What’s On Tap: Predictions for 2009

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.