Predictions for 2016

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It’s been a while since I last did one of these so I thought I would write an article on some predictions for what we can expect in 2016.

In the past, I’ve been about 80% right, but I’ve lost my touch a bit over the past few years.  I still hit around ½ correct.  But even if I’m not at all accurate, it’s still fun to speculate about what the future will hold.

So, in no particular order, here are my predications for 2016:

Google

new-google-logoIt is no surprise with this prediction – Google will continue to innovate.  I think we will see a slew of new products and services, as well as updates and improvements to others.  Google seems to be investing heavily in media (music, TV and movie) as over the past few months we have seen changes to Google Play as well as YouTube.  Expect to see Google launch itself into YouTube only TV shows and movies.

Also, I keep waiting for Android to become more of a daily assistant.  We get closer and closer, but it’s not quite there yet.  Android should be able to not only remind me of upcoming appointments and meetings, but also provide more suggestions for things I may be interested in, whether I’m at home or on the road.

Of particular note, I think Google will get their “Google for Business” product right finally.  Uncoupling from Google+ is a good first step.  Who knows, Google for Business could become the next threat to Yelp.

In terms of search, I think we’ll see RankBrain get smarter.  This will in turn flush a few more low quality SEO firms out.  It will be the firms that truly understand what RankBrain is that will be able to embrace the “new Google”.  Personally, I think SEO will see a major shift.  Keywords, which have been the mainstay of SEOs for years will begin to phase out in favor of themes.  Google can already match some concepts (IE understanding that dogs are animals, but that dogs are also pets).  So we’ll see a shift in writing from placing “x” number of search terms on a page, to a more natural fluid writing style that will target the page at themes rather than words.

Yahoo

yahoo-logo-2013Yahoo has always been my favorite underdog.  Sure it wasn’t an underdog at the turn of the millennium, but lately it just seems that they can’t get a break.  The company recently announced that it would consider selling off its core business to try and stay afloat.  That, to me, sounds like the last gasp of a dying company.  But we can’t rule them out.  They’ve been here before and somehow seem to struggle back.

And remember that their “core business” consists of dozens of companies purchased over the years as they’ve tried to reinvent themselves over and over.

If Yahoo goes down, either as a lump sum or piecemeal it will be interesting to see who steps up to the plate.  After all they still have a dedicated user base of several million daily users, between email, IM, news and more.  But they’ve also invested in a bunch of failed ideas as well.  Could 2016 be the end of Yahoo?  I kinda don’t think so, but I think you will see some hard decisions made starting in early 2016 to save the company.  I think a lot of people will lose their jobs as Yahoo attempts to trim the fat.  Yahoo should also dump any non-performing divisions – even if they are someone in management’s favorites.

But if they don’t who might make a run for the company?  I personally don’t think it will be one of the big players like Google or Microsoft.  I think a private equity firm will buy them out, replace Marissa Mayer and begin to reposition the once former giant in the online space.

And if Yahoo goes, what then of Bing?  Bing is the primary search provider.  Microsoft makes a significant chunk of revenue from supplying search results to Yahoo.  If that relationship ceases, Bing’s search share is effectively cut in half.

Facebook

Facebook logoI think 2016 could be a big year for Facebook.  In fact, it’s the company I see growing the most and making the most changes.  Those changes are already starting.

Recently it was announced that the company has started quietly testing a local business recommendation service based on user reviews. (You can see a sample here).  This could prove to be a game changer in the local space as I believe most Facebook users put a lot of trust in Facebook, especially if their friends (and friends of friends) are the ones making the recommendations.

This could be the service that unhinges top local competitors like Google for Business and Yelp.  Even Yellow Pages will see a significant impact once this goes live.

I also see Facebooks foray into regular search improving.  Again, providing search results influenced by Facebook trends, and work in the business reviews and now Facebook becomes the new player in search.  I wrote about this previously and I still believe it to be true.  Even more so now with the new business recommendations they are working on.

Streaming

stream-image3-resized-600I thought I’d mention this here for the first time because a lot of people have been jumping on the “Netflix and chill” bandwagon.  Streaming, whether Netflix, Hulu, Youtube or any of the other streaming media services, is fast becoming one of the largest occupiers of our free time.   Netflix accounts for 37.1% of downloaded web traffic in North America during prime-time hours, according to a recent study by Canadian researcher Sandvine.  Now if you add in Youtube et al you begin to see how big streaming is.

This is why I mentioned above that YouTube will get into more unique content.  In fact all services will be ramping up their own unique content in an effort to woo more eyeballs.

I also think we’ll begin to see a rise in services augmenting these services.

Want to know who is staring in that TV show, or an IMDB summary of the movie story-line?

How about the Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings?  All these and more will become embedded either by the media company, or a third party, hoping to make the media more interactive.  Plus, accessing the data underlying those queries you make helps the media companies provide not only a richer experience, but helps them decide what future productions might look like.

For example, if you are regularly searching for a particular actor in a show, YouTube will learn this and begin suggesting other media the actor is in, or even other shows and actors similar to him or her.  Netflix has this sort of feature all ready – if you view a title it shows you similar titles, but I think the future will provide us a richer experience.

I also think you will see a RankBrain type of integration into all forms of Google media – Music, Movies and TV – in order to make those services better at providing suggestions.

Mobile

mobile3gAs my final prediction for 2016 I chose mobile.  It’s a large topic and in reality whatever I say here should come true at least partially because of how quickly the industry is changing.

In 2016 I think you’ll see a rise in immersive 360 degree and 3D video – either as a single product (IE 3D 360-degree video) or competing against each other.

We are already seeing small video producers experimenting with these formats – go to YouTube and you’ll find a bunch of videos where, if you load them in your phone and move around, you’ll see the view change.  Similarly, you can find videos optimized for Google cardboard and other similar services.  In case you don’t know, Google cardboard is a very low-tech but well executed way of giving users of mobile devices 3D video. By creating a pair of 3D “glasses” that you insert your phone into.  It looks like a viewmaster (if you are old enough to remember that).  I’ve tried it and I have to say I’m impressed.

So imagine a fully immersive 360-degree view video that is also converted to 3D?  This isn’t a real stretch.

I also see mobile becoming more useful – as voice commands become more widely adopted you will be able to “tell” your phone what you want it to do.  As time goes on it will learn more about your habits.  Again, in the case of Android, I can see a RankBrain influence happening more in 2016.  If you are willing to let Google use more of your data, you will be able to make Android smarter and more customized to you.

I think we will continue to see apps improve as well – as people become more comfortable with using mobile apps – especially from a business or professional standpoint – changes will come.

We are already seeing some of these on Android (and soon to be iPhones) with Google apps like inbox and maps – developers are listening to users and building in features like verbal reminders and downloadable maps for offline use.  I just expect these changes to become more frequent and useful.

I don’t see the smart watch market growing however.  In fact, I see it shrinking as I feel it is more of a fad.  Unless they can figure out a way to make it more useful people will begin reverting back to their phones and tablets simply because the screen is bigger and its easier to use.

So there you have it.  My predictions for 2016.  If you feel I’ve missed anything, or am way out of touch on other things drop me a note in the comments.

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