11 Predictions for 2011

With a new year upon us, it’s time to move to a new set of predictions for what might be coming next.

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen technology have a major impact on all aspects of our society and I’ve tried to chronicle some of those impacts. This year, I’m starting something new by trying to classify the trends I’m looking at and attach them to the broader categories of interest.

So without further ado, here are some of my predictions for this coming year.

Politics

Wikileaks, the phenomenon

Last year, Wikileaks showed that governments may now have to find new, and more transparent, ways to operate in the age of the internet. However, long-time internet observers may have noticed that the US efforts to shut Wikileaks down seem very similar to the RIAA’s efforts to shut Napster down exactly a decade ago. I suspect that the net impact will be similar, with more Wikileaks-like organizations arising left and right.

Meanwhile, the cablegate scandal will continue to reverberate as more revelations from the cables will lead to details about the inner working of governments around the world. This will eventually lead to internet-organized protests making it into the real world, probably starting first outside the US and eventually making their ways around the globe. The protests outside the US will lead to the toppling of at least one government either in the middle east, Africa or South America.

Internet regulation at a crossroad

This year will be a year marked by several fights over internet legislation. I suspect that the US will see increasing clashes between Republicans and Democrats over the level of control the FCC has the right to assert on the Internet and over how much the government can force companies to maintain a level playing field on internet lines. Along the way, we will see a more aggressive and active FCC, making many heads turn as it starts becoming a stronger enforcer.

In several countries, we will see discussion of regulations trying to patch legislative holes created by the rise of Wikileaks and there may be some renewed attempt to increase the control of government over press organizations as a result of these regulations.

The fight over online piracy will also extend from discussions of music piracy to increasing movies, television, e-books, and e-magazine piracy. This will be the start of a new push by the entertainment industry to regulate the internet further.

Business

The public-less IPO

With last-year’s announcement of large-sized funding rounds by the likes of Groupon and Twitter has shown that there may be a different way for early investors to get some cash out of a company than a sale or Initial Public Offering. I suspect that it’s only a question of time before someone creates a Special Investment Vehicle (SIV) that allows for a private investors to invest in private companies like Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, GroupOn, etc… Along with the rise of secondmarket, I believe that 2011 will see large privately-held companies offer stock to investors through means other than a public offering or a sale.

Update: I wasn’t finished writing this entry that Goldman Sachs announced a Special Purpose Vehicle to allow some of its clients to invest in Facebook.

NFC payments come of age

It’s been many years in the making but I suspect that 2011 will finally be the year of touch-payments via Near Field Communication devices (NFC). A few years ago, I was involved in an effort to bring NFC, the little key-fob or specialized payment cards, to the New York taxis. Similar trials have happened in the New York subway system, and in some point of sale systems but, over the last few years, people have often asked me about my key fob payment tag as it appeared I was the first user they witnessed using one.

With NFC chips slated to be put into the next generation of iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberry phones, 2011 may finally be the year when the potential of NFC commerce is enabled.

A dent in ownership

Netflix and Redbox have almost destroyed the concept of owning DVD disks. Pandora has lowered the need to buy music.  Zipcar has made not owning a car possible for a lot of urbanites. The real estate crisis has made owning your own place seem less cool.

All and all, it seems the trend is moving, to a large extent, away from physical ownership of goods and towards either sharing models or outright rentals. We will see this trend continue to grow over the coming year. Some of the things to watch out for are the rise of the cord-cutters, where people replace their cable TV offering with an online only offering because of the a-la-carte pricing nature of online efforts. Another trend to look at is e-book lending with the initial efforts or the Nook and Kindle readers offering sharing capabilities on select titles.

Technology

Gamification

This, in my view, is part of a larger megatrend I highlighted a few weeks ago. I believe that 2011 will mark the beginning of a very large trend in technology to make every application more like a game. Individual user acceptance has ingrained itself in our society and we will now see this phenomenon starting to take place in the enterprise space. Expect much talk of enterprise application developing game-like features this year but real implementations will only see the light of day towards the end of the year at best, with more of the serious implementations happening in 2012.

The mobile revolution continues

The introduction of the iPhone 3 years ago shifted the whole online landscape to mobile devices. Yet, for all the discussion of mobile, it still has been a phenomenon sitting on the edge, as smart-phones were on the more expensive side of the price spectrum. Except all this to change this year, with many Android-based phones being available for free or almost free, putting any feature phone at a substantial disadvantage.

At the same time, get ready for the shoot-and-learn revolution as QR-codes, tagged objects, and smart tools like Google Goggles gain more mainstream acceptance. People will increasingly scan or shoot to learn more about or compare a physical good to information available online.

Last but not least in this is that I suspect Microsoft will make a major move in the space by either acquiring or teaming up with Nokia for its partnership and distribution footprint, making Windows Phone 7 the only OS running on Nokia phones.

Internet Backlash

The internet industry has benefited from a great amount of support over the last 2-3 years. Companies like Facebook, GroupOn, Zynga, and Google have been able to move along with high levels of consumer acceptance. I suspect that this year, we may start seeing more people rethinking some of their web 2.0 choices, disclosing a little less information on Facebook, or becoming more wary of the power of Google. We will also see the rise of digital-free zones, where people agree that the use of mobile devices or computers is not allowed.

We will also see many people questioning the validity of many of those internet companies and bringing up the specter of another financial bubble. Much of this talk will focus around internet companies that are looking to go public towards the end of the year.

As more people get impact by the stress that can be caused by our always-on culture, we might also see the rise of interest in digital down-time, time set aside to go offline and recharge before the next session.

Arts and Entertainment

Big event entertainment

There will be two major trends in fighting the continuing fragmentation of the media landscape. On the one hand, large media companies will continue to flock to the tried-and-true, remaking or making sequels to movies and TV shows that have been successful. Formula-based entertainment will continue to be produced but with an ever-decreasing return on investments.

On the other side of the spectrum is the rise of what I would dub “big event entertainment”, where media companies will attempt to build up their media product as an cultural event. In the US, the launch of the Oprah Women Network will be such an event. Other forms of media will try to build up those events through time-based models, creating sport-like offerings (think American Idol) through all forms of media.

Those efforts are all attempts at keeping the old system of release windows in place so that existing revenue streams are not threatened by the ubiquity of the internet access.

Remixing comes of age

Remixing has been common in music, and video remixing has been a largely underground phenomenon on the internet. 2011 will be a banner year for video remixing as the likes of Pogo will start entering the mainstream. I suspect that mainstream artists will start leveraging some of the same techniques in their efforts, bringing video remixing to the masses this year.

As the 2012 US presidential primaries get underway, we will also see an increasing amount of online remixing of politicians speech, sometimes misrepresenting their positions.

Danish cool

This is kind of my bleeding edge prediction but I believe that 2011 will be a big year for Denmark. Copenhagen-based architect Bjarke Ingels has recently opened a new office in New York. Meanwhile, Noma, a Copenhagen-based restaurant, was recently named as one of the top restaurants in the world. And many cities look to Copenhagen as an example of how to organize large-scale projects for public transportation (one third of the people in Copenhagen ride bicycle to commute).  And Denmark has established itself as a leader in the wind-generation and green technology space. So I think all this will add up to Denmark being seen under a new lens and may even be considered cool in 2011.

We’ll see at the end of the year how well I did on all those predictions. in the meantime, feel free to chime in in the comments or on twitter (use the #tnlpredicts hashtag so I can track things).

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