One Decade Ago Today & Future Predictions
One decade ago today, I was on a crack team of technologists at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette working on Y2K preparedness - impact analyses, disaster recovery, business continuity, turn-of-year analytics, etc. Redundancy, fault tolerance and security, all in an effort to hold up your pants with a belt, suspenders and a rope for good measure. During our entire 6 month, $40 million process, I knew the problem was oversold (though the SEC would hear none of it). Who would have thought that our overreaction to a benign threat would prepare us for a real disaster just 21 months ahead. The lesson being that seismic change happens, so embrace uncertainty through best practices.
One decade ago today, the first phase of the web was reaching its peak. At no time in the history of man had a technology enabled so many people to generate, consume and distribute so much content anonymously. The online forum, the multiple email accounts, the chat room, online dating, flame wars, script kiddies and more porn than you could shake a stick at. The ascent of anonymity gave voice to our most base desires to be heard, hateful, amused and titillated without consequence or guilt. Identity was a masquerade without boundaries, a playground for the creative and the criminal. The willful ignorance of authenticity, transparency and ubiquity mitigated our discovery and connectedness, but at this time, the Internet was another world, a intermittent fantasy that disappeared when our dialup connection turned off.
During the next decade, I see opportunities for the value of anonymity to rise again, against the current tide of persistent identity and leveraged personal branding. However, this type of anonymity will not hide in the shadows, it will hide in the wide open. In a world where the value of information is commoditized at an increasing rate, information value will be found in artificial and real scarcity - scarcity of real-estate (characters, domain names), scarcity of access (VIP treatment, paywalls, encryption), scarcity of membership (micro-networks), and scarcity of discovery (completely leaving the internet grid). Obfuscation in the open will reign. Hi-jacking centralized massively distributed and monetized services in an anonymous way will become commonplace. Zynga’s model is no accident. A Plentyoffish or HotorNot clone will live and thrive inside of Facebook. Offering anonymous connectivity in a sea of identity wins, just as the opposite has proven true for social networks during the 00s. Facebook is no longer the fantasy world, but part of the real world one needs to escape from. The next cool underground music movement will reject the internet entirely, and go to great lengths to remove their music and identity from the internet. Identity and discovery are conformity, and every youth movement eventually eats the strategy of the previous one. Live music and entertainment that can’t be recorded or shared or tagged or discovered will become quaint, a throwback. The clandestine chic will take distribution queues from the clandestine evil - terrorist informed agendas.
During the next decade, privacy concerns will become the Y2K scare of yore. Just as there will be millions of people emulating Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferris, there will be a sea of people paying for a decade of crimes of youthful oversharing. Credit services will ingest social profiles/footprints as a behavioral overlay to your FICA score and a new industry of removing those indiscretions will be born. Frankly speaking, Facebook has nothing on the credit agencies in terms of identity and scoring so look for a future merger of the two worlds of social and financial. SEO will give rise to PBO, personal branding optimization. Our narcissism and the tools to nurture it will be taken to an entirely new level.
We’ll see what happens.
Until then, look for me in the wide open, hiding the next big thing.