Written by Richard MacManus, Ebrahim Ezzy, Emre Sokullu, Alex Iskold and Rudy De Waele. Also John Milan wanted to contribute, but unfortunately got caught up in the Seattle storm - so best wishes to John and all our Seattle readers.
In our previous post we reviewed the Web trends of 2006, noting trends such as the hyper-growth of social networks, the push of RSS into the mainstream, consumerization of the enterprise, and the continued rise of the read/write Web.
In this post we look forward to 2007 and ruminate on what trends will be important over the coming year.
RSS, Structured Data
- RSS will go mainstream in a big way next year - not only integrated into Microsoft's new Vista OS, but also fully integrated into Yahoo Mail when it comes out of beta (the Ajax version). Plus we expect some of Google's RSS experiments to come into play more in 2007 - especially Google Base, which uses an RSS variant called GData. In addition to all this, new and interesting (if not overly innovative) services will be built on top of RSS - e.g. the Techmeme RSS Ad-delivery.
- Related to the above, structured data will be a big trend next year - see our post on Google's structured data play from September this year. What will be particularly interesting to watch is how microformats, the Web community's open standards for structured data, will fare. At this point, it looks like Google is forging ahead with its own structured data standards - and largely ignoring microformats. Although both Microsoft and Yahoo have shown some support for microformats, is it enough to stop Google?
- Widgets exploded in 2006 but will continue rising in 2007 thanks to blogs and social networks like MySpace. MyBlogLog is an example of what we'll see more of, but also look out for more e-commerce and multimedia widgets.
- Web Office continues to ramp up. Especially watch Google and Microsoft battle it out in this domain. The smaller startups (Zoho, Zimbra, ThinkFree et al) will continue to innovate and there may even be acquisitions by the big Internet companies.
- The consumerization of the enterprise trend will start to infiltrate corporate IT, in the form of web-based office apps and more collaborative systems. Virtual solutions (teams and offices) that deliver high productivity at lesser expenses, will be hugely popular - for example SKY-click. Corporate blogs will continue to proliferate, although there may be more controversy to come in this area (think sensitive information leaked on corporate blogs).
- Rich Internet Apps will be a major force in 2007 (a continuation of the Hybrid web/desktop apps theme we focused on this year). In particular watch out for Adobe's Apollo platform, but you can be sure that Microsoft will also be very active in this domain with its Windows Presentation Foundation. Also in the mix will be Laszlo with its open source OpenLaszlo platform. The general trend going on here is that platforms that leverage both the desktop and the Web will be compelling next year, in terms of offering rich functionality that usually can't be found on purely browser-based apps.
- On the other hand, Google in particular will continue to push the boundaries of browser-based apps. Ajax is known to have its limitations, so some people have been wondering what will be next after Ajax? But also 2007 may be the year that rich web apps using vector graphics (VML/SVG)+AJAX make an impact.
- Semantic Web products will come of age in 2007. Make no mistake (to use presidential language), the Semantic web is coming - particularly with the work of companies like RadarNetworks and Metaweb. We think companies like that will come up with the plumbing to help generate RDF based on HTML.
- Amazon Web Services were a surprise hit in 2006 - and expect more big things from Amazon next year, to fill in the stack and to provide the foundation for a Web/Amazon WebServices-based OS. We also think there will be moves toward an Amazon-like web services stack from other players, particularly Google. For example Google may want to catch up with Amazon's S3 - EC2 services. And where Google goes, you can expect Microsoft to go too.
Search and Online Advertising
- Expect some shakeups in the online advertising market next year. AdSense will have some competition, in the form of MSN AdCenter and Yahoo's advertising platform.
- Also due to ongoing issues with (CPC/PPC) online advertising, there's a real need for a better, more robust online ad model - perhaps something more than CPA. So watch out for developments in 2007 along those lines.
- 2007 will be about Search 2.0 and the rise of the vertical search engines. However don't expect Google to lay down and do nothing - they will counter the verticals. Google Code and Health are two early examples of Google's response. Also note that Google is moving towards being a more meaning-based search engine. For instance, when you enter a company name in Google, the first result not only returns the homepage of the company but also some semantic meaning extracted from the website. And the right bar of SearchMash (Google's test search site) shows that Google is planning more features.
Microsoft vs Google
- Microsoft's Windows Live services will gain real momentum next year, thanks to Vista and also Live services going out of beta and usurping their MSN counterparts (e.g. Windows Live Mail taking over Hotmail).
- WebOS /GoogleOS: To counter the Vista and Windows Live threat, Google may come out with some form of GoogleOS. This is contentious, but one theory is that if Vista's default services (Live.com) can put pressure on Google, then we may see a Google optimized Linux .
- In line with this, Open Source Desktops will continue to gain momentum in '07. Red Hat and Novell will bring out new versions. Linux Desktops are getting more fun with 3D effects and KDE4 (Plasma) and AIGLX - Xgl and Beryl - Compiz technologies. But can they compete with new Vista and expected web operating systems?
- Browser War II. In 2007 expect the competition between IE7 and FireFox (plus Flock, Opera and Maxthon) to be intense. Perhaps we'll even see a G-Browser? Stranger things have happened.... or will Google continue to utilize Firefox as its cover? The latter is more likely, as Google does not want to seem too distracted with operating systems and browsers; this would be a bad signal for the NASDAQ investors.
- Speaking of browsers, 2007 will see an increase in WebKits. Adobe's Apollo will be WebKit based, enabling developers to ensure Safari compatibility as well as other browsers. We also think the Konqueror browser of Linux/KDE will drop its KHTML engine in favor of WebKit. So expect Safari compatibility to rise sharply in 2007.
- Internet-based TV will ramp up in 2007, thanks to products like Brightcove and whatever Google does with YouTube/Google Video. Also we'll see more of Interactive TV (iTV etc). On this theme, the Venice Project (from the founders of Skype) promises free TV all around the world.
- Mass adoption of IPTV technology in 2007 and Bittorrent will be an important part of the online video landscape too.
- P2P: With Azureus and BitTorrent, P2P got approximately $30M funding for 2007. So 2007 will undoubtedly be a good year for P2P. It will get more accessible and we'll probably see web based P2P interfaces. Bittorrent has already become a major part of most connected software. For instance, DemocracyPlayer - an IPTV client similar to Venice Project - had an embedded bittorrent client. Bittorrent will probably continue to be embedded in many new apps in '07.
- Virtual worlds: SecondLife will become an important platform for marketing, promotion, and of course social networking - as people and businesses figure out different uses for it. Also we think SecondLife will continue its expansion worldwide. Currently you can find Habbo and SecondLife cards in most supermarkets (Wallgreens, CVS) in the US, so this trend should continue in other parts of the world. In short, virtual worlds will become an integral part of the real world in 2007.
- Virtual Money: Paypal showed the way, and we're seeing more of it now - SecondLife LindeX, Microsoft points etc.
- The online real estate market will grow rapidly in '07.
- The search for disruptive business models will continue! :-) In other words, free consumer web apps still need to find a business model.
- While social networks dominated 2006, we wonder if the amount of time an average user spends online will start to negatively impact on their social lives in 2007 and lead to a downturn. Could social networks prove to be anti-social? ;-) At the same time, social networks will probably also become more open - and data portability will start to occur, although MySpace will hold out. See also widgets above.
- International Web will finally start to get its due in mainstream media (or maybe this is wishful thinking). China in particular is a hot market right now, but as Keith Teare observed on R/WW recently, it is still early days and the revenues are not big at this point.
- OLPC: One Laptop Per Child will create good buzz and may increase the adoption of thin-client like computers (internet and web apps dependent) and Linux for the mainstream. See also Web Office above, which may find its true niche in non-traditional markets which can't afford Microsoft Office.
- Broadband continues to grow: For example Fiber Connections in France. There will be similar baby steps towards faster internet all around the world. After all, the broadband revolution created web 2.0, Google and web apps. So it's worth following this trend!
- VoIP space will really hot up. Skype and a bunch of new competitors will compete and potentially disrupt the telecoms industry.
- Mobile Web may be the big story of 2007 - certainly in China, Korea and Japan; but perhaps even the US and other 'behind the times' places like New Zealand and Australia. Related to this is that online/offline mobile technologies like Smartpox may become more popular in the West (they already are in Asia).
- Mobile will be a bigger development and advertising platform in '07 (jajah mobile etc).
- Also watch for an emerging Webphone market - for example Apple's rumored iPhone and a GooglePhone.
Courtesy of mobile Web expert Rudy De Waele, here are 10 specific trends for mobile Web in '07:
- Flat fees will become more affordable bit by bit.
- Thus, more user-generated content will become available to the phone; opening the way for mobile users to start using new web/mobile 2.0 services on their phones, such as podcasting, RSS feeds, more user-generated content to upload and use.
- Big Media Youth Networks going mobile - MySpace, YouTube, MTV and many more players will resolutely go mobile; allowing users to upload pictures, videos and create/consume content straight from their mobile phones. And to share with friends (including mobile forwarding functionality).
- Mobile search - the big players will start positioning seriously in the mobile market (watch out for deals with carriers/operators and device manufacturers)
- Mobile ads - the market is growing at a rapid pace (just watch AdMob's ad views ticker box daily)
- QR codes will start to enter retail markets.
- Mobile image recognition will pop up in mixed marketing campaigns.
- Cell Phone memory card swapping - to exchange music/video files.
- Multiple network download hotspots become available in urban zones - enabling 'on the spot' mobile download and internet access possibilities via wi-fi/wimax/bluetooth/nfc/etc.... (all build in or available immediately)
- Rise of 'smart client' solutions, for convergence of content and application functionality on mobile devices in general.
Whew! There are a lot of predictions in this post, but of course we've probably just scratched the surface. We'd love to hear your own Web predictions for 2007. What have we missed? Please leave a comment and/or participate in our poll.