Social Media 2011: Privacy Puzzles, Search Will Stick Around

A number of trends will drive innovation in NewNet technology in 2011, from advertising to a greater integration of network-style communications to filtering real-time feeds to make the most (and monetize) the wealth of data available to us. But no set of fearless year-end predictions would be complete without also examining the expectations for what won’t happen in the coming year, despite the hype certain trends might generate. And as I detail over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), there are a few key milestones we’re not betting on for 2011.

For one, social media won’t replace search. Online, passive discovery and active seeking are both valid behaviors with real-world analogies. Serendipity may work when you don’t know what to watch on TV, but not when you’re, say, comparison shopping. And let’s face it; a friend’s advice isn’t always the best option. Smart companies will accommodate both styles of search, since it’s likely they’re both here to stay. Google is gradually pulling in feed info to its separate Realtime search offering, while Microsoft is incorporating Facebook data more aggressively into Bing. Amazon doesn’t blend the experience, but it incorporates search and user recommendations, and is experimenting with Facebook Likes.

On the subject of social media, don’t bank on a single, dominant social media platform to emerge in 2011. It’s getting too late for a winner-take-all network effect, and the most likely candidates — Facebook primarily, as well as Twitter and Google — offer a lot of APIs that can be mashed up and applied outside any semi-walled garden. Smart companies use Facebook for promotion and customer acquisition, and can still deliver those services through their own sites. Simply put, there’s too much data being created for a single social graph to completely dominate.

Privacy in social media, meanwhile will remain a puzzle that neither the industry nor government will be able to solve. Why? It’s probably too difficult a problem, with multiple, well-funded — and even well-meaning — constituencies. There’s too much money at stake (advertisers and media companies have lots of lobbyists) to risk screwing up ad targeting, and we have an internally combative situation in Congress.

Of course, these predictions are just a few among many that will come under the microscope in 2011, and in such a fast-changing technological landscape, surprises are bound to happen. For more predictions, read my full post.

Image source: flickr user alancleaver

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