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?

Posted by jzawodn at December 08, 2003 08:29 AM

Reader Comments
# said:

I dropped my Crystal Ball on the floor and it broke!

Seriously. I think you'll see a huge shakeup in the Linux distro marketplace and it will eventually settle down and you see a few big players (Redhat, Debian, SuSE, Mandrake?) and that's it. Along with the fragmented bunch of little guys (Gentoo, myDistroBetterThanYourDistro, etc)

Also, is this the year for Linux on the Corporate Desktop (I think maybe after the shakeup)!

on December 8, 2003 08:54 AM
# Sa said:

RSSis god enough? Perhaps at what it does, but Atom (yes, they decided on a name!) is not just a format for content syndication - it also covers the mechanism for distributing that content for example. The difference between an RSS file and an Atom file is minimal - migration from one to the other isn't too much hassle (MovableType can easily generate both using its Templates for example). As yet however there is no killer reason to move to Atom - we'll require some killer apps/services before you'll see any great uptake in it (if at all).

on December 8, 2003 08:57 AM
# Justin Lundy said:

I see FreeBSD emerging as a much more widely used alternative in the server and desktop marketplace. Partially due to increased visibility after the SCO/Linux/IBM fiasco, and due to high pressure efforts by people in the FreeBSD community to publish new and excellent books on the subject. When bundled with specific hardware, FreeBSD makes an excellent desktop operating system suitable for not only server and developer environments, but also offices and call centers. Especially now that we have quality VoIP software available.

on December 8, 2003 09:40 AM
# j said:

Jeremy marries...

on December 8, 2003 10:09 AM
# Chris said:

I see a plague of locust, burning fire, dead people walking (I see dead people!) and...ahem, oh wait, we're not reading from the bible?

Dang it, I missed the memo agian. Outlook musta crashed.

on December 8, 2003 12:57 PM
# Jeremy C. Wright said:

Eh, did mine on my blog. Far more interesting. I have to say that I don't really disagree with much of what you're saying :)

I could easily see EPaper and Mote-technology gaining prominence in real world applications in the next year or so.

Look to see the whole "what's the ideal mobile device" thing take greater hold as well. Hopefully my thoughts on the matter don't go unheard.

Give me mobility or give me death!

on December 8, 2003 01:27 PM
# Jeffrey Winterborne-Hedley-Charmsworth said:

Fully automated P2P Tools

Automated P2P tools will begin to emerge. The tool could theorectically be programmed to search for an entire artist's back catalogue , and timed to go off during your "off peak" periods. This level of automation will scare the pants off record companies to a Napster-era level of fear.

Grid Games
The first theorectical grid-computing games could emerge next year, where the rendering computation is shared amongst millions of p2p clients, resulting in far richer 3D environments than is possible with today's CPU speeds.

VRML Mark 2
Someone will come up with another stab at VRML - namely, using a Quake like engine to create 3D social environments , for free. No subscription needed. The initial environment will be a cityscape, with an extremely easy build tool for adding your own personally built street to main city. This ease of addition , in conjunction with a P2P engine (you build a street - everyone else gets it next time they log in), could make it take off. But its got to be VERY easy - as easy as HTML pre-tables was.

on December 8, 2003 01:59 PM
# PJ said:

When RSS syndication [like in Radio] is available open source for blogs and websites as a whole, then RSS will explode.

RSS readers are one thing, syndicating headlines for display on your site adds a level of worth to the reader that will change a big chunk of the web.

on December 8, 2003 03:13 PM
# ie said:

I’m planning to publish my predictions in my blog later this month. Well then, some of my takes:Despite legislation adopted in the U.S. and Europe, spam will balloon unabatedly.SCO will prove its case IBM software developers carelessly copied and pasted Unix code into Linux.A major country will announce a major Linux project.Movable Type Pro will not see the light of day.Google will go public. It will be unable to cope with the expanding web. A major competitor will emerge and grab a large chunk of Google’s market share.PageRank will make a comeback. Sort of.I’ve witnessed more and more bloggers are writing less frequently, resorting to tricks such as lists of links. They’ve even coined a word for it – blogmarks.The Athens Olympics will go down in history as the worst games in decades if not ever. Heat, smog, transport congestion and Greek organizational incompetence will make for a complete disaster.The Euro Cup (European Soccer Championships) finals will see England beat Germany.George W. Bush will be re-elected.Saddam Hussein will remain at large.The U.S. economy will go through the roof.Please, note: I’m neither English, nor American, nor Iraqi.

on December 8, 2003 04:09 PM
# Gudmundur Karlsson said:

Cellphones will evolve to include VoIP circuitry. They will be "dockable" to connect to a LAN and to analog or normal office phone sets.
See my website /celliphone.html

on December 8, 2003 04:38 PM
# Al said:

RSS is going to be huge in 2004, because there's lots of support for it. Mainstream web users will catch on. RSS readers will no longer only be used by geeks and bloggers.

Atom will make inroads, because we need more than just simple syndication. It'll occur to lots of people that we need security and authentication and a discoverable API, which Atom provides.

Movable Type Pro will ship and it'll have Atom support, which will be huge.

Different ways of identifying people to create trust relationships will emerge. It's going to fun!

on December 8, 2003 09:43 PM
# hardy said:

there is no reason to move to atom -rss will be best supported; if possible offer both rss and atom.

on December 9, 2003 06:57 AM
# blah said:

Prediction: people will realize that Social Networking is a useless fad ala Friendster and the like. failed 6 years ago for the same reasons they will. Gee....I have 200,000 people in my network. Now what? When was the last time a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend hooked you up with anything? Prediction: Social Networks create the next wave of SPAM.

Prediction: Jeremy will get some conviction. His predictions are all loosy goosy, with no commitment. Tell us something we didn't already know and that hasn't appeared on the front page of every major trade rag.

Prediction: veritcal markets will include ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. People will realize the value this brings to their business and try to figure out how to do it. Can anyone say EEOC? NAACP? Gay marriage?

Prediction: the same shit that's making money on the Web....will continue to make money on the Web.

Prediction: the second bubble that will inevitably burst in 3 years time starts forming. We'll talk about "the good old days" when the Internet was "full of possibility." This time, it will be bigger because the players will have sound, proven business models. It will burst because desperate investors will have to get a piece and start investing in pure crap. "We're going to GIVE WAY homes. And plaster flatscreens everywhere so we can advertise to the inhabitants 24 hours a day."

Prediction: not a lick of interesting software will be developed in the next 5 years. It will all be the same shit, just repackaged or purchased. Software will continue to be utterly boring.

Prediction: companies will realize the value and significance of content delivery networks (CDN) NOT grid/edge computing (which is laughable right now) just in time for them to reap the pricing benefits because the stuff is commodity. If you have to choose, go with Speedera Networks because they understand the value of their customers.

Prediction: Oracle will continue to produce lousy software, bully people into buying it and still hit or exceed their revenue goals.

Prediction: 3 companies will make major, public investments in Linux and SCO will find that you can't recusitate a failing business by suing everyone that uses the OS.

Prediction: I still won't be able to come up with a New Years resolution because I don't smoke, do drugs or drink too much, I'm not fat and I've already sworn off Microsoft software.

Prediction: I'll be using Outlook for calendaring by Q1 2004.

on December 9, 2003 08:59 AM
# Matt said:

RSS! Atom! RSS! Atom!

Feed fight!

Ok, predictions:
1. The PS3 architecture will prove to be painful to work with.

2. Xbox2 will wind up bungled and people will buy it anyway.

3. Someone will wake up and discover a massive market for new console titles released at a $20-30 pricepoint.


4. Continued slow but steady stream of casualties from Iraq.

on December 9, 2003 01:25 PM
# Ben Hosken said:

1. Nokia will introduce a clam shell phone design as they continue to loose market share to these designs.

2. Personalisation of search and store (etailers) will become an out of the box simple to implement tool.

3. There will be 10+ music stores either live or in development at the start of year. By years end there will be less than 5 and decreasing...

4. ummmm RSS will continue to get traction in the non blog world because it is easy to implement and understand from a developer point of view, easily allowing products to provide news feeds with minimal effort and importantly low low low cost...can you say 5 feeds created before lunch.

5. Social Networks will be like the ++ in the 80s.....every marketing plan will include a social network/viral linking component.

6. Google's IPO will not kick start the Tech IPO sector but we will see a continued growth in the tech market with a continued focus commercially on short term ROI projects....yes Elephant projects more 3 people skunk works that get rolled out.

on December 10, 2003 12:15 PM
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