up. They’ll design products and services around social. Expect to see a slew of companies based around this equation:
anything + social = better than the competition
games + social = Zynga
coupons + social = Groupon
causes + social = Kickstarter
What do you think? Disagree? Let me have it in the comments.