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Predicting the Fire Hose? A Sampling of Predictions

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a venerable organization, published a book on the 50th anniversary of computing in 1996 called Special ACM 50th-Anniversary Issue: Strategic Directions in Computing Research, by Wegner and Doyle. The authors, in looking back over those fifty years, saw that many of the predictions about technology -- with notable, laughable exceptions -- were at least in the ballpark. But predictions about how humans would use the technology were almost always wrong.

Therefore, it's interesting that even though Web 2.0 is often called the social Web, emphasizing human use of technology, we get more predictions than ever. Technology might have been predictable when computing was "big iron," but what about the chimerical social web? Still, it's the tech award and prediction season, so let's check out what's going on.

Checking in with the 2008 Horizon Report, we find categories of technology that the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE-sponsored report thinks are "on the horizon" for higher education this coming year. We find:

 - Grassroots video
 - Collaboration webs
 - Mobile broadband
 - Data mashups
 - Collective intelligence
 - Social operating systems

Note that 5 of these 6 work in Web 2.0 space. Grassroots video is content creation, collaboration webs refers to where you share the video, mobile broadband is how others get access to the video, data mashups allows your video to become part of a larger "show," collective intelligence may then popularize that mashup, and social operating systems (if we ever get one) could get your mashup into applications organized within the Web desktop.

And, now, for the Crunchies, awards for best tech innovations in a number of categories announced in the middle of January 2008 ( These are the Web 2.0 winners:

- Facebook
- Earthmine
- Digg
- Twitter
- Netvibes
- Meebo
- iMedix
- Techmeme
- Automattic
- StumbleUpon

The list above is about half of the total list and comes mostly from the data mashup and collective intelligence categories.

But, if you check the predictions at the ReadWriteWeb site ( we are forewarned that some or many of these sites and others will be purchased this year.

So, we know that Web 2.0 will continue as a major growth industry for the next few years, and that right now many sites are apparently being created with the idea of being purchased in a couple of years. And notably, these sites are eagerly exploiting the wonders of AJAX.

The ReadWriteWeb also suggests what will grow from the collective intelligence thrust, such as:

 - Mashup alternatives to Wikipedia, including the Knol Project from Google

 - Wikipedia-like tools like Twine ( and Freebase (

 - Search tools like Hakia (, in beta) and Powerset (, under construction)

 - Semantic technologies like AdaptiveBlue ( and Snap  (

 - A Web OS that runs in a browser, perhaps something like YouOS (, in alpha testing)

 - Web office space and tools like Zoho ( and Thinkfree (

 - OpenID as envisioned by the OpenID Foundation (

A Web operating system? An accelerated OpenID deployment? Is there actually hope for surviving the fire hose of Web 2.0? And what does all this mean about Web 2.0? Will we reach a tipping point in 2008 or 2009 where the creative burst will be balanced by organizing and managing technologies? Or is Web 2.0 just beginning the growth spurt that will be accelerated by attempts such as the OpenID foundation to create pathways and security? As it's been said before, the emergence of the Web 2.0/3.0 phenomenon will dwarf the impact of Web 1.0 that we've seen over the past fifteen years.

About the Author

Trent Batson is the president and CEO of AAEEBL (, serving on behalf of the global electronic portfolio community. He was a tenured English professor before moving to information technology administration in the mid-1980s. Batson has been among the leaders in the field of educational technology for 25 years, the last 10 as an electronic portfolio expert and leader. He has worked at 7 universities but is now full-time president and CEO of AAEEBL. Batson’s ePortfolio: E-mail: [email protected]

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