My Take on Current Top Internet Trends

I just read this post, ReadWriteWeb: Top 5 Web Trends of 2009: The Real-Time Web where they are doing a series of posts related to what they think are the top trends affecting the Web in 2009. The top five trends are listed at the end of the post, which are:
1. Structured Data
2. The Real-Time Web
3. Personalization
4. Mobile Web & Augmented Reality
5. Internet of Things
All of them are interesting, some are broad, some specific, some directly relevant to me and some relevant but in a removed sense.
Then this last week in NYC at my visit to betaworks, we also talked about burning topics in today’s Internet. As I brainstormed trends, I could not help but be drawn to those trends which are directly affecting me personally.
I list what I came up with here. Instead of trying to be like ReadWriteWeb and focus on worldly, pontificat-ible trends, I thought I would list only those that were directly relevant to myself:
1. Crowd participation is so easy, but we debate on whether or not democratic-ness to that degree is good. We worry about open markets vs. government intervention with respect to our economy. We argue about free speech versus letting everyone have a say, from destructive fringe groups to just those who are angrily spouting about an issue. In the pre-internet world, it was a lot more difficult to be heard; now everyone can hear you and what is said has wide ranging effects, especially on the naive.
2. There is so much news and content, but how can we know what is real and what is fake? Trust is a big issue now with respect to this information. How can we educate ourselves to be smarter in a world where it is extremely hard to tell what’s real and what’s not?
During the last elections, there was so much spin out there that you couldn’t tell who was good or bad. With the internet, it’s easy to just find points of view that mirror your own; once you read this content, it becomes validated and reinforced in our brains. But often this information is incomplete – we consumers simply don’t have time to surf around and find all the points of view on an issue in order to make an informed decision. We just create an opinion and find support for that opinion. This can be very dangerous as we just don’t have the will, patience, or even intelligence to fully understand an issue and attach ourselves to the easiest path.
3. The velocity and quantity of information has increased so much, but can we consume it? Have our brains and senses evolved enough to be able to consume, process, and act on it? Information overload has been exponentially increasing over the years and I don’t think there are enough ways to help us filter and understand, as well as driving to us what is truly important and relevant.
4. In a world where everything is free, how can we make a living on fame, usage, etc? A lot has been written regarding freemium and why we give things away. They can be viable business strategies, but ultimately the people working on these projects need to be paid. It’s hard to eat badges that you earn on a gaming site.
5. What is the fate of old media in a new media world and the fate of the businesses that once existed and thrived in the old world, like in the areas of journalists, music artists, and movies? I am active consumer of all media and I for one would like to continue consuming and enjoying it. However, if we do not compensate those creators, they’re going to stop doing it. I think the world will suffer mightily if that happens. I wonder all the time about these so-called new business models that need to be developed in a world of piracy, declining prices, and change.
6. We struggle with the openness of our own information versus privacy. What are the implications of a world where everything you do is posted and never deleted, and is searchable and findable?
I already actively manage whatever I post or tweet. I am a big believer of the fact that the world is a stage and I am an actor on that stage with the people around me as my audience. When I do something, those actions are interpreted across a wide variety of levels related to how people feel about me. So I think about the short and long term effects of these pieces of personal information I make public, since I know that it will be there for all time. This also goes for my posting of information regarding others, and the short and long term ramifications of that undelete-able information now public.
7. Has the internet business world topped out so much that me-too products are the only things that pop up now? As an angel investor, how do I ferret out those opportunities that are truly unique and world changing? Every pitch I’ve heard lately has competitors and they’re all fighting for the same users. Intelligence and ideas are a commodity now, so what are those other elements that startups need to get to gain an advantage: contacts? luck? distribution? the right partners?
8. Given that me-too products proliferate, I believe this heralds the rise of the small business on the net. When affiliate marketing proved it possible to generate tons of money off a well-written blog, micro and lifestyle businesses came into being. However, I think that has extended to me-too products now where you can capture a small slice of the market and if you’re smart, you can make enough money to support yourself. This unfortunately makes angel investing a ton harder. Many ventures can easily become great small businesses on the Internet; but for an investor where our money gets trapped in a decent small business, it doesn’t work so well.
9. Related to 8, and those of us working in this industry have known this for years, putting up a product is so easy and cheap now. What are the resulting implications when non-programmers can put up a complete solution without having a team of programmers?
10. This was one that just came up: marketers now can own distribution channels for their brands. This is directly relevant to the book I am writing on online display advertising and also to the changing ways advertising affects the revenue potential of my startups. It’s an area I am watching closely.
Which trends are directly relevant to you? What concerns you the most about the way the internet is moving and changing our lives?