Inevitably, as users of the internet, we should ask ourselves a critical question: what is the future going to look like? Will the trends written about continue, or are they merely the latest fad online, soon to go the way of many fads and trends before them?
Interactivity, it seems, has a powerful future online, particularly in multimedia-based sites. Because these sorts of sites (such as YouTube and Last.fm) are mostly used by users with fast internet connections, they have some room for growth, as many users have not yet acquired such connections.
Other sites, such as Digg, MySpace Facebook are entrenched top players in their respective fields and it will be difficult to unseat them. Even so, each of these sites is in a competitive marketplace where the winds can shift quickly. For example, Digg has seen its traffic decline somewhat in recent months. MySpace was once the sole king of the social networking world, but has had to struggle with the meteoric rise of Facebook in the past few years. Many forget, though, that MySpace was one of the sites that knocked off the former kings of the social networking / personal page genre, Xanga and Friendster, each of which once looked unstoppable.
What is safe to say about the future of interactivity online? A few trends that are reasonable to expect to continue:
1. An expanding audience and expanding capacity will continue to fuel more platforms. As more people come online and as more people have better connections online, we can reasonable expect, in general, for their to be more offerings of sites dedicated to user-generated content, particularly in multimedia, and for user-to-user communication. The internet, after all, began as a tool for communication, though very simplistic communication at that.
2. Good business models online will be tough to find and execute. Even though there are many platforms encouraging interactivity online, very few of these platforms have made significant profits. Some of those which have hit it big, such as Facebook and Digg, have declined buyout offers (even big buyout offers) in the hopes that they will continue to grow and make money, but monetizing their businesses in a substantial way has been difficult. For example, Facebook partnered with many advertisers to introduce a service named “Beacon” that was designed to highlight one’s spending habits to one’s friends for advertising purposes, but many users protested against the service and Facebook eventually was forced to substantially limit it. For all its growth, the language of the internet mostly is freedom. It is because of this wonderful price tag that we’ve been able to build an entire site focusing on interactivity online and not cover a single product or service that is for sale. Businesses will continue to have to find ways to monetize their technologies, platforms, and user bases to continue to exist in the future. As in the past, many will try, but only a lucky and talented few will succeed.