FOWA 07: Edwin Aoki – The Changing Face of Online Communities and Communication

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Way back when, no one thought that we’d be using the internet for the things that we do now, like Voip or video streaming. No discussion of the future of web apps would be complete without discussing trends.

Current state of web applications for online communities. If you think about the web you think about content, but web based email is the number one web destination, even beating search. Traditionally Outlook, Eudora, but people use webmail a lot. IM and chat is tarteing to move up the ranks, thanks to tech like Flash and Ajax. Almost every successful website is based around some community aspect. There’s blogging, social networks, but some less obvious ones like Wikipedia, eBay where reputaiton was a key driver, and even Amazon. This is a hallmark of ‘Web 2.0’.

But it’s not a new concept. We had webrings way back when. There was the Open Directory project which still going with peopel contributing human-created directories.

You can have a dialogue, you can have mashups.

Exciting time, lots of technologies that are going to change the way that people communicate.

Trend towards disaggregation and personalisation. Can be scary for traditional companies, so instead of having a portal, people are going to where the information, niche or news it. Great for users, embodiment of long time. People can come together around a passion. Has a risk – you can lose control over an app which can be good. But one of the things people talk about YouTube is that it’s so easily embeddable, Photobucket was similar, they drove a lot of the image serving for MySpace. But as they grow larger, there are risks. YouTube faces copyright question. Google News faces challenges on copyright in Belgium.

Same risks and opportunities in the communications space. Communications tools embedded in situ, e.g. IM on a website.

Mobile is a big driver. Content and community apps that follow users wherever they are.

People are spending a lot of time online, but they aren’t going to a portal or a destination. Blurring of online or offline worlds. This is evident in Second Life. Brands are establishing an identity in virtual worlds, e.g. BBC, Toyota, Vodafone. SL is just one, there are more –, WoW, that have active, vibrant online communities and commerce.

Interesting questions. Users don’t really understand the technology they are using. We have responsibility to ensure that our apps are safe, neutral, secure. Despite all the publicity, people don’t care about online privacy, they don’t worry about what happens when they put their data online. Security boxes just get clicked past. So need to ensure that the default behaviour is the right behaviour.

Who to trust is a difficult, and OpenID distributed identity management makes this even more complicated.

Tools we build must be accessible to all. Those who are visually impaired, deaf or motion impaired, older generations, different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Need to balance tools that are powerful and mash-upable and customisable, but also easy to use for consumers.

Need to create a world that’s rich online, which compliments the world offline. We are here to make the world a bit better, to have a bit of fun and make a bit of money.

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