Predicting what will happen in 2013 is actually quite easy. Our needs as human beings have not changed much over a few thousand years we just find new ways, tools and products to help us satisfy those needs. An understanding of those needs and an assessment of our past make it easy to predict the future.
What happened in 2012?
2012 on the Internet was the year of Pinterest. Globally, the usual suspects had the most traffic (Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon, Baidu, QQ) but the upstart Pinterest joined the ranks of most visited websites in a not too shabby number 36. According to reports the site saw traffic of 6 million unique visitors between January and February of this year. In a not too distant second were sites like Fab and Kickstarter who also had breakout years. The holiday season will further boost the fortunes of these websites. On the people side some personalities became everyday names. Psy? A few months ago you would have thought it was short form for something. Who knew Nate Silver a few months ago? And for an event that captivated the world’s attention we had the Olympics.
But why should we not be surprised about the trends from last year? Let’s look to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Why weren’t 2012 trends unsurprising?
To determine what websites/products/individuals that will be the breakout trends in 2013 I decided to dig into the past to see if I could do my best Nate Silver impression and accurately predict the future. Fortunately for information junkies like myself there are sites like Google Zeitgeist, which provides historic search trends. It revealed some fantastic, yet scary, things. If what we search for is a reflection of who we are as human beings then you will either be scared for or inspired by (no sitting on the fence on this one) the human race.
Correlating the search trends to our hierarchy of needs highlights 4 things that make a prediction of 2013 trends pretty easy. The trends over the last 10 years highlight that:
- People search for events and incidents that make us question our safety (the 2nd need in the hierarchy). Tragedies showed up in top searches every year for the last 10.
- We look for products and technologies that enable us to communicate with our friends and families, satisfying the need for love/belonging (3rd in the hierarchy of needs). Google+, Facebook, Bebo or some other form of communication tool showed up every year for the last 10.
- And 4. We aspire to be like the stars of the music we listen to and of the movies that we watch. We desire the creativity, wealth and the respect of others (esteem is the 4th need and self actualization is the 5th need in the hierarchy) and believe the Brad Pitt’s and Katy Perry’s of the world have what we desire.
So what does 2013 have in store?
With the expectation that we as human beings will continue to have the need to communicate, aspire and be creative here are three internet and tech predictions for 2013.
- 1. Mobile as a social platform will continue to grow in leaps and bounds with some particular products coming into their own: Whatsapp is one of the most under-hyped mobile communication apps in the world and 2013 will be it’s year. The app is available on IOS, Android and Blackberry phones and, with a billion messages sent in one day, there are more people using the app to cross the barrier of operating system compatibility. I use the app to stay in touch with my friends Europe and Africa at no cost beyond the initial 99c I paid. With its immense utility across the globe expect this app, and mobile technology in general, to make great strides in 2013.
- 2. Consumers will start to pay attention to the ‘Safety’ ladder of the hierarchy’s: As the economy improves, albeit slowly, we will start to move away from the basic needs of food and shelter. We as human beings will start to move up the needs ladder using the Internet to take care of our security. Not just security; security of employment (using tools that build off our natural social nature like Branchout) and security of health using tools and apps provided by companies like Massive Health. There will also be more attention to security of financials and security of our energy resources as the ‘cleanweb’ starts to pick up pace as web and mobile tools help consumers utilize energy (especially electricity) sustainably.
- 3. Knowledge as a currency will continue to grow in importance: Our desire for information is also a need, a need that to feel esteem. But the amount of information offline and online is mindboggling. The phrase ‘big data’ was overused in 2012. Unfortunately, it will continue to be overused in 2013. Despite its overuse the inherent value in big data is not in the data itself but in the knowledge and insight that can be gleaned from that data. Consumers will gravitate towards companies that help us gain insight, and consequently, esteem. Companies like Recorded Future.
With the pace of change and the innovation happening in the world, 2013 is bound to be even more exciting than 2012. But human needs will not change; we will just have better tools to satisfy those needs.