It is all about communication. I started thinking about the highlights of 2005 and what might be big in 2006. As I synthesized the list, the common thread was communication and connection. Blogs were big in 2005 and will continue to explode in 2006. TypePad, Newsgator, Onfolio, Technorati, Digg, and TechMemeorandum were all big parts of my everyday life in 2005. MySpace, FaceBook, and MSN Spaces were huge parts of my kids daily lives. Skype burst on the scene with its acquisition by eBay. All of these companies are about communication, or more precisely, user generated content. The trend is pretty clear, this will be the Next Big Thing in 2006.
Blogs have gone mainstream. Hosted services like TypePad, Blogger, MSN Spaces, and others have made it easy for anyone to start a blog. Thousands of new blogs are created every day. The major search engines all include blogs in their search results, in fact I think they give higher ranking to blog results than regular web page results.
With the explosion of blogs specialized search engines, tagging services, and clipper services emerged to help users find useful content. Technorati, Digg, Findory, Blogniscient, TechMemeorandum, and del.icio.us are just a few examples.
My Space is the number one in web page views. Bigger than Google, AOL, Yahoo, or MSN. FaceBook is also one of the top sites. My Space and FaceBook are basically free web sites for teens and college students that are part blog, part social networking, and all fun. My sons are addicted to My Space. It is all about communication and connecting.
VoIP (Voice over IP) has been around for a long time but hasn't been ready for prime time. Skype was doing really well, but the acquisition by eBay catapulted them to another level. The price was a staggering $2.5B and could runs as high as $4B if certain performance metrics are met. Obviously eBay has big plans for Skype. The rest of the VoIP marketplace should respond in 2006. Again, we are talking about communication.
Video will be big again in 2006. BrightCove, founded by Jeremy Allaire, is going to disrupt the video content business that the major networks have controlled for decades. YouTube is another, smaller scale service for user generated video content. Both are examples of how to connect video content producers directly to consumers, cutting out the network middleman. It is the "Napsterization" of video content, and will be a big story in 2006.
Mobile Search and Local Search are two areas I think will see tremendous innovation and growth in 2006. While they do not closely fit the communication theme, they are about connecting. There are hundreds of millions more cell phones than PCs, and mobile search could be much bigger than web based search today. If anything could topple Google it could be mobile search and local search. In fact, Mobile Search could be the catalyst to drive Local Search. Google and the major search engines are already dabbling in these areas but there is room for lots of innovation and improvement. This could be the next $100B opportunity. Remember 7 years ago when Google entered the web search market? AltaVista, Excite, Yahoo, Lycos, and a few others were dominant players. There is no dominant player in mobile search or local search.
Communication and connection are the big opportunity areas for 2006. There are fortunes to be made, and some of the companies mentioned above are good bets to be The Next Big Thing.