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for 2002

February 2002

disponibile anche in italiano

  Giancarlo Livraghi
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I don’t feel comfortable making predictions. But someone took the risk. And he is one of the most brilliant writers about the internet. On January 2, in his article Predictions for 2002, Gerry McGovern explained ten things that he expects to happen this year. Here they are – with a few comments.

1. Although the worst is probably over, there will be no major recovery in 2002. Things will stabilize during the first half of the year, with modest gains from there on.

That makes sense – though there can be no “certainties.”  But there is an interesting side to uncertainty and widespread concern. When everyone else is hesitant and confused, there are remarkable opportunities for those who have the dedication and the consistency to work with clear strategies and flexible tactics, to learn from experience, and to plan for “medium or long term” results.

2. This will be the year of the virus. Security will become an ever-increasing concern.

I wonder. There are over 50,000 viruses “in the wild” – and when harm is done it’s caused almost invariably by software bugs or lack of proper defenses. People and companies just need to be a bit more careful (and to avoid spreading hoaxes and false alerts, of which there seem to be more around than there are real viruses).

3. There will be increasing calls for comprehensive internet legislation, as the Internet becomes more critical to the lives of millions. Copyright, crime and terrorism will be the focus of much legislation.

I think this, unfortunately, is true. And experience shows (especially in my country) that most of the legislation and regulation does more harm than good.

One of the dangerous “side effects” of terrorism is that it becomes an excuse for countless violations of freedom and privacy that are of no use for the prevention of crime but serve the selfish interests of power groups – public and private.

4. Spam will continue to be a major problem, and will be one of the key reasons people will want a more regulated internet.

Alas – it’s true. And it’s very unlikely that regulation will solve the problem. It could make online activity unnecessarily complicated for all of us, while spammers continue to clutter our mailboxes.

5. Bankruptcies, mergers and consolidation will continue. More people will go to fewer websites, as the internet becomes controlled by a few mega-corporations.

That’s very likely. Even though mergers and acquisitions do more harm than good (and un-merging is often the best solution to improve efficiency, though such events don’t make big headlines as the mergers do.)  Attempts to “centralize” the net will continue, and unfortunately in part they will succeed – though they are the opposite of what the net is and needs to be.

6. The PC crisis will continue. For a significant percentage of the population there will be no compelling reason to buy a PC. For those that have one, there will be few compelling reasons to upgrade.

That trend has been visible for quite a while – and let’s hope it gets stronger. Not only in the case of hardware, but also to discourage the unnecessary, cumbersome and expensive software upgrades.

7. The wireless and telecommunications sector will continue to flounder. Too much cost, too much hype and too little demand for all these wonderful extra services, will badly hurt these industries in 2002.

We haven’t yet seen the real collapse, that has to come in a now “mature” and saturated market. Gimmicks and paraphernalia can’t keep it afloat forever.

8. A two-tier internet will clearly emerge: for-free and for-fee.

This is quite complicated, and I think a clear-cut and reasonable distinction is unlikely to come in a short while. Of course it’s perfectly reasonable that some things should be “for free” and others “for fee”. But it won’t be easy to sort out which, why and how.

9. Information architecture will become the crucial discipline in website design. This means a greater focus on getting your metadata, classification, navigation and search right.

Sooner or later, it has to happen – or so I hope. But the silly habit of placing appearance over content doesn’t seem to be declining. And there is a problem: playing with flashy surface is cheap and easy. Providing valuable content needs a lot of hard work and good talent – and it’s a never-ending task.

10. will make a profit.

Apparently it’s already happened. But there is much more to this than the financial health of one company. For seven years Amazon has been a consistent success in the marketplace. A clear example of how to build a sound customer base – which, if managed with care, is a large and valuable asset. The fact is that many people, who gloated in Amazon’s lack of profit, are scared. Because they don’t want (or don’t know how) to be serious about service and customer care.


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