The Telegraph reminds us all that psychics (and the predictions they make) aren't two damns.
"This week, the German Skeptics Society revealed that all of the predictions for 2009 made by the nation's clairvoyants were wrong. One hundred and 40 forecasts, these so‑called psychics made, and every one of them turned out to be incorrect."
German Skeptics Society, ich liebe dich. You should start keeping track of economists' predictions next.*
Despite this reminder that predictions are a fool's game, I wrangled a few of my friends to discuss what 2010 might bring. We used Google Wave in part to make this roundtable happen, which might make this one of the first documented productive uses of that particular application. Google, please send a check.
Your dramatis personae for this post:
We started our conversation about 2010 by talking about social media's sawhorse of 2009: Twitter.
Fernando Rizo: Facebook made an attempt to buy Twitter at the end of 2008, Google tried again this past spring and there were rumours of varying credibility not long after that Apple was interested as well. Would it make sense to make a new play for Twitter in 2010? Or is Twitter a depreciating asset already?
Matt Burton: YouTube, delicious, Flickr, MySpace...all of these purchases by big players already had revenue (or in the case of delicious, an easy implementable model for it). The logic behind the purchases, I suppose, was "Let's buy a lot of users and figure out how to make money off of them." And yet, AFAIK, none of the new owners have been able to do this. While Twitter does have some revenue, it's a pittance. It would make sense to buy Twitter if they were siphoning your users; such was the case with Facebook. But that standoff is over now.
Mike Litman: The founder of Delicious went on record saying that he regrets the sale and the path that Yahoo have taken with it. Now I use Delicious daily, it's fantastic and there isn't much I use as regularly (probably Posterous but that's another conversation). If the founder didn't sell out but said 'hey, if you want to still use Delicious (and you'll get a 'Pro' account similar to the Flickr model) then that will be £20 a year please.' Then you'll see who stumps up the cash, they are the 'real' users.
Rizo: What both of you are talking about - it seems to me, anyway - is a change in start-up culture to an extent. Isn't the operating philosophy that drives the VC/startup model "I'll build my app/destination/what-have-you, acquire a cornucopia of users and then you buy it and figure out how to monetize it"? Is this the end of that kind of thinking?
Burton: I don't know if that was ever the case. Most startups at least have IDEAS for monetization by now. They should at least be able to support themselves.
Litman: Let's take Foursquare. I was told the other day that Foursquare is not a business, it's a tool. Nonsense. They are building 'something' in order either for integration in to an existing network or a buy out. That's my theory. And I love Foursquare too. I'm gonna damn well be the Mayor of Israel in no time. (ed - Mike was on holiday in Israel while we were discussing this.)
Burton: I don't know what it is, but Dennis definitely has a good plan for Foursquare.
Kai Turner: Litman and I were chatting about this the other day - Foursquare has gone for breadth (e.g. number of cities) over depth. I'm not sure that's a wise decision. A lot of London's early adopters have already moved on to something else.
Rizo: The CEO of Hubspot recently said that startups shouldn't even waste their time on business plans.
Burton: That jibes with what i've read: VCs don't give a damn about your biz plan. That doesn't mean they don't care about its ability to make money, though. The reason they don't care about a small startup's business plan is because it was probably written by geeks. VCs care about geeks' ability to make something good, not run a business. A biz plan will change dozens of times between the pitch and the moment you start bringing in revenue.
Turner: I would actually predict a major contender to Twitter emerging next year. And I think it will be driven by the front-end clients. I've always wanted to see Twitter turn into a protocol rather than a service.
What if Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Tweetie, etc. all adopted an open protocol alongside Twitter's api? They could make Twitter itself obsolete.
Burton: I'm surprised Twitter doesn't charge api fees.
Rizo: There are competing open protocols that already exist, like Identi.ca. If there's one thing that perpetually amazes me it's that Twitter has proved so durable in terms of popularity despite being a pretty weak product. Plurk does everything Twitter does just as well, and even has some neat original ideas. Twitter is the most amazing case for the power of PR I can think of.
Turner: Plurk sounds horrible - people underestimate naming & branding. You don't want to Plurk something do you?
But I'm not saying that's why it failed. Kevin Rose's service Pownce - was also more robust than Twitter - but Twitter's simplicity was the initial reason for it's success. That's why I think it should be a protocol - let the innovation happen one layer above.
Mat Morrison: Yep -- I really liked the idea of Pownce. But it was all about media sharing really; and that let it down. That and the early implementation of Air. Someone else should have written the desktop UI.
Rizo: Just thinking out loud - but what's the obstacle to Kai's scenario happening? Is it that If Tweetdeck, Seesmic and Tweetie all started their own protocol, you're still leaving a big chunk of Twitter's users behind? A major chunk, maybe a majority of Twitter users are still on the Web interface.
Turner: It would need support from someone even larger than the clients alone I suppose. It could be driven by Google - but I don't see them doing that. Not with Chrome & Wave in the early stages.
Rizo: "Too many projects" rarely seems to be an obstacle for Google, though. Facebook also has that ability to launch (or morph into) a Twitter-clone that would instantly have hundreds of millions of users, too.
Turner: Facebook hasn't exactly been at the cutting edge of open standards, though.
Rizo: Point taken.
Turner: I think it would have to be something that the clients developed, and then maybe Google adopted seeing an opportunity to compete with Twitter. It would be mutually beneficial - it's bad for clients not to own the protocol they are built on. Just look at how lists and RTs completely derailed whatever development plans TweetDeck and others may have had.
Rizo: Couldn't you argue that lists and new Twitter features are less important relevant since a large minority of Twitter users never visit the Web site to use the app? I don't think I've even seen Twitter's RT feature yet and I've heard nothing but bile about it. You could theoretically keep your Twitter client going on into the future as a fork development that never uses the official RT.
Burton: The new RT is part of the Twitter API. Tweetie uses it.
Rizo: It is now, but they could have skated right over it. Tweetdeck and Brizzly were offering baked-in RT support ages ago. I don't knowing if they're using the new RT part of the API but it doesn't seem to me that they would need to.
Kai: I agree - i'm just saying the clients are tied to whatever changes to the API that Twitter decides. And Twitter doesn't always seem to make the best decisions. Surely they would prefer an open protocol that would be managed by a working group of some sort, and they could have a say.
*There was a great site called True or False that did this for US-based psychics but sadly, it stopped updating a couple of years ago.