Happy New Year, everyone! I've decided not to make any New Year's resolutions this year. Everyone pretty much resolves the same things anyway so I'll just borrow someone else's. I'm also not going to try to predict what's going to happen. Things are just moving too fast.
However, I thought that I'd start this year out with a wish list of stuff I hope happens. Who knows? Maybe you'll be the one to make some of these things happen.
So, in no particular order:
No more Web version numbering. Please, people: can we just be done with trying to assign version numbers to the Web? I've had enough of Web 2.0 (and now Web 3.0). Versioning the Web is just annoying. It's the Web. It does nifty stuff. Besides, who's assigning these numbers anyway?
The Android OS really takes off/the Google Phone takes off. I'll admit it: I don't own an iPhone. Shocking, huh? How can I even function? Well, somehow I get along, though I'm frequently lost, none of my friends can find me (thank God!), and I have absolutely nothing to do when standing in lines, waiting for tables, or hanging out in airports. I also don't have to worry about crappy voice quality, bad coverage, or draining my bank account at the AppStore. Let's face it: the iPhone in 2010 is about as cool as the old-school cellphone was in 2000. Once your mother-in-law gets one, it ain't hip anymore, folks.
So why do I want the Android operating system to take off? So the world can see what happens when an open mobile operating system is unleashed on the world and hits critical mass. When consumers are given the choice between closed and open systems, they usually choose open. And that's when the really interesting innovation begins. Apple = AOL, circa 1993. Android = the Internet of the same era. Who won?
Google, Facebook, and other self-administered CPC (define) media overhaul their interfaces and get some decent customer service. Yeah, yeah, yeah...we all know that times are tough and everyone's had to cut back. But why is it so difficult to get an actual human being on the phone at Google when you have a problem with your AdWords account? Though its stock price might be down, Google's still not hurting for money.
On a similar note, why can't these self-service ad interfaces be designed for human beings? While the interfaces on our desktop apps now are fairly universally well designed (with some cough...cough...Microsoft...exceptions), trying to wade through the self-service ad interfaces is like heading back to the days of mainframes sometimes. Sure, the obfuscation might keep a lot of search marketing experts employed, but it could use an overhaul.
Search that actually works. Last year Wolfram Alpha took us all on a rollercoaster ride that ran from expectant elation to WTF bewilderment. To be fair, Alpha does seem to be of use to some folks and can occasionally be kind of amusing, but it's still not I'll use everyday.
Of course, Google and Bing work well enough most of the time. But the fact that there are a gazillion other specialized search engines points to the fact that there's a lot of work to be done. Better interfaces that allow us to store, sort, and combine search types (Web, image, and video together would be nice) and non-techie ways to put together complex queries would be a nice start.
A breakthrough/paradigm change occurs in e-mail. E-mail in 2010 isn't really any different than e-mail in 2000. Sure, spam filters have gotten a lot better, but considering the size of most of our inboxes (in all our accounts) and the amount of time we all spend deleting, sorting, and searching for e-mail, it seems that there must be a better way.
I figure out what Google Wave is really good for. I desperately want to use Wave for something useful. It seems like a potential answer to my wish No. 5, above. But for the life of me I can't figure out what I'd do with it in a real-world situation. Maybe I just don't "get it" (which could be entirely possible), but Google needs to do a much better job providing scenarios for us dimwits who don't have time to experiment with new software. And yes, I know it's in beta. I also know that it seems really cool. It's almost like being presented with some sort of alien artifact that you just know could do some amazing stuff -- if you could just figure out how to turn it on.
Media sites recognize the problem with page load times. Just about everyone I know privately talks about slow page load times especially the problem with recalcitrant ad servers that hold up the page. But where's the public outcry? I haven't seen much of it, but as this Akamai study about consumer behavior and page load times shows slow pages mean consumers bail out after a mere two seconds. As an industry, we really need to fix this.
Mobile carriers realize they're really just selling wireless bandwidth. Cable companies, too. While I give the odds of this one happening somewhere near the odds of T-Pain visiting me on a boat this summer, both mobile and cable companies could do themselves a lot of good by cutting to the chase and owning up to the fact that their future lies in their inevitable commoditization. See wish No. 2. But no. We're going to have to suffer through the "Cable Everywhere" initiative and walled-garden models until they get the fact that no matter how much they want to be in the content game, both industries are simply in the business of connecting us to the Internet. Open always wins out. Content will always be too slippery to keep a lock on. Get over it. You're going to have to someday anyway.
Businesses start figuring out how to really use Twitter. Most would agree that 2009 was the year of Twitter (and social media in general). But while lots of folks have jumped on the bandwagon, they don't seem to have really built much strategic thinking into how they use these tools. Here's a clue: it's about real-time information.
Social networking sites get a clue about privacy. Users, too. I've written about this before here, there has been some movement over the past year to provide more granular levels of privacy on social networking (Facebook in particular) sites, but we're still a long ways from where we need to be. Social networking sites need multiple levels of "friend" settings (close friend, family, acquaintance, colleague/business associate, etc., for a start) and they need to make it a lot easier and more transparent to set up these levels of access.
And as for people using the Internet: If you haven't figured out yet that the stuff you post on your Facebook account will live somewhere online forever to haunt you, you'll definitely have it figured out for you.
We all get a lot more skeptical. That includes getting a little more skeptical about new technologies and what we read about in the business/tech press. If we're spending our clients' money on The Next Big Thing, remember: there are still a lot of consumers who don't have broadband access, much less the shiniest new mobile gadget.
Rupert Murdoch eats crow. Or humble pie. Or something. Or maybe just shuts up and lets people who know what they're doing make the decisions. Oh yeah, Rupert: we all can't wait to see what happens with your new initiative to keep your content out of search engines. Same goes for other "old media" types who haven't realized that most of the traffic they're getting is coming through those search engines they're so convinced are "stealing" their content. You build a wall and someone else is just going to put up a new town outside that wall. Give it up.
The Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America get a clue. Yep, I'm tilting at windmills here, too. But what's it going to take before these dinosaurs end the ridiculous lawsuits, stop trying to foist ever-more-onerous digital rights management, and stop whining to a public that doesn't care and is sick of their malarkey? Probably not too soon, unfortunately. Here's your clue, dudes: you've lost. You just haven't realized it yet. Look at the trend vectors: have lawsuits and restrictive content control ever been able to stop people from accessing content they want to access?
The end of Web 2.0 shiny bling bling style-y. Oh, and in the spirit of wish No. 1, can we all just put away the dropshadows, gradients, and lens-flare effects and just walk away? Why not try some actual design?
Agencies and clients begin to really get convergence. It's all the Internet. This is one I hope we'll all (in the immortal words of Robert Heinlein) grok. We're closer to true "convergence" then ever before. Just about every home and mobile device is (or, I'll predict, will be in the next year or so) connected to the Internet (not necessarily the Web, but that's a different rant). From TVs to TiVo to game consoles to PCs to mobile phones, we're all heading to a place where being "online" isn't something you do -- it just is. While we're planning our media buys, we must realize this and start figuring out how to reach people across all the various media types they engage in.
Mobile marketers will concentrate on what makes sense for mobile users. Mobile marketing's gotten a lot better from its early days during the late'90s when "mobile marketing" meant delivering banner ads and SMS messages to reluctant consumers. The app revolution of the last couple of years has pushed mobile marketing to the right direction, but we still have a ways to go. While I've written about four simple rules that can help simplify mobile campaigns, the most basic rule is: what works best with mobile users is stuff that recognizes that they're mobile.
A personal digital identity that moves across devices. Can you remember all your passwords? I can't. As we log into more and more devices and services in our rapidly-converging mediasphere, identity management must be a top priority. One that really works.
Someone develops a really good way to measure impressions across all media. What really constitutes success in social media? It's tough to measure, that's for sure (though here are some good ideas here. True convergence isn't going to happen until advertisers, agencies, and the media outlets they spend money on can come up with a better way of measuring success across the spectrum.
Next year is better than this year. 'Nuff said. Happy New Year!
Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.