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Tuesday January 4, 2011 4:41 pm
Will Facebook and Google still be relevant in 10 years?
As the last decade ends and a new one begins, it may be interesting to look at what has happened so far on the web, and what it means for the next 10 years. In a time when Facebook is everywhere, now reported to be valued at $50 billion, having raised $500 million recently and being expected to raise another $1.5 billion in the coming months, it's hard to remember what it was like in the year 2000. The tech bubble had just burst, a lot of web sites had gone down in flames, the Y2K bug proved to be nothing, and Windows 98 was still the dominant operating system. Google was something few people knew about, using instead Altavista and Yahoo. Social media was a mostly unknown concept. Just think of what the world was without smartphones and connectivity everywhere. In just 10 years, technology changed so fast, especially online, that it's hard to wrap our heads around it. Let's take it one domain at a time.
Search was big even 10 years ago. In fact, it was probably bigger than now. Right now, with instant communications between people on Facebook and Twitter, search engines are slowly being replaced by human power. When you're looking for a good pizza place in a town you're visiting, you may be more likely to ask your friends on Twitter using your smartphone, than to stop at an Internet cafe and do a search on Google. With location services, it's even easier, simply using Yelp, Foursquare, or Facebook Places to check in, and instantly get reviews and recommendations. None of those services that are in used by millions today were popular 10 years ago, and since growth usually goes faster and faster, it seems likely that over the next decade, things will evolve even faster. Already with things like Google Latitude, the act of 'checking in' is not required, instead it keeps track of where you are and relays real time information that may be of use to you.
When it comes to publishing online, the history is long and filled with different services. Livejournal, Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, the list is endless. In the year 2000, the hot thing that was just beginning was blogging. Now, traditional blogging, where someone would sit down at a computer, compose a 3 page long post with their latest thoughts and press submit, is already on the way down, replaced by micro blogging done on Tumblr, or directly on Twitter or your Facebook status bar. Will the long form come back, or did most people find out that it just takes too much effort for the potential rewards?
Finally, we end up at social network sites. Again, the landscape is filled with different sites. Myspace was not the first one, and Facebook, regardless of how popular it now is, will not be the last one. Looking at all of this by taking a step back, and reading what history tells us, I think the conclusion is very clear. Nothing on the web stays for very long. In fact, while technology in the real world advances at rapid paces, on the web it's even much faster. In 10 years, Facebook, Google, everything we now know and use daily, will be irrelevant, or at least no longer what people focus on, unless the current trend changes drastically. Is it wrong for people to get excited and invest large amounts of content and time into something like Facebook, which could be made irrelevant soon? No, but only if it's being done with short term in mind. Because like it or not, things move fast. In another decade, the online landscape will look nothing like it does now.
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