What’s On Tap: Predictions for 2009

By Josh Catone
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It’s that time of the year again. As we noted earlier in the week, nothing is more fun for tech bloggers than looking ahead to next year and trying to predict the future. Prediction posts are an annual tradition in the blogosphere, and we enjoy doing them.

So below are eight prognostications for the new year in web tech. Of course, if you saw our list of 2008’s top stories, you’ll know that reality is often too wacky to predict — and that A LOT happens in a single year. Remember to check out how we did with last year’s predictions, as well. And let us know in the comments what you think 2009 has in store for the web.

Note: I use the corporate “we” in this post, but these predictions are really just my own and not those of anyone else at SitePoint. So, don’t blame them for the terrible lack of foresight!

1. Twitter gets a business model. Twitter has a bunch of different options when it comes to monetization. Targeted ads in the Twitter stream based on what you tweet about, built in micro payments, charging high volume users, charging developers to use the API, etc. Twitter may try some or all of these options, but we think the most likely path to monetization is in corporate accounts. When SitePoint ran our highly successful and well publicized book giveaway via Twitter, it was only really made possible because we were able to get on Twitter’s white list and send a large number of direct messages without being blocked. Prior to getting on that list, things didn’t go nearly as smoothly. That’s the sort of added functionality that only corporate accounts would likely need, and that Twitter could charge for.

2. Lifestreaming gets big, but not via FriendFeed. FriendFeed made a huge impact over the past year among the early adopter crowd, but lifestreaming hasn’t quite made its way into the mainstream. People are just now beginning to regularly use enough social services at once — YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, blogging — that aggregation will start to make sense. In 2009, it will be commonplace to publish your online life in a single stream, but it will be done via Facebook.

3. The Web OS will really start to become a reality. The Web OS race is on. In 2009 we’ll start to see the vision really begin to coalesce from major players like Adobe (Flash, Flex, AIR), Google (Chrome, Gears, Native Client), and Microsoft (Silverlight, Live Mesh), among others.

4. Some really great stuff will come out of Yahoo!, but it won’t be enough to save them. Yahoo! has been doing some awesome stuff by opening up their search results and most popular pages and applications by making them more social and giving developers more hooks. That’s the sort of thing that will ultimately make the web a better place, but unfortunately it won’t be enough to save Yahoo! on Wall Street. Their stock will continue to slide, unless they sign a big search deal with Microsoft or sell their search business outright to focus on the content/platform side.

5. Chrome will take at least 5% but not more than 10% of the browser market by year’s end. Google’s browser, now out of beta and being actively promoted by Google, will take at least 5% of the browser market by year’s end and as much as 10%. IE will continue to decline with both Chrome and Mozilla Firefox on the scene, but Chrome will actually cause Mozilla’s growth to stall, and will probably even steal some market share from Firefox once it supports extensions.

6. Microsoft Office will make people comfortable with web applications. When Microsoft pushes out a web-based version of Office, users in the mainstream will finally start to become comfortable will web apps. Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets apps have certainly already pushed a fair number of people in that direction, but Microsoft will have a vastly bigger impact on the adoption of web applications by mainstream users. Their software + services vision will emerge in 2009 as the clear future of software.

7. Facebook takes over the web. Well, not literally. But Facebook will continue to grow in size worldwide, and will finally over take MySpace as the biggest social network in the US. A lot of the cool web applications that early adopters love, such as FriendFeed, will reach the mainstream as features of Facebook, and Facebook Connect will help spread the Facebook brand by entangling it with other popular sites on the web that people know and trust. The company will also expand their search deal with Microsoft and make web search integration more prominent and more powerful. For many users, Facebook will become their default search engine in 2009, and this will pave the way for an IPO in 2010.

8. Palm will surprise everyone at CES… Nova will be good. Palm’s new entry into the smartphone market will be very impressive. The Nova operating system will look like something that could challenge Android, Blackberry, and the iPhone in the mobile market, but success will depend on the hardware.

What are your predictions for the year 2009? Let us know in the comments.

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  • CG

    god I hope Facebook does not become all thinks Web, the site is ok for catching up with people, but I find Twitter more useful for passing on info, and well actually being relied upon to be working.
    Add the 3rd party applications that are a royal pain, and this rather weird ‘view the web through Facebook’ and really, it seems more and more over hype and nothing more then a place for old school friends to catchup.

  • stoyan

    I predict that half of your predictions will turn out correct, but I’m not sure which half :)

  • ggw_bach

    FF is too niche, agree with you that it won’t take off.

    not sure about monetisation of Twitter … there are so many desktop clients, that is would be hard to serve ads there. As for Yahoo – it’s a sinking ship.

    re Facebook, it suffers from the Myspace syndrome. Eeveryone thought it would conquer the web, but it reached a plateau. Is FB + apps enough of a draw?

    don’t underestimate the blog … people might be pulled back to quality writing and analysis with the demise of printed newspapers. Huge potentials for sites a la Huffington Post.

  • Anonymous

    Curiously, I pick up quite a bit of business via facebook – I don’t seem to have any old schoolfriends who use it

  • SusannaD

    Heavens! I just wrote a post in the belief that I was logged in – I am so used to going straight to twitter and/or facebook and commenting on a post.

    And that’s what I appreciate about both twitter and facebook – no logging on (remembering passwords)but facebook has brought me a tidy little slice of business. I enjoy it immensely

  • Social Networking sites may never become “all” things web. There are always ups and downs, fads and trends, etc.

    Facebook is doing extremely well because it has the best setup/features at the moment. When something more appropriate for the time is released, Facebook will either a) begin to falter, or b) become like Google and start acquiring left and right.

  • DrJohnS

    Seeing all the hype about Facebook I signed up. It doesn’t do anything except ask what I’m doing now. Looking at the damned screen waiting for anything to happen, that’s what! Of course, it offers to put me in touch with old friends if I enter their names, addresses and emails. Come on, if I knew all that I would already be in touch.

  • Mike

    Facebook may pass over MySpace as the biggest network dejour but it won’t be long lived.

    Facebook already can’t keep up with its growth. Using Facebook as turned into a frustration experience because of technical issues, speed, identity theft, and spam. All major reasons why people left MySpace. Facebook is now experiencing all of these same problems which will drive traffic elsewhere.

    The end of days of open social networks are approaching fast and private social networks based on individual interests will ultimately prevail. What I find amusing is that the big players already see the hand witting on the wall and they are actually building the next generation tools (Follow-Me) that will ultimately be their demise.

    The smart move is to build your own (follow me) network and aggregate from there to the dieing beasts.

  • Anita CM

    Well Josh I have the most important prediction for year 2009- We will see a list of predictions by Josh Catone for year 2010 here on Sitepoint again at the end of 2009:-)


  • Yield to Pedestrian

    This is a fantastic and thought-provocative list.

    The only thing I would add is that I think that this will be a record year for people entering the web as bloggers, affiliate marketers, email marketers, and etsy sellers. I think we will see an absolute explosion of second-income-on-the-Internet careers, which will both swamp the marketplace but also create some interesting opportunities for aggregation and cooperation that we haven’t seen yet.

  • mdl

    Facebook becomes the default search engine on the web? WTF?

    Facebook is bound to become another version of AOL. And once the artards realize that Facebook isn’t “the web” they will inevitably move on.

    Facebook becomes the default search engine on the web! Please!

  • There might be a shift to niche social sites instead of the continuing growth of Facebook, twitter, etc. Mashable websites will incorporate all of these into one site that’s customized to individuals based on the open id framework. One size doesn’t fit all.

  • Mentalwais

    I hope that Facbook will seize to exist. The founder turned down 2 billion a few years back and that will backfire in his face.
    More room for better defined demographic Social Networks.

  • There’s a late night talk show here where they do this every week, only they do it as jokes.

    I’ll have a go in their style:

    1. Windows will become open source

    when Sun buy Microsoft.

    2. Google will take over Russia and China

    by acruaring Yandex and Baidu, respectively.


  • Damn IE8 bug… sorry about that. I accidently posted vefore I was finished.

    Now, why isn’t there an edit button here? Hmm…..

    As I was saying:
    3. Apple is going to have a larger market share outside of the US

    because the financial crisis will further bring their stuff to more reasonable prices.

    4. IE is going to become the most standards compliant browser of them all

    with version 16 (at least).

    5. CSS3 is going to become a reccomendation

    in 2012, and implementation is going to take the same time it took CSS3 to reach there.

    6. SitePoint are going to get a new editor

    their current one is going to die from laughter when reading this.

  • @mdl: That’s not what I said. I didn’t say that Facebook will become the default search engine for the web. I said it will become the default search engine for many users once they expand on their search deal with MSN.

    Nothing will come CLOSE to denting Google’s market dominance. If what I predict about Facebook happens it will add 1-2% market share to Live tops.

  • Ulikely.

    I’d expect most of these companies to cease to exist as we move deeper into a global depression.

  • WebCrawler, Lycos, and Excite will reclaim tons of market share. Atari will dominate the home gaming market. Commodore Amigas will fly off the shelves. I will finally learn to program in DOS. And…sorry, I have to go take my pills now.

  • ods2008

    I feel a little extra emphasis should go to number 5 on the agenda. Once Google Chrome accepts extensions. 5 to 10 percent sounds about right. I am even more egger however to see how internet explorer and Mozilla Firefox will come to adept themselves to the changes presented by Google’s Chrome browser. Putting the US economic recession aside, 2009 should be a fun and exciting year with many changes in store for all of us.

  • I think Google Products (due to Google’s ever growing need to keep greedy shareholders happy) will start to take over affiliate marketing in 2009. Webmasters, SEOs and affiliates, that were an integral part in building up Google’s popularity, will be killed off slowly by a thousand cuts. Look for a drop in your rankings in 2009 as Google Products will outrank every affiliate site for every product.

  • Anonymous

    My Predictions –
    1. I will figure out how to use twitter for my business(es)
    2. Twitter Application Store will be launched (hey, everybody is launching one)
    3. In car twitting (is that correct?) device will be launched, where one will be able to twit with Geo Tagging
    4. Google will launch free SMS (how I don’t know) service in US

  • Re: 7 – Facebook already poops all over MySpace in terms of raw traffic, as widely supported by worldwide Google trends stakes. It’s also been proclaimed widely elsewhere that Facebook beat MySpace ages ago.

    It really seems as though it is only the US where it’s holding out and that’s not significant enough for me to think that MySpace remains dominant anymore. It is one thing to watch some band’s clip on MySpace videos and another thing entirely to actually engage in it. There are billions of us elsewhere and we’re all using Facebook for the latter.

    I feel like Facebook needs to do something significant to avoid falling into the MySpace trap of being the place where kiddies swap atrociously spelled messages and pictures of themselves holding out a camera for a self-portrait. Using my unscientific yet highly predictive “ok let’s discuss this over a beer” method I already feel as though a lot of interest in Facebook among my peers (the 21-35, employed, disposable income, educated type) is now less about building a network and more about ‘this is a great way to send party invites.’ But I guess it’s always what you make of it.

  • randywehrs

    My prediction:
    Stagnation. Not much will happen for the next year. $ is hard to come by, and even the companies who are doing well will make only modest progression. Facebook and Google have promise if they play their cards right, but not much more can be said unless the new US administration can work miracles :)

  • Anonymous

    any jquery predictions?

  • >>any jquery predictions?

    I predict that I will use it in my own designs….

  • graphicmist

    Dont know about facebook but WebOS will be the next big thing in the this year and the market will be filled with the netbooks…

  • glenngould

    I predict that I won’t start using twitter in 2009.

  • jwalker37

    A bold, Nostradamus-like month-by-month account of the year to come:

  • Dave

    1. Agree totally. Twitter is long overdue to monetize, and there’s so many opportunities here that it’s just ridiculous. I think Google just needs to get it over with and buy Twitter.
    2. Sorta. All users want interoperability, all sites want people to stay on the site. If anything, this is going to be gradual and not a major player in 2009 outside of a few pockets of early adopters.
    3. This is tricky. Resurgence of what are essentially web PCs or terminals is going to come from specialized commercial use. At home, everyone thinks they are a superuser who can’t live without a full, traditional OS.
    4. Yahoo’s search market share will continue to shrink, but eventually they’ll re-invent the brand through properties like Flickr and the YUI tools. (When you think about it, Yahoo was never “search”, they were always “cool things on the web”.)
    5. It’s all about extensions. If they get the right extensions and lots of them, there’s really no reason for anyone to stick with Firefox, and Chrome can put up a better fight against IE.
    6. Like web OS’s, a breakthrough will first have to happen on the corporate user side.
    7. ??? MySpace never got beyond teenagers and inconsequential local bands…no matter what their numbers say, it’s never been a key player in any sense because the demographic was meaningless. Facebook is a bubble that rides on a constant flow of advertising dollars from people who don’t know that they can get better bang for their buck elsewhere and users who don’t realize how sketchy their privacy policies are (especially with apps). It might not ever pop, but I would never invest in it.
    8. ??? The only thing that can give the iPhone an actual threat would be a device with a fast GUI — a device that doesn’t have huge noticeable lag every time you click to a different screen.

  • TJ Nevis

    I use Facebook every day. They have really added some nice applications to keep you interested on their site and they also are able to sort through a lot of the ‘fake’ profiles, where MySpace and the other social websites are falling. I like FB more because the people I meet aren’t just advertisements to a website, they are real people. I could go on an on about why I like it. I like Google Chrome, but one thing I noticed when I downloaded the beta (it may be fixed now) is my hiding Start bar on Windows Vista was not accessible unless I minimized the browser. Everything else about the browser was very impressive, the speed especially. I saw a video on YouTube that explained a lot about how they made it so fast. I’m not too familiar with much of the rest of the article, but I’m sure it’s a good estimate.

  • Matt

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see the point of Twitter. We have e-mail, text messaging, and instant messaging. Unless you’re a trend follower or just bored out of your mind, why would you also need Twitter?
    I also don’t get the appeal of Chrome. I downloaded it when I saw a link for it on Google’s home page. I messed around with it for a few days, and then removed it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice browser. I just didn’t see how it’s better (or even as good as) Firefox.

  • addbud

    testing forum preview

  • O_o.moo

    Will post something longer later after I’ve read all the comments, but I find it interesting that half the comments is about Facebook…

    I myself are considering to go back onto Facebook just for business sake O_o

  • Alec Wood

    Serious privacy issues for non US residents will prevent web based apps from achieving the level of dominance all you USA based hyping pundits crave for them. If apps such as Microsoft Office are to be web based and achieve wide levels of take up, we need better safeguards to prevent the US government passing the data of foreign competitors to US companies. Certainly there is no way our company will ever use such apps until such safeguards are there. This will be the big issue for 2009 on – how to define the limits of power of traditional government. Certainly nobody in the US government is going to push for better privacy for non-US citizens, and similar situations will occur in many other countries. We need to extend the debate beyond national boundaries and come up with some way of governing and safeguarding data privacy while still addressing national security concerns reasonably

  • Mike the Face

    Facebook just passed 150M and most of them are real people.

    It may be a difficult concept for most developers to grasp but for normal people the Web is about people not things.

    Facebook is where the people are, the smart ones, the ones that can write (maybe that’s why the uptake is slower in the US ;o)

    The battle is already over before most people knew it had began. Facebook will be bigger than Google!

  • Artem Russakovskii

    Looks like you were right about Palm. Pre is the product of CES, supposedly.

    Here are my predictions and ideas for 2009 and beyond: http://beerpla.net/2009/01/10/artems-top-10-tech-predictions-and-ideas-for-2009-and-beyond/

    • @Artem: Yep, looking like a pretty hot phone. Too bad Sprint has initial exclusivity in the US. I don’t want to be on Sprint, I don’t want to be on AT&T or T-Mobile — all of which are sub par in my area in terms of coverage and mean that the people I call most, who are on Verizon, I can no longer call for free. So no Pre, no iPhone, but I need a new phone. That means Blackberry or WinMo, I guess… but then, Sprint’s exclusivity with the Palm Pre is supposedly only 6 months — meaning by the end of next year it will more than likely be available on Verizon. So I’m torn now. ;)

  • testing forum preview

  • Mr pseudonym

    ” but Chrome will actually cause Mozilla’s growth to stall, and…”

    For me, the new Firefox will cause Mozilla’s growth to stall. I tried it and didn’t like it. No good reason, it is just too jagged and antihuman. I went back to the previous version but when I get forced out of that, I’m shopping.