10 Sites and Services That Will Matter in 2010
I've heard the argument that the next big deal on the Web will be live video (not the stale old recorded stuff on YouTube) shot by connected mobile devices from the center of the action. At Justin.tv you can find live video streams of all kinds, each being captured in real time by a Justin.tv member with a video camera. Similar sites like UStream and Qik let you stream video directly to the sites from a smartphone. The idea of people turning away from recorded video in favor of live stuff seems a little future tense to me, but I think it may happen, especially as wireless networks get faster.
I didn't understand the immediate cool factor of Justin.tv until a couple of weekends ago, when I went to the site to watch a live sporting event that wasn't broadcast on local TV. Somebody on the other side of the country was streaming it directly from their cable TV to Justin.tv, and in high definition. The site even puts a chat window right next to the video so that you can talk trash about the game with other fans while you watch. I watched and chatted for about 3 hours that day, and I had a blast.
Judging by the numbers of people watching with me that day, and the thousands more watching other streams, I think Justin.tv will have a big 2010. Of course content owners aren't any too happy about Justin users streaming premium content live on the internet. The feds recently held a hearing on the subject. And Justin is now working with content owners (like Fox) to assuage concerns, but some have observed that Justin isn't falling all over itself to ban such live TV streams. Whether or not Justin is forced into such a ban will say a lot about the site's future.
Let's face it, online video is a mess. For a long time, the Web had a dearth of premium TV shows and movies to choose from. These days, video is moving online in a big way: Soon we'll have a critical mass of content, equal parts current and popular video, and the long-tail stuff that we want to be able to search for and find when we think of it. The problem is, all of this video is spread out over a billion places on the Web, much of it hard to locate.
Users need a good central directory to bring it all together, and Clicker does the best job I've seen of offering exactly that. The site finds the locations of the video you want to watch, and links you directly to it.
The reach of Clicker's search is impressive. The site has links to current and popular videos at sites like Hulu and TV.com, but you can find less-mainstream stuff, too. I punched in "Andy Griffith," and Clicker found 125 episodes (in high quality, not YouTube) from around the Web. Lots of people will discover this site in 2010.
Yammer is a Twitter for workgroups. It looks and acts just like Twitter, but instead of asking you "What's happening?" it asks you "What are you working on?" By now the Twitter paradigm has settled into everyone's consciousness and we're comfortable with it. Yammer takes the public, fun-loving, gossipy microblogging concept and puts it to work in a private setting, which seems to give the Twitter model a sense of purpose. The basic service is free.
The editors here at PCWorld--whether we're working at home, at an event, or in the office--use Yammer as our main channel of communication during the day. We use it to tell one another what we're working on, to discuss tech issues, to comment on what the coffee tastes like today, and lots of other things. In a short period of time, we've gotten used to it, and we depend on it. I suspect a lot of other businesses are doing the same thing, or will be during 2010.
When I journey to new places, I want to have as much accurate information about my destination as possible before I set foot on the plane--no surprises, please. Inspired by Wikipedia, Wikitravel offers mountains of information about places around the globe, and includes recommendations on sites to see and things to do when you get there. Wikitravel is a cool take on crowd-sourcing: All of the content is written (and edited) by people who have really been there, and who know what they're talking about.
People have become very familiar with the wiki-style "wisdom of the crowd" concept, and, I believe, comfortable with wikis' means of expunging faulty or unclear information. Why does this self-regulating system work? The truth is, people on the Web love to call out and correct things they see that aren't accurate. They may do this for their own egos--who knows?--but the end result is clean, reliable information.
Team shopping. Social shopping. Cool concept. Postabon is the home base of a community of shoppers who post deals of many kinds that they've seen around town. On Postabon, these posts are called "Bons." Ace deal hunters who post a lot of Bons are awarded "karma," and recognized for their greatness on the site. Deal hunters like this kind of thing.
Whether you are running the site on your home PC or on a mobile device (or as an iPhone app), Bons show up on a map of your immediate area (Postabon automatically detects your approximate location). Of course, you'll see a few different types of Bons (food and drink deals, shopping deals, and so on), and you can choose which types show up on your map.
Finding deals feels good, and it's fun. Postabon provides a sensible way to make it a team sport. The service is available only in New York right now, but it's doing very well there, and I expect it to roll out to other cities quickly during 2010.
Google Wave is an awesome product, and it may change Web communication as we know it, but not in 2010. Also keep your eye on Measy, which helps you pick the right tech product by asking you questions, as well as Seesmic, which streamlines your social media.
I encourage you to check out any of these sites that might fill a need for you. All are well thought-out and well designed. And be sure to check in this time next year to see if I'm doing victory laps or crying in my eggnog. I'm hoping that I can at least improve on my two-for-ten performance from last year.