Things I’d like to see in 2009

At the Manx Third Thursday lunch today, Sherrilynne asked us “What is the next big thing going to be in 2009?”. A few good answers went around the table, but I found couldn’t really answer. If I.T. is fast, Social Media is even faster, I couldn’t come up with anything fast enough before it became old news.

But here’s what I would like to see:

Twitter is clearly the big thing at the moment, and a number of supporting services have popped up around its borders to complement the core Twitter service using its API. I’d like to see some consolidation of these services within one or more
sites or services. It doesn’t have to be Twitter itself, but I think the micro-blogging space is in need of some clarity. Twitterers use different picture, URL and syndication services, each with their own API. This leads to confusion – as fast as I get to grips with one site’s service, another one comes along and I’m out of fashion. In a “normal” business market, you might see one web site buying another web site in order to gain its intellectual property, and then build on it. Unfortunately, while Twitter seems to be able to perform acquisitions despite its quite dubious business model, I can’t see this happening. Some of the services provided by the complementary Twitter services such as TwitPic, MrTweet, Twollo, etc. are so obvious that either Twitter are waiting to see which services “take off” before buying or are focused on doing one thing – and doing it well (though their success in this respect, particularly with regards the current reluctance of the Facebook status update not working, is open to question).

Steve Burrows (while wielding his Google Android phone) suggested that social networking on mobile phones will be a big thing, particularly for location-based services. I’m inclined to agree. Putting aside the fancy smart phones which are often just style over substance (iPhone, anyone?) more phones and networks are coming out with the specific goal to provide access to social networks on the move. Maybe the days of quickly checking your Facebook as soon you get to a computer with an internet connection are numbered, instead, you’ll synchronise yourself with the social networks without even knowing it – while your phone is in your pocket, for example. Services such as location-based status updates, networked games (I’m thinking of Facebook Flash games, such as Tetris and Scrabble) and voice/webcam-based social networking using the phones hardware all become quite intriguing prospects. I’m already on the roadmap, with my planned upgrade from the Nokia N95 to the N97, itself social-network
based. The only weakness in the plan is data carrier rates, which if you’re
using one of our local carriers, offers less than competitive deals where you can access up to ONE WHOLE MEGABYTE a month on your mobile phone.

I would also like to see companies’ wings clipped with regards collection and
protection of data. The quiet acquisition of almost everything about your
computer experience by Google seems to have gone unnoticed by most, the current
focus being on the losing of personal data on trains and stolen laptops. The government is committed to collecting even more personal data, particularly for their contraversial ID card scheme. Most web sites you visit have the ability to collect personal data, in addition to their trend and usage acquisition software (also powered by Google), but which web sites are fully aware of their Data Protection responsibilities? I have personal knowledge of companies that have taken their data protection responsibilities less than seriously and I would like to see this trend reversed. The acquisition of data needs to be controlled, along with the subsequent storage and timely destruction of the data. Schemes like OpenID and Windows Live/Passport authentication mechanisms seem to be heading in the right direction, though neither is entirely there yet. I’d be happy to be proxy authenticated by a site that I could trust, and then contribute to a person’s blog safe in the knowledge that my personal data is safe. (How many passwords have you typed in to quickly register on sites that could be used elsewhere for more serious purposes and what gauantee have you that your password was encrypted from use by the web site developer and anyone who could potentially gain access to it?)

In other areas, I would like to see the Heathrow Third Runway ditched, in favour of a North-South High Speed Rail Link (though I suggest we would have to
wait a long time for the latter, like Christian Wolmar, I’m not convinced in the Tories’ claims that they would implement the scheme). I would like to see the BBC not to pander to the ultra-conservative tabloids that spoil broadcasting for younger people who like their comedy a little edgier than Morecambe and Wise. Finally, I would like to see The Isle of Man to build a tunnel under the Irish Sea that comes out in Liverpool so I can get to Manchester without paying the ridiculous anti-competitive fares by air and sea I currently have to pay. I can’t see this happening, though, not because a tunnel can’t be built but because the Manx government doesn’t seem to share its residents desire for increased competition and choice in services such as travel, television broadcast provision and fixed line rental.

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