I don’t know what the next big thing will be, online or in real life. But what I do know is that it will be able to save you time in the things you want to do but are currently frustrated most by. How do I know this? Because it seems to be the natural trend in our big innovations.
Look at Facebook, what is the real killer app of Facebook? Is it that you can collect friends? That you can play games? Or is it that you can learn quickly about what’s going on with your group of friends? I think the killer app of Facebook is that it makes the sharing and spreading of ideas faster. (You can call “ideas” “memes” if you want, it’s probably a better term but I just can’t; that word sounds pompous to me.)
For example, Facebook has done a solid job of transforming the juvenile, social 1.0, act of collecting friends into a useful application of live stream sharing. We now share as a way of spreading our ideas. We then view and understand the activities of trusted others, our friends, and gain from their ideas. This advances the whole of our society forward and does three things.
One. Content online is now the new, great commodity. Mind you, I don’t mean currency. The currency of the Internet is data. Content is the core commodity. But commodities need a market and that’s where Facebook and other social networks come in. Sharing of content means we’re co-opting content to express an idea that we either a) have or b) want to believe in. This means that online content exists as a commodity within a market we could define as “social equity”. We, as users, share and trade content in an attempt to build up social equity. By thinking of this as a market it’s possible to envision the future path of its development.
Two. Social equity leads to the second effect of Facebook and social networks. Social equity leads to trust, and trust equals value. A trusted person within a network is valuable, not only to the network, which then doesn’t have to work as hard to validate information or search for new commodities but also to the advertiser who can locate trusted figures (marketers call them “influencers” a term I heard first at Nike and now hear everywhere.) These influencers act like nodes in a network, distributing content, thoughts, ideas, and recommendations. In this way social networks have already transformed the way that marketers advertise to us all. By injecting content into our network via our trusted friends they are able to influence our purchasing decisions. Why do you think they want you to follow them on Twitter and Facebook?
Three, I saved the big scary one for last. By sheer scale Facebook is beginning to peck away at the idea of nation-state. Sharing of ideas is non-geo specific. Yes, most users tend to socialize with people who are physically near to them. Yes, language and timezones are barriers. But when these sites learn to add features that adapt for language and timezone then we’re looking at a world where social wins and nation-state is seriously challenged. This might seem like a strange point of view in a world were governments under pressure are blocking the Internet but the reason they’re blocking the Internet is because this effect is already taking hold. It starts with the most conservative and autocratic states first and will move out from there.
So what does all this revolution have to do with the next big thing?
– If we live in a world where borders are less important than ever and foreign information doesn’t need a visa then that means information can flow faster.
– If we live in a world where companies see value in their content as a commodity that drives sales of their product then they will be more likely to fund the creation of more content.
So then, if we live in a world where information flows faster and is treated as a valuable object then “the next big thing” would certainly be based on this system.
If you want to find it first, just look for the web application that makes finding and sharing faster than it is today. Personally, I think it’ll be about physicalizing the experience of sharing through giving, gaming or enabling and I think it will start as mobile and work “backwards” into a website.