Monday, January 02, 2006

Ten Predictions

A prediction of flickr.

Prediction #6: A new internet community-hangout will appear. One that you and I will frequent.

Reason for prediction: People like to socialize.

Where's the internet community? I don't see it. People don't hang out on Amazon's website, or Google's, or eBay's, or Microsoft's. Not anywhere, really. There are little chat rooms here and there, and some static link-in sites where you can answer a bunch of questions about your hair color and favorite taco sauce. Yawn.

Someone told me recently that the consensus among online gamers is that the success of Sony's EverQuest is largely due to its strong in-game community. In order to support so many simultaneous players, Sony had to make the monsters really tough, and you have to spend a long time (like half an hour) healing after every fight. So people have nothing to do but sit around campfires and taverns, and socialize.

Hey, remember AOL? There's a blast from the past, eh? Oh wait, I guess they're still around. Admittedly no self-respecting geek would ever use AOL, but you have to admit: AOL's big draw, for those who use it, is the community features. And that's a big draw. Big enough to let AOL buy giant entertainment/media conglomerates like Time Warner.

Socialization has to be real-time; i.e., things like chat rooms, IRQ, instant messaging. But those are so boring, so passé. People also need a reason to hang out, some sort of shared goal or shared frustration that gives them something to talk about during those awkward silences.

Like, games. Or sports. Or gambling. Or discussion groups about books with names like "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys."

It's an uncomfortable truth that most Americans spend the majority of their free time watching television. They like their mindless entertainment. But going to the movies is more fun, because there are people there, all ooh-ing and aaah-ing and boo-ing along with you. Too bad you can't go to the movies and stay at home on your couch simultaneously, eh?

Games, movies, and chat rooms are all converging, because people want to hang out, be entertained, and be slightly challenged, all while sitting on their couch. Or possibly sitting in an internet cafe, as 5 percent of the population of Korea does at any given time, playing the online game "Lineage". They've got it figured out better than most other countries.

Wikis, newsgroups, mailing lists, bulletin boards, forums, commentable blogs -- they're all bullshit. Home pages are bullshit. People want to socialize, and create content, and compete lightly with each other at different things, and learn things, and be entertained: all in the same place, all from their couch.

Whoever solves this -- i.e. whoever creates AOL for real people, or whatever the heck this thing turns out to be -- is going to be really, really rich.


Anonymous said...

You aren't a MySpace user, are you?

Tony said...

Hehe, no. :-)
Ok, it could have been MySpace as well.