What’s after the Social Web?

I’m sitting in Union Square SF on a Saturday night at Starbucks getting some additional analysis completed on the Wave report, which should be publishing in a few weeks. I can’t but help think about some trends that I’ve been hearing from multiple people.

On Friday, I had a meeting with an SVP of Yahoo, to learn about some of the redesign coming to the homepage. What’s interesting is the focus is on apps, not the incredible large social graph that they’ve been building for 10 years. They know that not everyone is going to be a social participant (our technographic data indicates this also –although participation continues to increase) and everyone won’t participate on every website.

Right after lunch I talked with Scoble, who reminded me about the looming recession. we both agreed that this will shed off non-unique startups and force innovation, and likely higher CTRs for new types of marketing and advertising.

After lunch, I stopped by University Cafe in Palo Alto for an impromptu meeting, if you sit on the sidewalk table like I did, you’re almost guaranteed to see someone from the social media or tech space walk by. Facebook is just a few blocks away and many VCs, entrepreneurs take in business meetings here. Chris Saad (pic) of the data portability group came by, and he explained in depth his vision of the personal web –how content will be delivered based on historical, relevance, and not social data.

Chris showed me the upcoming Web 3.0 conference, which I tweeted “Did Web 2.0 jump the shark?” Minutes later I received a private message from Tim O’Reilly himself, we got on the phone and he explained his intentions of the term (most of us aren’t using it in the way he first envisioned) and loosely, his vision is that the behavior of networks will populate databases in which organizations can retrieve the data and deliver content –social activity isn’t always implied.

So that’s four conversations (in one day) that were outside of my usual ‘social’ discussions I have with clients, entrepreneurs, press, and VCs. I’ve heard and read a lot of folks explain what they think is coming (I’m avoiding saying the “S” word), but I’m not going to accept that as fact, I’m going to continue to explore, talk to folks, interview people to understand what this trend entails.

What’s interesting is that most of my clients (large corporations) haven’t figured out how to fully embrace the social web –let alone think about what’s next. The only caveat being here is that the social web won’t go away, but will integrate, and soon a new type of technology will emerge to provide greater relevancy to content, people, activities and ideas.

When I first started this blog, I titled it the “Web Strategy Blog” not the “Social Media blog” as I know there will always be new technologies and new trends, there’s something else coming beyond the social web. As I learn more, I’ll continue to report back to you all, stay tuned.

  • Was great hanging out Jeremiah – was a pleasure talking about the future with u!

  • I often share (on http://www.afpr.com)my vision for the future of the web. I do not think one should get hung up on whether it is referred to as “web 3.0”, or anything else. The vision, or what is coming is what is most exciting.

    In mobile, we will walk around with everything (the cell phone will be the conduit for everything we do). It will not be just about GeoTagging, our phones will show us data that has been barcoded,image recognized,etc. it will communicate with databased info via RFID,Bluetooth,etc. Everything will be tagged in one manner or another. This will lead to the higher CTR that you talk about.

    For the web, I see a few different important trends. We will take our social networks with us. Not just all the data we tagged about ourselves, but everything…our likes,dislikes and our connections as well.

    The buzz will not only be about what we are able to do (in the future) with the web. But it will be even more about the convergence. It will finally be here, and we will Tweet,blog,and socialize right on our TV screens,PC,Wii, Mobile or wherever we happen to be at the time.

    Everything that we own (furniture,food,electronics,etc) will have its own little social network, where it also will communicate its wishes and needs.

    So Yahoo is redesigning their front page to include apps.? Yahoo! zzzzzzzzzzz

    You raise a great point (out of many great comments) much to quietly. “The social web will not go away, but will integrate…” I for one would love to read/hear your thoughts on that. I agree that this is coming, but want to hear in what ways you think we will utilize/see it.

    http://www.twitter.com/A_F

  • Jeremiah, you mentioned that “most of my clients (large corporations) haven’t figured out how to fully embrace the social web.” At lease they get it and are trying to figure it out. I spoke with a colleague who said that many of the companies he works with, don’t even see the value in social media, and are pretending like if they just ignore it, it might not effect them. Do you see this happening as well?

  • Good points Andrew. Tim O’Reilly mentioned to me yesterday that companies with transaction data have incredibly accurate sources of historical information–much of it hasn’t been tapped into.

  • LJ Jones, well to give some perspective, most of my clients are coming to me about how to embrace these tools, so that’s why they are seeking answers. Many are toe-dippin, but few have true long term strategies with clear and succinct objectives.

  • In the 80s there was no Forrester Research, but there was Hambrecht & Quist. An analyst named Joseph Laird did a writeup on “information vending companies”, stalwarts like Dow Jones, but also up-and-comers like CUC International (which is now part of Diller’s IAC) and Bloomberg.

    In that seminal report, he noted that the industry structure was naturally monopolistic, noting that “no data product ever seems to truly die”, that successful companies had been good at mining their historical data to find areas that were growing by leaps and bounds, and that these companies seemed to get the biggest lift from owning either sources of information or points of distribution.

    Well, it seems to me that Laird’s points are as on-point as ever. With iPhone, Android and Chrome we see internet browsers moving towards proprietary channels of distribution, .

    More importantly, given the economic climate, the industry is going to consolidate ever more quickly towards a few giants who leverage their own proprietary data resources – whether it is Facebook’s social graph or Google’s aggregate search history – into the applications that you are starting to hear of. As these companies explore what will really be required to drive their apps, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Yahoo/Google/Facebook/Amazon fight over Catalina, the grocery coupon company, for the right to assimilate their data stores.

  • Brian

    Interesting points, sure, data companies don’t die, but what about media companies? They seem to be suffering if they don’t evolve.

  • You make some interesting points Jeremiah. Some of these are linked – the economy driving the need for efficiency on CTRs, and the web3.0 thoughts on personal web and improved relevance based on history.

    The comments on the large corporations not fully embracing social media is interesting. The more we explore this, the more I am convinced that the trend is not about social media, but about corporations realizing that culture is changing and that there is a willingness to promote more openness and transparency – at least for those with the confidence to be open.

    I came across an extreme case of a conservative or protectionist attitude at the weekend in Ireland. The national Health Service Authority has un-earthed some cases of mis-diagnosis of cancer. Pretty frightening and un-excusable stuff. They were invited on to the biggest national TV talk show on Friday, to explain what they are doing and re-assure the nation. However, although this was all lined up to happen, they decided to pull out of the show at the 11th hour – the reason being that their were some people who had been affected by the mis-diagnosis in the audience.

    I was at Podcamp Ireland yesterday, talking about business and Government embracing social media. This really brought it home to me, how little the technology has to do with corporations (or Government) embracing social media. The question is more one of attitude and culture. Are organisations prepared to open and honest? The trend is that increasingly they are.

  • Thanks Campbell

    What these folks are suggesting that there’s new technology right around the bend that can help companies connect with customers, potentially without making the big leap required by social media.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I’ve sensed for a while that this phase of the web’s development had reached an apex, that the current phase is catch up for most organizations.

    What’s next? I have a few ideas, and I think we’ve already scene the early incarnations. Mobile, virtual, semantic all have great potential. The crystal ball is never certain though.

  • I believe what will come next has been preparing for a long time, and is clearly identified as Web 3, or Semantic Web: a finer understanding of document’s structure. Video, image and speech-recognition, sentence harversting, etc. would be the technologies at stake — because they allow far more insightful interpretations.

    One aspect that will come with that is that your communications will be heavily dependent on filtering and relevance algorithms. Such algorithms will become too important to trust increasingly large Web companies with, so service modularity will expand, decentralized processing too and semantic description too: you’ll be able to choose, and have on your personal devices layman-understandable programs that will help you sort privacy, relevancy and social concerns.

    One of the key features to appear will be along the lines of a map of local friends you should call to meet-up with — however, the key aspect will not be positioning (GPS+Maps), the friend list (Social Graph) or where to meet (aggregated suggestion) but an activity, calendar, current focus that automatically sort between people who’d be interested in your latest adventures, against those going through a harsh time. For instance: finding in the sea of FriendFeed comments someone saying he would like to know more about a company who’s pitch you just saw, correlating it with the fact that his wife is jet-lagged, so he probably won’t dine with her, etc.

    You don’t need to know about his wife’s travel, but he could have a high availability score based on private details that is not visible per se, but that he’d share with legitimate pings from your own FriendSearch feature.

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  • Jon Husband

    NB .. please forgive in advance my inability to articulate the ideas I am about to spew .. I’m still working out what I think 😉

    We’ve known for quite a while that the Social Web helps us connect and converse, which can then lead to “the scaffolding of knowledge and meaning (Doc Searls, way back when). We also know this leads to and supports the development of our personal social networks focused on the issues that have interest and meaning for us.

    Further, we have also all watched and experienced “echo chambers” and we recognize that consciously and unconsciously we place limits on our attention, thereby limiting that attention to those we interact with most. At the same time, in a (potentially) every-which-way-connected environment, the term “social” conjoined with the Web must, by definition, imply the possibility of coming into contact with ideas and people we have not previously encountered and do not know.

    We also know that we cannot be “friends” or “colleagues” with everyone who connects to, links to, or follows us. However, with tools like Twitter and the increasingly sophisticated capabilities of making fragments and snippets of ideas “visible” in flows that pass before our eyes and minds, we are perhaps enabling new serendipitous and / or purposeful connections in the intersections between the Venn-diagram-like overlaps between your primary social network and my primary social network and someone else’s primary social network of interest.

    Last night I called this the (perhaps) “semi-social web”. I don’t think that’s quite the right term, but I think we are in effect ring-fencing (with a sort of dotted-line ring fence) our professional or interest-based social networks by injecting them into publicly visible flows. In effect, while we are of necessity forcing our focus onto that to which we can pay attention (the “laws” of our cognitive capabilities and abilities to trust) we are also holding open the possibility to connect and co-create out into concentric rings of sociality wherein people we don’t know are in social connection with people we do or may know.

    So, for know, I am calling this “semi-social” (until I understand it better) because it’s like the dryland process of meeting someone we don’t yet know at a dinner party or meeting .. they seem interesting and have piqued our curiosity, but we will have to exchange and interact more before we can get more ‘social”.

    This emerging dynamic fits (to my thinking) with what I have been observing for several years now .. the social connections afforded by the social web enable us to grow and deepen some relationships while others stagnate or wither, dry up and blow away. As we move further into the future of the sociality the web affords, we will all learn more about how to navigate, cultivate, grow, use and sustain our social presence on the Web .. some of it will be primary, some of it will be secondary, some of it will be “semi-social” and will wax and wane depending upon purpose, interest, and the care and feeding we give it.

    Just like real life 😉 Hey, it’s been said that that the sociology we are growing mirrors the sociology of real life … after all it’s real people behind the screens, avatars and hyperlinks.

    When it comes to life activities and work, we will have to grow our abilities to focus, to stay open (there’s a concept from archery I know as “open focus”) and to float with purpose in the permanent white water of continuous flows of ideas and information, connecting the dots and people as and when it suits ours’ and their purposes.

  • Jon Husband

    From Bertil, above:

    One aspect that will come with that is that your communications will be heavily dependent on filtering and relevance algorithms. Such algorithms will become too important to trust increasingly large Web companies with, so service modularity will expand, decentralized processing too and semantic description too: you’ll be able to choose, and have on your personal devices layman-understandable programs that will help you sort privacy, relevancy and social concerns.

    Dave Snowden of KM and complexity theory / sensemaking fame, has reinterpreted Weinberger’s “Everything Is Miscellaneous” as “Everything Is Fragmented”, referring to how the human brain processes and works with information. We are natural pattern-recognition organisms (machines ?).

    I think an important part of what I was trying to say above (and I know Dave S. says and believes this) is that no matter how sophisticated the machine algorithm, we will always be and use ‘social” filters because the raw material of the stories we tell others and ourselves is more powerful and more useful than the interpretation(s) that parsing, analysis, summarization and algorithmic filters can provide us.

    But I think it’s also clearly a case of “both / and” .. we’re gonna need all the help we can get.

  • Large corporations should consider social media as part of their U.C. (Unified Communications) strategies. Start with capturing the social ecosystems inside of the organization first then expand out. Yammer is a good start. By capturing their internal conversations with proprietary type twitter/blogging/comment services, companies improve the value of their UC investments. It is more than connecting your workers it is also about capturing the conversation.

    Large corporations are embracing UC. It could be the perfect conduit.

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  • Great to get a different perspective on the evolution of the web than the regular social/semantic/web2.0/web3.0 debate, Jeremiah.

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  • If you’re thinking about next-gen web and how we’ll interact with it, you might enjoy this series of posts on StickyFigure: http://tinyurl.com/5jnh5h

  • What the social web lacks is a business model. There is no money connected to the continual back and forth, only non-monetary rewards.

    My new product is going to change that, and to paraphrase BTO “you just ain’t seen n-n-n-nothin’ yet” Social media will absolutely explode with a working business model attached.

  • Great blog post Jeremiah.

    I would like to hear in more detail how oreilly thinks that people are using ther term web 2.0 incorrectly.

    “large corporations haven’t figured out how to fully embrace the social web –let alone think about what’s next”… Are they afraid of social transparency?

    What happens when all of the social comments, thoughts and multimedia content gets aggregated and exposed about their brands in 1 website/page?

    How will they respond to that? Or will they? They have great opportunity; but how will they choose to engage and leverage?

    I am curious as to your thoughts.

    Cheers!

  • Rodney, I can’t speak for Tim, but from what I gathered is that he sees a much bigger picture beyond ‘social media, ajax, and rss’.

    Many companies simply don’t know how to embrace the changes, it’s a big move, as it requires internal roles, processes, and budgets. It’s ‘change management’

  • Jon Husband

    As enterprises work at adopting Enterprise 2.0, what we have come to call “change management” is also going to change a lot. Think eOD, and think major changes to how we design and describe knowledge work, design and implement compensation philosophy and practice, design and operate performance management, and grow effective management and leadership.

    Though I am loathe to shamelessly self-promote, some of you may find my FASTForward blog post from 9 months ago “Will Enterprise 2.0 Drive Management Innovation?” of interest and perhaps useful.

  • I definitely see the same issue with companies in the industry i work in. we serve the nonprofit world … and I’d say they are even MORE behind the times when it comes to understanding the social-web, social-media, etc …

    It’s exciting to see how the web moves forward. There will always be a challenge to understand and teach those who are not adopting/embracing the reasons why it’s important and how to use it.


    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  • For so many people, some ‘social media experts’ included, social media belongs ‘out there’. People talk about the next big social networking site, or social media app. I saw this quote the other day, “how can you talk about social media and not talk about twitter?”

    As you say Jeremiah, not everyone is going to be a social participant. For some organizations using bolt on social media tools and applications is not relevant or does not make sense. There are some people and organizations that are participating in outward facing social media that never should be. Some are doing themselves more harm than good.

    What social media and social networking sites have given us are a set of tools and applications that have application and uses beyond their current high profile or commercial forms. For example, people talk about using twitter as a business tool rather than thinking about creating a searchable organizational database of collaborative conversations.

    Tracking, tagging and measuring tools are all part of social media, yet they do not have to be attached to an outward facing social network. Integrating your CMS, LMS and social media elements can turn websites into business tools if you apply them in relation to your unique business rules, goals and needs.

    Through using social media elements we are already ensuring that our websites are not destinations, rather, centres from which information, tools and applications are sent to where they are needed, be they on a mobile device, a 10 foot interface or a social networking site. Social media tools allow us to manage our business on the move or in multiple locations.

    There is a shift towards whole system thinking, integrating all elements of a business and allowing all this to be where it needs to be.

    Social media is far more than connecting with like-minded people.

    http://twitter.com/ajmunn

  • Jeremiah, if you want to know the future beyond Web 2.0, look no further than Nova Spivak’s preso at http://thenextweb.org/2008/06/03/video-nova-spivack-making-sense-of-the-semantic-web.

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  • Great post as for me. It would be great to read a bit more about this theme.

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  • Michael

    I think the next evolution has to be about social productivity.  So, what’s after the social web that followed the information web, in my view is the “Productive Web.”  We need to find novel approaches to leverage our connections to work together and create more wealth and opportunities than we could independently.  Thus the productive web.