Today’s Wall Street Journal (requires subscription) has a special section on top trends in ten industries. The review of the Internet trends is especially interesting and germane to the small and midsize business market.
Here are the Journal’s top 10 Internet trends for 2004:
- 1. Internet security taken seriously: Security alerts are being issued more quickly, companies are testing their software code for bugs more thoroughly, and companies and government agencies are more likely to have backup systems.
2. Search is critically important: More users are searching the Internet, paid search categories have jumped to nearly one-third of all Internet ad revenue, and local/personalized search is a hot area.
3. Regulation of the Internet is increasing: The United States federal government passed the CAN-SPAM Act late last year, pre-empting 37 state laws. And so far the U.S. Congress is in a stand-off about whether to make permanent the moratorium on state and local taxing of the Internet. If they don’t act, then Internet transactions could become subject to tax, to the tune of $11 Billion (USD) a year.
4. More entertainment will be delivered via the Internet: Increased broadband adoption is allowing use of the Internet to deliver more entertainment including videos and interactive gaming. The Wall Street Journal predicts that future content will be community-based (think “blogs”) and controlled by consumers rather than traditional content creators.
5. Not all content will be free: More online content creators are figuring out how to get consumers to pay for content.
6. Making money with blogs: Some weblog authors are turning their blogs into “something resembling actual businesses.”
7. Offline content moves online: This trend includes efforts such as by the Internet Archive to move works online — everything from Shakespeare to cigarette commercials. It also includes initiatives such as by Amazon and Google to enable users to search within the text of books.
8. Ads are becoming more intrusive: Stealthy pop-under ads, rich media ads that enable animated objects to cross your screen, spyware masquerading as ads, and junk email annoy consumers. That’s led consumers to stop going to certain sites, and install ad-blocking software.
9. Business models converge: The Internet behemoths (e.g., Google, eBay, Yahoo, Amazon) are increasingly providing services that look similar, as they realize that being an intermediary helping others find and buy things holds more profit than actually selling them.
10. Patent proliferation threatens commerce: Patents are being granted more easily for things that some might consider in the public domain, threatening the interoperability of the Internet and leading to increased costs of doing business.
We have commented previously on at least nine of the Internet trends — sometimes more than once. (The only one we have not commented on before now in any significant way is number 4.) The one additional Internet trend we would have included in this list is globalization, which is accelerating at a dizzying pace and making national boundaries and geographic location much less significant. With translation software getting better all the time, improvements in Voice-over-IP, and cross-border surfing becoming the norm — why, just about anyone can visit different locales without leaving their PCs.