2006 is just around the corner, and that means that it is time to bring some (vague) predictions for this web business we are in.
The rather sickening hype of AJAX is going to continue, and it will get very big in the first 6-8 months of 2006. But, as the end of 2006 nears AJAX, is going to fail.
The reason is not because of AJAX itself - AJAX (or AHAX) is great tool. But, you do not base your decisions on a specific tool. You base your decisions on solving people's problems and goals. If AJAX turns out to be useful in a certain scenario - use it.
Remember that we have been able to do what AJAX does for a long time - with frames. Frames were also at some point surrounded with hype, how many of us have created sites where only a small part of it changed. But, in the end we realized that this cool thing really got in the way of more important stuff.
This does not mean that AJAX will go away - rather the inverse. It will be a reduced to what it really is - a tool, and effectively hidden from both the developers and the end-user.
The Web 2.0 driven community is going to start our next big dot.com wave. Although it will not be as big as the first one and the money involved will be considerably less. However, we are going to see a similar pattern. Huge buzz, crazy company strategies, mergers, take-over - and eventually bankruptcy for most of them (or at least the loss of an investment).
The reason is very similar to AJAX. You do not create your business strategy on a specific technological approach; you base it on people and business needs. We have seen this so many times in the past. We get all hyped up about something new - base our every decision upon that (instead of our customers) - and fail.
The goal has always been to satisfy people's needs. This has been the case since the stone ages. If you do that well you will succeed, regardless of it includes Web 2.0 thinking.
2006 will be the year of web applications. We are already seeing the beginning, but it is getting a lot bigger. The internet as a platform is going to get big.
This trend is going continue big time.
In the second half of 2006 we are going to see the start of the thing to replace web applications. The "internet as a platform" is going to be replaced by the "internet as a pipeline". We are already seeing the start of this with RSS (e.g. NewsGator), Google Earth, MsOffice Research Bar, Mac OS X's Dashboards, EarthDesk and Adobe Stock Photos.
To use the internet as a pipeline means that your desktop applications rely on the servers and information stored on the internet. It is combination of the best elements of both worlds.
This has two very big advantages.
Windows Vista will be the first platform to use this concept in a more public sense.
BTW: This will also mean the end of the browser (eventually, but not in 2006).
People will start demanding that web applications are interoperable - that you can share, transfer and work with data between them.
In the first part of 2006 we are going to see an enormous waste of time as people tackle with their online data. In the second part we are going to see the early steps of interoperability hype - mostly powered by new possibilities using RSS.
We are going to see new web services, which only purpose is to manage your data in varies web applications.
2006 will be the year of password hell as each web application requires that you sign in (or in some other way identify yourself). I do not expect to see any final solutions for this until 2007-2008 - apart from occasional musings with rather unsecured approaches.
Several companies will experiment with centrally controlled security authorizations like Microsoft Digital Locker, personal digital certificates, and biometric sign-in systems.
It will simply not be good enough just to sell small nimble products - initially made to solve your own in-house problems. People will demand scalable and flexible solutions that by today's standards are large and complex. But, specifically people want web applications that are made to solve their problems and goals - regardless of what that means for the complexity of the development team.
The web is going to see the same patterns as when Microsoft Office emerged on the desktop. People would rather have a single huge package that can do almost everything with, than multible small nimble products that you have to learn individually.
The "Getting Real" concept is going to get a taste what it means to play with the big guys (who so far have done very little on the web).
In 2005 we finally managed to solve the problem of featuritis (having too many features). Many companies and products have embraced a much simpler approach. But we also see a number of examples of making it too simple - effectively taking away people's abilities to getting things done.
By the end of 2006 we are going to see a more balanced approach. Simplicity is going to be replaced by "right". The right amount of flexibility, the right amount of abilities, the right work method, the right goal etc.
In 2006 it will be about "Getting it Right".
Web design is going to experience a change that most web designers and marketing departments will fight vigorously. This change is a standardization of design, instead of individually made web sites.
We are already seeing it with the huge amount of new people who blog using the default web design templates. We can also see it on services like Flickr, or with Microsoft's resent decision to use the same RSS feed icon as Firefox.
As time is getting more and more constrained, web design and individual look will become secondary for many people. Instead people will focus more on the content.
BTW: I also think that we will se much better designed default templates.
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