To many of us who got our start working on the Web in the 1990s, the 2000s may have seemed like a letdown. We had dreams of a Semantic Web, the Dow at 8 million, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, groceries delivered to our doors at the click of a mouse, and retiring at 30.
What we got was a dotcom bust, terrorism, war, natural disasters, recession, air travel becoming unbearable, and MySpace. There were some good things, too, of course.
As we prepare to enter a new decade, I'd like to take a look back at some of what I consider to be the highlights from the last 10 years, along with predictions for the next 10:
Highlight: Microsoft didn't win
In the '90s, it seemed possible that Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) would forever dominate the operating system and Web browser market. Although the company formerly known as "the evil empire" still has sizable leads in both of these areas today, it faces strong competition from the likes of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) Ironically, concerns about Google and Apple having monopolies have largely displaced similar concerns about Microsoft a decade ago.
Prediction: In 2019, pundits will be talking about the dangers of the "open source monopoly." (Yes, I realize this is an oxymoron, but these are pundits I'm talking about.)
Higlight: The browser "Back" button became worse than useless
As Websites have increasingly taken advantage of technologies such as AJAX and Adobe Flash to update the user interface dynamically (without going to a new "page"), the "Back" button that still lurks in the upper lefthand corner of your browser has become a major source of confusion and errors.
Prediction: In 2019, the Forward and Back buttons will be gone from your Web browsers (except, of course, for the people who are still using Internet Explorer 6).
Highlight: Google cracked the holy grail of making money from small businesses
By creating Adsense (which allows any Website to generate revenue from advertising) and Adwords (which allows anyone to place pay-per-click ads on Google's network), Google gave small businesses access to a legitimate, less effective, and more expensive form of spam.
In the same way that Red Bull profits from people who aren't willing to buy speed on the black market, Google has made billions from small businesses that want the cheapest possible way to advertise their exercise machines, but aren't willing to send bulk email to millions of strangers.
Prediction: In 2019, Google will have a fleet of biplanes circling over every major city, pulling giant e-paper banners with rotating text ads.
Highlight: User-generated content threatened to put pros out of business, but didn't
While it's true that most Websites are relying increasingly on volunteer contributors, most people continue to be able to distinguish quality content.
Prediction: In 2019, newspapers will still exist, but the only surviving sections will be "Celebrity Gossip" and a new type of hyper-local section dedicated to news and gossip about your family and your next-door neighbors. Everyone will subscribe so that they know what their neighbors are saying about them.
Highlight: We all found less creepy ways to reconnect with our high school crush
Thanks to the likes of MySpace and Facebook (or LinkedIn for people who really want to appear nonthreatening), it's now acceptable to hunt down the one that got away and imagine what might have been.
Prediction: In 2019, Facebook, The Sims, and virtual reality will combine to allow you to have the experience not only of reconnecting with old flames, but of living out the life that never was. Facebook's privacy preference defaults will be set to allow anyone to have a simulated life with anyone else without their permission.
Highlight: We rediscovered what was so great about the telegram
Text messaging, status updates, and Twitter have finally gotten us away from the long-winded conversational requirements of the telephone, instant messaging, email, and blogs. If the ships in Pearl Harbor could be alerted to the immanent attack in less than 10 words, you can certainly convey your feelings about dinner in less than 140 characters.
Prediction: Look for a Morse Code revival trend sometime around 2019, complete with Morse "vocals" in popular music.
Even with the dotcom bust and the economic recession, the first ten years of the new century were a time of rapid Web expansion. The next decade should hold even more surprises.
— Chris Minnick, e-publishing consultant and CEO of Minnick Web Services