Despite Econalypse – Internet Still Innovating

Approaching the midpoint of 2009, the worldwide econalypse is in full effect. The close of April ushered in an 8.9 percent jobless rate in the U.S., which is believed to be at a 25 year high and now articles highlighting the worst hit cities are beginning to appear. This post is not about what is failing, but instead the new ideas, innovations and interesting developments rising out of the econalypse. It is not exhaustive, but it hopefully will unearth exciting and different ideas that could lead to a thriving 2010.

 The genesis of this topic came from Po Bronson’s What Should I Do with My Life, Now? article and the Editor’s Letter in the February 2009 Fast Company. The final motivational push came from the 2009 Fast Cities special section that focuses on cities with an eye to a better more efficient and socially beneficial future.

Infamously, “The Video” from October ’08 is now considered the marker for the end of Web 2.0. A staple of the era was the RSS Reader, however this past week Slate discussed how the advancements in browsers have surpassed the once celebrated efficiency of RSS Readers that perhaps have now arrived at their extinction. The ability to load multiple sites in their native design through tabbed browsing is subtly groundbreaking. Browsers are rendering sites faster and it eliminates the “other inbox” that could grow unwieldy in only a few hours depending on the number of subscribed feeds. The browser is quickly graduating from a tool to access the Internet to the program that runs every computing activity. Pundits have suggested it is the new Operating System, while this shows a misunderstanding of the functions of an OS it does highlight the direction we are heading.

Online Search is an emphasis of Connected and like a slow rising tide, the landscape, expectations and definition of Search is gradually and most assuredly changing. For several years Google has dominated search through its superior keyword search algorithm. Semantic search is the holy grail of search, and similarly to the cup of life, we have yet to uncover and unleash its power. In the place of semantic search we have seen an explosion in social search. Mahalo had been the leader with its human-powered search engine that displayed results based on user input, but Web 2.0 social search was a clear second to Google. What if people could ask questions and search for information in real time with a global network? This is precisely where microblogging technologies like Twitter excel, however Aardvark may prove to be the technology that takes social search beyond the limitations of keyword search. Unable to improve upon what former colleague Fernando Rizo has already written on the topic, check out this analysis on what Aardvark and similar technologies will do to the world of search.

WebTV and online distribution of video has been a primary recent focus of Connected. Through excellent journalism and activism, Time Warner Cable abandoned its test of broadband data caps. Continued reporting that unearthed the economic fallacy that ISPs have attempted to use to rationalize data caps and metered billing will hopefully maintain net neutrality. This is a necessity for WebTV as big name players such as Amazon and Hulu continue to make legal, high quality content available to consumers. Original Webseries also continue to find a place in the growing WebTV space. A few recent top examples include:

Finally, the process of creating video is now a full fledged passion and recently I learned about tilt-shifting photography and video. This is an amazing example of Creative innovation:

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One response to “Despite Econalypse – Internet Still Innovating

  1. Are you suggesting that impactful innovation is on the upswing in the downturn? I’m not sure I agree with the generality if I’m on target with your message. I think the bulk of innovation we’re seeing now is around creating efficiencies with long-term impact for clients and consumers. Web 2.0, no doubt, started this trend but companies are investing in R&D now because of Web 2.0’s leadership into the downturn. To your point, “web 3.0” and semantic search is a building block that we wouldn’t have hit (or been approaching) had it not been for 2.0. I wonder, had 2.0 not hit half a decade ago, if tech innovation would still be moving the way it is in the middle of this valley.

    Okay, in an attempt to disagree with you, I’ve just convinced myself that you’re right. Even if the need for innovation is predominantly built around creating efficiencies, it’s still innovation. So the take-away has to be – innovation costs money…companies don’t have money right now…if a particular creative idea creates a significant amount of cost or time efficiency for a client or a consumer, it just may tip; therefore, the upswing makes sense. iPhones are luxury items – people don’t need them. But at the bottom of this economic pit, consumers bought billions of them. They’re pretty freakin’ cool, but iPhones make our lives more efficient.

    Nice video.

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