Web 3.0, Whats Next? Do you Have any Friends?
Web 2.0 ha has been marked by platforms and the tremendous connectivity which has been achieved through their creation. Platforms have been created by network effects which have catapulted the successes to huge valuations having amassed millions/billions of users. Wherever you look, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Amazon, eBay, Airbnb, the string that ties all of them together is that they are platforms which only enable the possibility of a core function to occur, the value comes from the users who adopt the platform.
That is the reality of what platforms are and how they grow. Without users, they are simply pieces of technology which are redundant. With users, they become thriving ecosystems housing vast swathes of humanity and they become increasingly influential.
Platforms will grow and become even more ubiquitous. Today’s platforms have grown to such a scale that competition is particularly difficult. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible merely that a compelling product is essential to have any opportunity to compete. That being said, look at Facebook. It has been able to monopolise the platform business by acquiring competitors and upstarts fortifying its position as the most ubiquitous platform in history. Instagram and Whatsapp are prime examples of this and their strategy to remain at the forefront of the sphere become even easier as their market cap grows and their ability to access capital become even easier.
Which begs the question; where will the next platforms come from? You hear it all the time apps are dead because nobody is downloading them (depending on what figures you use Americans download between 0 and 1.5 apps per month), but is that true? Does anecdotal evidence suggest our behaviours are changing or does it speak more specifically about the lack of compelling products available to download and use?
Companies that flourished in the Web 2.0 era did so by creating totally new experiences, engaging customers in new exciting ways and enabled them to connect with people in ways that hadn’t happened before.
Web 3.0 will be marked by the same dawn.
What I’m trying to say is that the next wave comes when we are least expecting it. When the market has become saturated by current trends, see messaging apps, that is when the next leap happens. We are blinded by the current trends until the market has exhausted every avenue for iterative development of that method. It is easy to trace the route of messaging from SMS > iMessage > Whatsapp > Snapchat.
And it goes back even further. Think about the telephone, probably the first platform which experienced network effects. The first phone wasn’t valuable because who could you call? But with each additional handset the phone becomes more and more valuable and powerful.
The internet has multiplied that by making participation on platforms incredibly easy. Instead of requiring the purchase of new technology we are able to use the things we already have, our phones, tablets or laptops.
What needs do people have now that aren’t being met by the current crop of mobile and social apps?
My belief about the development of the next platform comes from the disconnected nature of current reality, at no point in human history have we been so detached from the real world and it will only get worse. We connect with people we know on facebook, we follow celebrities on Twitter and we can read answers of people we admire Quora. What’s missing is a way to meet new people.
I’m not talking about dating, though it’s questionable whether tinder and similar apps have solved any of those issues. What I’m referring to is friendship, where do you meet like-minded people who stimulate you mentally? We’re spending more time isolated online and that inherently triggers loneliness which manifests itself slowly by separating you from your friends. Of course, we see what they are doing on social networks but it’s not us that doing it with them.
That is where I foresee value, on platforms which facilitate and encourage interaction and relationships. A platform which enables live conversation, even more importantly between groups of people, would be a game changer. Slack has grown and dominated the professional sphere but a similar tool could be tremendously powerful in the personal domain. Imagine a compelling platform which seems as intimate as your business stream but between strangers who share a common purpose.
What I currently envision is a snapchat like a platform but for groups and with the community nature of twitter. Where participation isn’t just limited to one on one interaction or to your own social groups. I imagine a more ubiquitous platform which allows you to tap into your local area, your key interests, your sports team and any other differentiation you care to imagine. Organisation of these groups would obviously require curation but that would develop in time. Even more specifically it could become a more diverse and interesting classified network monitored by review systems of users who you’ve interacted with.
The future of communication and consumption is disposability, scarcity and specificity. It’s personalised and specific and can be altered by you to suit what you want and need. Social networks have become stagnant because they have remained the same while the world has evolved, they’ve stopped moving fast and breaking things. Crucially, though, it’s about inclusivity and connection. Social networks have instilled in us a desire to be alone platforms have to encourage connections and breed a renewed sense of humanity which requires an investment in community.