Predicting The Next Big Thing

Who wouldn't want to launch the next Twitter, Facebook or Google? Everyone in the tech business is asking the question, "What is the next big thing?" Clearly the most recent "big thing" has been the social networking boom. But what's next? This was the question asked of a distinguished group of entrepreneurs in a talk given at the Said Business School in Oxford, covered by the UK Guardian. Peter Thiel of PayPal, Biz Stone of Twitter, Ram Shriram, a founding board member of Google and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman offered their insights on the current and future direction of the Internet.

Biz Stone, of Twitter states,

"I refer to Twitter as an information network rather than a social network. And here I believe in the trend of openness. Using an open technology, creating an open platform, and being more transparent that is where we are heading."

Transparency is the key to "the next big thing". But what does that mean to those of us looking to launch "the next big thing"? Let's examine some recent trends on the Internet for some clues. {openx:3}

Twitter

While Twitter has been around for a couple of years, it is within the last year that we have begun to see Twitter handles published on profiles and announced on television shows and news broadcasts. Studies show that Twitter adoption has reached the 18-24 demographic.

We Live in Public

The movie We Live in Public chronicles the experience of Josh Harris as he explores the effects of living 24/7 fully in public.

Feedback

If you're on the Internet at all these days, you're seeing the new Feedback button showing up on the side of web sites.

Google Sidewiki

Recently Google added a tool to the Google Toolbar which allow users to post comments associated with your website. Any user with the tool installed on his or her browser will be able to read and share these comments without you having to install anything on your web site to enable the feature. In fact, without this tool installed, you won't even see what is being said about your site. Google Sidewiki

Esther Dyson wrote Release 2.0 in 1997, but it is still relevant today and I highly recommend this book. She writes,

Imagine bringing a mobile Internet-connected device when you go to the supermarket: as you reach for a package of detergent, it warns you that 70% of 10,000 people like yourself who tried the product didn't like what it did to their laundry. Increased communication (and automated processing of judgment data) means increased transparency and more power to the customers.

She imagined this world back in 1997 and now we have the iPhone with applications such as Red Laser which allows your iPhone to read a barcode and instantly receive information about competitive pricing and customer reviews.

So what can we learn from these recent trends in transparency?

Twitter is fast replacing SMS/MMS. Tweets are essentially public whereas SMS/MMS is a one-on-one communication. Google Wave opens Instant Message conversations to the public. The new feedback mechanism replaces traditional email feedback for your site, making user feedback publicly available. Google Sidewiki provides publicly viewable comments and feedback about your site whether you want it or not. It is clear that companies launching new sites and products will need to embrace transparency. Those who miss this trend will likely not survive. Trasparency itself may not be "the next big thing" but it is most certainly one of its features.