Friendster, however, turned out to be a campaign tool, with users creating profiles for their favorite Democratic presidential candidates. If Howard Dean is elected to office in 2004 (which seems unlikely), what a social change that would be as a result of technology.
'B' Stings 'G-Mania'
I found many pundits predicting a fast fade for 802.11b in the face of a ratified and much faster 802.11g.
Well, it hasn't really happened. That's largely because 802.11b still works just fine. And the companies and individuals who invested in it in 2002 and early 2003 were not racing to spend more money to upgrade — especially since just one 802.11b device can slow all devices communicating with an 802.11g access point.
Not everyone got sucked into the g-mania. ComputerWeekly.com accurately predicted that market confusion would leave 802.11b in the lead for at least all of 2003.
Interactive TV Draws a Blank Screen
Over at ClickZ.com, columnist Jeffrey Graham proclaimed that companies would create more broadband content in 2003. He was right, but how hard was that to predict? It was simply supply and demand.
Graham talked about the rise of interactive TV or iTV — a term people like to throw around that refers to the ability to do something with TV while you watch it. His prediction did not come true, and even Microsoft's release of the Media Center OS along with systems from HP, Toshiba, et al, did little to juice up this market.
This is mainly because Media Centers do not let you interact with TV. Everything remains separate. There's the computer interface for managing multimedia content and recording TV and there's TV — a completely closed environment.
Interactive TV is just another pipe dream that will remain little more than smoke well past 2004.
Those Annoying Ads
Graham did better with his predictions about ad trends, noting that we'd see fewer and better ads online.
Some companies, like Orbitz, have tried implementing ads that have entertainment value. But plenty of ads remain in the form of banner and pop-up monsters. People hate or ignore these ads, yet the offending techniques continue to be as pervasive as ever.
2004 will be another painful year in terms of the quality of online advertising and response. Salon.com predicted, with what it thought was its tongue in its cheek, that online advertising would shift to a streaming model in which, for every 20 minutes you spend on the Web, you're forced to watch three minutes of ads.
It got part of this right, unfortunately.
Online companies, and service providers like AOL, are experimenting with more streaming ad content, but it's still passive rather than being in the form of interstitials that you have to watch before you can view your content. I don't expect that to change much in 2004.
Digital Camera Focus Blurred
Thom Hogan, a digital camera enthusiast, had some market-related predictions. He said that the digital camera market would no longer be able to support 30 manufacturers each hawking 30 products. He correctly noted that many of the cameras use the same guts anyway.
Unfortunately, I saw no consolidation to speak of. This ultra-hot market appears to be able to support even more camera manufacturers and models every year.
Hogan also predicted an untimely death for the Foveon digital-imaging chip technology. Not one major manufacturer had picked up the chip and 2003 didn't look very promising.