What’s New?

There was a time before Twitter, which first appeared on our radar not quite a year ago (Some Folks Are A-Twitter). Facebook was invented in 2004 and didn’t take off until some years later. There was even a time before RSS, and certainly a time before it became a routine way to pull information. And, of course, we’re told that there was indeed a time before blogging — but that’s pre-history and there’s no written record from that time…

So my question is: what is the new technology that we’re not quite seeing at the moment?

I’m not asking about trends, such as cloud computing, the semantic web or the shift to mobile computing. They’re interesting in and of themselves, but they’re extensions or developments of well-known technologies. What I’m after is the application on the horizon that has the potential to be the next fad big thing.

Or are we in a developmental lull?


  1. We’ll it’s tough to predict specific applications, but I think it’s a fair assumption that as broadband penetration increases we’re going to see increasingly media-rich web use.

    The most obvious extension right now would be video, and we’ve already seen it compete with mainstream television in some niche areas.

  2. Agreed. Video blogging for shorter & longer captures. Video-based comments are on the upswing but in the very early stages. I would look for clip-to-clip discussions & interviews.

    I don’t think we’ve seen the full extent of micro-blogging either. Open source versions (identi.ca) were gaining traction for a while, but seem to have slowed. A splintering of twitter into smaller interest communities is possible. And feature wise, there’s more work to be done for subject oriented groups & comment-threading.

    A developmental lull is an interesting thought. Certainly we haven’t seen a big shift like we did with blogging & micro-blogging for a while now.

    One thing I hope we see, is for personal publishing ownership to swing back into favour. I like twitter, but many people are doing it at the expense of owning their own assets online. I think that’s a mistake.

  3. Simon:

    I love it when someone asks a totally open-ended question as you have done. It gives all of us the chance to go out on a limb and others the chance to come after us with a chain saw!

    SO here goes.

    I think the next fad/big thing will be the truly mobile ‘personal/portable’ computer. This is crystal-ball gazing, but this computer would be ‘always on’ and connected to the web and providing real-time information to the user, via biometrics.

    It would provide real-time information regarding where he/she is (information on services that are nearby based on what you are looking at; GPS providing directions based on where they are heading or based on where you want to go or services you wish to find), email/chat in real-time (via an earpiece), and the ability to ask questions and receive answers (voice activated Google search).

    If you are following the stock market, it could provide updates on stocks you are following and able to execute on sell/buy orders as you walk.

    You would be able to just ask to talk to or email someone to activate a cell phone call or send an email.

    In other words, it would become an extension of yourself and tie you into the web on a real-time basis. Wikipedia or other information sources could be referenced by merely asking a question.

    You find out that a stock that you have has just increased in value – so you tell the computer to sell, noting that you have just pocketed a tidy profit. You could be freezing walking in the Toronto snow and ask “I wonder what the weather is like in Aruba?” and receive a weather update. Then you can ask “When are the flights leaving from Pearson to Aruba this Saturday?” and get an overview of flight, hotels and cost information. You can book the flights and hotel and call your significant other to say “Book next week off – we are outta here!” Lastly you can ask the computer to determine if your drug store has stocked your favorite sun tan lotion and make reservations at a golf course for Sunday at 9 am in Aruba.

    And all of this can happen while you are getting blown off the sidewalk walking down Yonge and Dundas.


    Cheers and best of the holidays to all.

    Dave Bilinsky

  4. Several years ago I attended a videocast/conference call of a spinoff of the ABA Techshow. I remember seeing a portable PC, very much in the theme of what David says above. It looked like a beauty pagent sash with the battery pack/cpu on the back strap. I’ve been waiting patiently for Best Buy to bring one in.

    I think that the time is ripe for the plugged in person to be truly unplugged.

    I anticipate apps that will run in conjunction with the person. A visual similar to an iphone projected to a right eyeglass lense. Moving a virtual selector device with a Wii like remote. None of these will require fossil fuel power, but will recharge by bioavailable methods. A muscle movement to refresh battery. I think that the gamers who used to be ‘kids’ but are now decision makers will pay for this technology.

    This might not make 2009, but some kind of virtual reality business app should.

  5. I agree with Steve about video blogging–I did a presentation on it for Internet Librarian in October. (Slides are here). And I agree, mobile everything is definitely gaining traction. Half of Toronto seems to have an iPhone, and I’m sure that is just the beginning. I’ve already become dependent on the GPS-Google Maps combo on my iPhone when going anywhere.

  6. This won’t happen anytime soon, but … I keep thinking the next real game-changing technology leap will be universal-access open-source software. Open-source is a great tool in the hands of the extremely small fraction of people who can actually write code. One of these days, though, someone’s going to invent programming code that anyone — anyone — can use. Picture 9-year-olds creating their own games. Grandmothers whipping up their own digital photo displays. Small businesses writing their own customer service apps. And all of it Net-connected. That would open up dimensions of creativity and productivity that we can’t even imagine. That’s at least a generation away, probably two. But I don’t think it’s impossible, and these days, anything not impossible with technology is also inevitable.

  7. That’s an interesting choice of previous fads to list. Facebook may have started in 2004, but it was an improvement over Myspace before it. Both sites inherited from previous discussion systems, going back to Usenet and before. Blogs are an online evolution of Zines from the 80s and 90s. Twitter is just an evolution of micro-blogging, from all those short status messages on sites like Facebook.

    To extrapolate what the next fad will be in this concept area, it will be another incremental step in something we’ve seen before. The next big thing will probably be an enhancement on the social networking tools that we see now, probably something involving an integration of the multitude of services into one interface, such as updating Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, and Twitter from one place.

    Alternatively, given the possible failure of printed newspapers in the near future, we might see an evolution of blogging to improve their news-worthiness.

    Of course, this is the wrong forum for such a question. If you want to know what the geeks are working on, you should ask them directly, on a site like Slashdot.

  8. On Jordan’s point (universal access open-source software), the folks at MIT who put together the One Laptop per Child project (the XO computer) designed it for just this purpose. Lots of creativity tools, for text and music and geometry and other things, all open source, all networkable. I’m not sure how that project is going; my own version of the computer was fascinating (and a conversation piece) but I’m in the pre-geek generation for this purpose.

    I don’t see video-blogging going far, though – too much noise to signal. What is on most blogs (and newscasts, come to that) is not worth the time it would take to watch it, compared to the tenth as long, or less, it would take to read it and follow a couple of links to other text. But then I don’t watch TV news for the same reason, and I think I’m a minority. Another technology passes me by …

    We haven’t seen the end of the development of folksonomies, probably with a bit more editorial control somehow, though. No predictions about what it will look like or where it will come from.

  9. To find the next technology that goes beyond what is already out there, we need to stop looking in the same places and evolve beyond the tech marketing ploys to see where the true creativity is brewing.

    The real innovators are not blowing their energy & money on full page ads or thousands in techshow booths with flashy promotion schemes. In the future, the next generation will be able to recognize and support small scale tech entrepreneurship and to see the innovation beyond the flashy marketing and good old boy networks with a hidden agenda. So much that is out there could have been great, but was corrupted.

    The process has started with open source but will expand into an even more open process of invention and collaboration that goes beyond the programmers and lets everyone, even those in different fields, especially science or biology, with even simple tech skills contribute to the process.

    IMHO, the next big thing will combine brain science with technology. There is a lot of fascinating research going on w/the firing of brain synapses and how technology is affecting the evolution of the human brain. I’m neither a programmer nor a scientist but someone sitting in an underfunded lab somewhere is coming up with something amazing. Let’s hope as a society we can recognize the potential and keep an open mind without him or having to come up with a marketing strategy to convince the masses.