My 2004 Crystal Ball: Search, Social Networks, Reputation, RSS

My 2004 Crystal Ball: Search, Social Networks, Reputation, RSS

Given the upcoming new year, I figure it's a good time to share what my crystal ball is telling me. The year 2004 will be exciting for technologists. Pressure has been building in several areas that are poised to really cook next year. Here's my brief take on each of them.

Search: Personalization and Relevance

Let's face it, PageRank is Dead. Really. I've said it once and I'll say it again. Google knows this. Microsoft knows this. Anyone seriously into search has seen the writing on the wall. The link spammers are out in full force and they're not going away. It's beginning harder and harder to get relevant results for a growing number of common searches.

There are several ways to improve the situation. Expect to see work on personalizing search results. Look no further than one of Google's most recent press releases.

Kaltix Corp. was formed in June 2003 and focuses on developing personalized and context-sensitive search technologies that make it faster and easier for people to find information on the web.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Don't expect PageRank to go away. But expect it to be joined several other powerful factors when ranking your search results.

Search: Vertical Markets

Search often leads to transactions. The search engine companies want a cut of those transactions–just like Amazon or eBay get. Think of them as search services for a minute.

Expect to see a lot of work going into vertical search markets: cars, real estate, electronics, hotels, vacation deals, etc. And expect to see the existing big search players aggressively [re]positioning themselves as the place to go to search for products and services, not just information.

Yes, we have Froogle. But it's very, very primitive. The only two services that come close to what I'm thinking of are Yahoo Shopping and eBay is really lacking in this area.

Social Networks

Yeah, Friendster, LinkedIn, and all appeared this year. But they're all just getting started, working out the kinks, and learning how users network each other. Their plans for making money aren't yet clear–at least to the public.

What will 2004 bring? A lot. This area of “the market” will get more crowded. We'll see a lot more crossovers too. If you've ever thought to yourself, “Wouldn't it be cool if you combined Friendster/LinkedIn/ and __________?” 2004 will be the year when it starts to happen.

Reputation Systems

The web's built-in anonymity has become a real problem. You never know who or what to trust. Aside from being the biggest person to person auction network around, what makes eBay so damned useful? It has a reputation system. It's not perfect, but it works surprisingly well given its simple nature.

When you start to think about the growing number of social networks out there (IM buddy lists, eBay, Friendster, etc.), it's just a matter of time before someone begins applying them (or related technology) to some of the problems we've been battling: e-mail spam, weblog comment spam, impersonal search results, and so on. There are some very, very interesting applications of all this “connectedness” we're building up.

In much the same way that Google rocked the world by applying the relationships among web pages, networks of people and their associated relationships and reputations will provide the backbone for some of the next-generation solutions.

RSS and Open Syndication

Yeah, we all know that RSS has been growing in popularity, thanks largely to weblogs. What will make 2004 different? Simple. RSS will go well beyond our little realm of weblogs. In 2004, RSS is going to go mainstream–and it's going to happen in a big way.

Remember when you first starting seeing URLs appear on billboards and at the end of movie trailers? So do I. It's going to be like that. One day we're just going to look around and realize that RSS is popping up all over the place. And a couple years later, we'll all wonder how we ever got along without it.

Forget Atom/Pie/Echo/whatever. It will be RSS. RSS may not be perfect, but it's good enough. That train left the station quite a while ago.

Your Turn

Now you've heard my predictions. What are yours? … [Jeremy Zawodny's blog]

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