Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Some guesses about the future

I wrote this post in 2007, more than 16 years ago. It may be very out of date, partially or totally incorrect. I may even no longer agree with this, or might approach things differently if I wrote this post today. I rarely edit posts after writing them, but if I have there'll be a note at the bottom about what I changed and why. If something in this post is actively harmful or dangerous please get in touch and I'll fix it.

There’s a fun thread over at Poynter’s Online News mailing list about what the future might hold for digital journalism. I thought I’d post my contributions here as well:

Steve Yelvington:

For a project I’m working on, I’d be interested in projections, predictions or complete wildass guesses about the near future. Say, 2012, just five years from now.

Hey, this sounds fun! Here are mine:

  • The iPhone – that is, the iPhone and the millions of knock-off devices – changes everything.

    The “typical web browser” is no longer a rich white male with an expensive computer and 17" monitor. Millions of mostly young urban teenagers – both white and not – on 4" screens become the norm.

    Sites that do a good job presenting a lot of information in a compact form – Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, etc. – do well, while long-format stories continue to get fewer and fewer readers.

    Readers continue the trend of consuming news in smaller and smaller chunks, and brand loyalty goes out the window as sites willing to aggregate news from multiple sources have better overall coverage.

  • However WiMax also changes everything.

    When those millions of cell phones all get pervasive broadband mobile video finally takes off. Long-format news stories do well as video (and audio) pieces, but are forced to compete with TV shows and movies also available through the same fat pipes.

    Cheap digital video cameras combine with high-quality open-source video editing to obsolete Final Cut; everyone and his dog becomes a TV show producer. CurrentTV rakes it in.

  • Off-line web application toolkits (Google’s Gears, Adobe’s Apollo, Microsoft’s Silverlight, Joyent’s Slingshot) change the way we interact with the internet; the difference between desktop and internet software disappears.

    Savvy news companies capitalize – by letting readers produce their own news packages, for example – but most don’t. Companies that want to take advantage of these new tools are forced to bet on a platform – it’s the Browser Wars all over again! Most big companies wrongly choose Microsoft and are crushed when Google emerges victorious.

  • Adrian Holovaty’s EveryBlock is a major success. This proves to be bad for news companies who curse EveryBlock in the same breath they curse Google and Craigslist. Most continue to ignore the fact that they could produce similar tools and just choose not to. Though sites like EveryBlock should be producing the next generation of Geeks-as-Journalists, most news companies just stick to old-school journalism. By the time they realize their mistakes, it’s too late. [Full disclaimer: Adrian is a friend, partner-in-Open-Source, co-author, and former co-worker.]

  • The software world becomes increasingly divided between Those Who Get Open Source and Those Who Are Doomed To Failure.

    Microsoft launches a full-scale legal attack on OSS in general (and Linux in particular). They are momentarily successful in convincing stupid companies to adopt their tools (see: FUD), but ultimately fail (see: SCO). Businesses based on closed platforms increasingly rue their decision.

    [Disclaimer: I am the author of a somewhat successful Open Source project.]

  • The Second Dot-Bomb occurs (sometime in the next couple years, methinks).

    The big boys ride out the wave, but many smaller and more speculative “Web 2.0” companies go bust. Those that sold out to the big boys (Reddit, Last.fm, …) watch as upper management kills their good ideas through the death of a thousand cuts.

    The geeks pick up the pieces and develop new, cool sites. Five years from now those sites are starting to attract venture capital as the cycle continues.

I’m actually pretty confidant about most of these. I’d put at least a $20 on each of ’em :)