As we wrap up the semester and MI621 draws to a close, I decided to take a slightly different approach to our “concluding thoughts” post. Since we’ve done a great deal of reflection on past trends and current developments in social media, I thought it might be interesting to take a stab at considering future directions in the field. Now, some of these extrapolations are admittedly bolder than others, but I tried to go out on a limb somewhat and give myself something to look back on over the next five years. Thoughts, agreements, and mocking disagreements are all welcome:
- Instagram will no longer exist as a standalone app – Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram was met with trepidation by users that swear by Instagram’s focused, simple feed. Many feared that Facebook would strip Instagram’s features and just fold them into the overall Facebook experience in an effort to stop a hot competitor. Both sides put those fears to rest by declaring the companies separate entities that would be developed apart from one another moving forward.
Those sentiments may very well have been sincere, but as Facebook continues to hone its advertising strategy and feature integration, I believe that they will look to Instagram as one of its most potentially valuable commodities. There are other ways to take Instagram’s large and dedicated user base to profitability, but the most direct route seems to force users to engage with the content through the tried and true Facebook News Feed (particularly as they work to make the Feed more photo-friendly). My hunch is that Facebook’s compromise in this shift will be allowing users to view an “Instagram Only” feed through a simple click, much in the same way that you can now create specific feeds (friends, family, etc.).
- Twitter will acquire Yahoo! (and reinvent the site using an endless stream of data from tweets) – As Twitter continues to grow its active user base, the company will likely look to capitalize on its vast data source (as can be seen in the new Twitter music app).
Currently, other companies seem to leverage Twitter’s main asset (publicly shared tweets) more than Twitter itself. Yahoo! is a company that does many things, and it does almost none of them well. Yet, because Yahoo! was one of the original large names on the web, it maintains a large user base that uses their services for everything from email to fantasy football. Rather than submit to the painful mix of slow decline and failed modernization attempts, Yahoo! may eventually look to salvage its remaining value. If so, Twitter seems a logical buyer, as the company’s immense data flow would allow for an infusion of unique and incomparably fast content across all aspects of Yahoo’s business (news, search, games, maps, music, and so on).
- Restaurants will go through life cycles quicker, and overall quality will be raised as a result – Yelp has become an integral part of local business search, and I believe it (and perhaps similar other companies) will only continue to grow as the population moves towards universal comfort with mobile applications.
Yelp’s anticipated growth translates to new challenges and opportunities for businesses (and restaurants in particular) that are now reviewed by average consumers more than the “professional” counterparts. This scrutiny will force restaurants to become responsive to customers, who will be equipped with options, insights, and new tools for feedback in previously unseen ways. Perhaps the most vital feature of Yelp’s model that speaks to future potential is that it works best on mobile. While other companies struggle to keep up with consumer movement from computer to mobile, Yelp is centered around the premise that it integrates mobile features (location services in particular) to increase usability.
- A new degree will be introduced in higher education – The emergence of MOOCs into the higher education landscape is already disrupting traditional notions of the collegiate experience. While some lawmakers and entrepreneurs have made noise about MOOCs eventually replacing brick and mortar universities, the pushback against this viewpoint is palpable within much of the higher education community. Instead, a third path will emerge in
which, while universities work to “flip” classrooms and leverage new technologies to enhance the traditional college experience, MOOCs will also emerge as legitimate centers of education. This path, as I see it, may most logically be developed through a new degree that will be distinguished from an associate or bachelor’s degree as awarded exclusively by MOOCs. The development of this degree will allow for universities to maintain their standing within the educational community while also allowing for the creation of a new set of standards, expectations, and accountability for MOOCs.
So, what do you all think? What are your predictions for the future of the social web/social media? Do you agree or disagree with my extrapolations? I’d love to keep this conversation going, so please feel free to provide feedback!