Where to start? 2006 was a busy year by any measure. We had a momentous election in the U.S. that is sure to impact key issues and constituencies for years to come. We contended with the ongoing conflict in Iraq, unsettled religious and political hot spots around the world, a wild M&A scene driven by private-equity funding, ongoing data thefts, wrangling over security and privacy issues, tussles over immigration policies, the "Google effect," and much more.
In our world, information providers tried to "kick it up a notch" to stay relevant for Google-influenced users—many of the vendors rolled out platform upgrades and embraced newer technologies, often through partnerships. Traditional media providers struggled to maintain audiences. Companies merged, acquired competitors, divested nonessential units, and reorganized. Librarians worked to reach users outside library environments, using tools such as Open WorldCat and Second Life. Librarians took up a number of causes: supporting the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) libraries, which have started to close; supporting open access to federally funded research; and backing the Net Neutrality movement. Digitization projects from Google and members of the Open Content Alliance marched forward. Copyright issues remained unsettled.
Yes, there was certainly a lot of news to cover. You can get a sense of it by scanning over the list of stories for the year (there's also a search box) in our NewsBreaks and Weekly News Digests at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com. My NewsBreak Update column in Information Today (www.infotoday.com/it) also provided a monthly wrap-up and commentary on hot news and trends.
The Year of 2.0
But if I had to characterize 2006 in a single phrase, it would be the year that "2.0" changed nearly everything—Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Office 2.0, etc. I've even seen reference to Medicine 2.0, Politics 2.0, Community 2.0, Legal 2.0, Elearning 2.0—just take a look at the open directory at All Things Web 2.0 (www.allthingsweb2.com).Whether you even agree on the term or think it's just an overused buzzword, Web 2.0 technologies have enabled dynamic interaction, decentralized authority, content sharing, and the establishment of new social networks. User-centric, communal, and participatory applications have clearly taken center stage in many venues. " 2006 was about users in control of content production, aggregation, and distribution," according to industry analyst John Blossom of Shore Communications .
This was capped by TIME magazine's Person of the Year award going to … "You" (www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1569514,00.html). Whether you think this was a cop-out or a wise decision, the phenomenon can't be ignored. As the article explained, " In 2006, the World Wide Web became a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter."
2006 was the year many information professionals embraced these new Web 2.0 technologies and strategies in their roles as information managers and librarians. Witness the kinds of sessions that were held at last year's Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences—topics covered mashup applications, wikis, social computing, service to users within Second Life, gaming, user-centered planning, and more. Many of our articles during the year related to news from companies involved in these new technologies.
The next Computers in Libraries in Arlington, Va., this April is looking to the future (www.infotoday.com/cil2007). Its theme is Beyond Library 2.0: Building Communities, Connections, & Strategies. Clearly, the new tools and processes are enabling information professionals to interact with their clients and communities in new and exciting ways.
Here's an interesting editorial comment on how Web 2.0 is changing medicine, from the perspective of Dean Giustini, UBC biomedical branch librarian (www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/333/7582/1283). He wrote: "The truth is that Web 2.0 is a difficult term to define, even for web experts. Nebulous phrases like ‘the web as platform' and ‘architecture of participation' are often used to describe Web 2.0. Medical librarians suggest that rather than intrinsic benefits of the platform itself, it's the spirit of open sharing and collaboration that is paramount. The more we use, share, and exchange information on the Web in a continual loop of analysis and refinement, the more open and creative the platform becomes; hence, the more useful it is in our work." He finds the promise of open access (OA) publishing especially compelling and wonders whether a medical Wikipedia can be the next step.
Important Trends of '06
Here's a quick overview of some of the big trends coursing through the news this past year, many of them triggered by some aspect of the Web 2.0 experience.
Video was hot. The increasing availability of high-speed Internet service, an explosion of content, and online advertising drove the growth. There were announcements about all manners of video services as companies endeavored to make money from the content—much of it user generated—flooding onto the Net. The University of California-Berkeley is even delivering educational content, including course lectures and symposia, free of charge through Google Video (http://video.google.com/ucberkeley.html).
Blogs continued to grow and evolve, along with an increasing use of RSS to monitor them. Several services, including BlogBurst and Licensa, launched to aggregate and distribute key blog content through traditional channels, such as newspaper Web sites.
Mashups combine Web-based applications into a new and useful tool. (See, for example, HousingMaps.com, which combines Google Maps with real estate listings from craigslist.) Companies are even starting to use enterprise mashups or composite applications. (See BusinessWeek.com, "Salesforce Dives into the Mash Pit," www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2006/tc20060822_483926.htm.)
Private equity fueled many of the year's acquisitions—and there were many, with the last several months of the year showing increased activity.
Following a trend I mentioned in last year's news summary (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=16019), we continued to see new search engines launch. This year, a number of them made their debut, and I suspect the trend will continue:
- AskCity from Ask.com provides a new one-stop service for local search (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=18788).
- Pagebull is a new metasearch engine in beta.
- hakia is building a new meaning-based search engine.
- Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has started a project to build a new open source search engine with user-editable search results (http://search.wikia.com).
- PureVideo Search is a beta metasearch engine for videos.
- Zibb is a new B2B search engine from Reed Business Information.
Answer services were hot, despite the fact that Google pulled the plug on its service. New ones include Askville from Amazon, Kasamba, and ChaCha. Yahoo! still offers its service. Recently, LinkedIn, the networking site for professionals, launched a new product called LinkedIn Answers. And a former researcher at Google Answers has started XooxleAnswers (http://xooxleanswers.com).
Google continued to pile on the news, launching a new Patent Search, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, a Custom Search Engine, and more. It acquired YouTube, the popular video-sharing site. Possibly the biggest announcement was the launch of the Google News Archive, which taps into sources from traditional information providers. See our report on it at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=18226 and http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=18227.
Trends to Watch in 2007
Here are just a few items that are on my radar for 2007. Stay tuned for our coverage.
- Wikis will likely grow in numbers and importance—collaboration and aggregation of content are key drivers.
- We'll see more interesting and useful content and tools mashups.
- "Widgets" (applets or gadgets) will be cool and ubiquitous, providing easy desktop access to useful tools, functions, and content.
- Mobile computing, including Web search, will develop further.
- We'll see more experimentation with new forms of publishing, and the pace of change promises to be even faster than we've seen.
- There will be more experimentation with business models.
- Video will continue to be a big deal.
- We will continue to grapple with the Google effect. It's still a disruptive force in most business markets.
- Media companies will continue to struggle with how to make money in the Internet era without cannibalizing their existing products.
- Watch the changing face of news production and distribution, with increasing emphasis on participatory sites. Watch for more to happen in "crowdsourcing" (see the blog at www.crowdsourcing.com—"tracking the rise of the amateur").
- Partnerships will be critical for many companies to stay viable, enabling access to key technologies and tapping into advertising dollars. (The group of newspapers partnering with Yahoo! last year was one sign of this.)
- Copyright issues won't just go away and could come to a head in 2007.
Hoping for Protective Legislation
On the issue of data breaches and identity theft, a topic covered frequently in ITI publications this year, here's the assessment for 2006 from a nonprofit organization known for its work in the area. "The world of identity theft continues to evolve," said Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center (www.idtheftcenter.org). "However, we are optimistic about the trends we are seeing in corporate America in dealing with this crime. In 2006, 25 states created laws in regard to identity theft and information security. Congress introduced 34 bills. While these federal bills were not finalized, the fact that Congress is in discussion about this crime gives us hope for the future. We are also encouraged that Congress is taking the time to make sure the laws it passes will actually be beneficial and not just a knee-jerk reaction that does not address the complete picture."
Through Other Lenses
You can get varying perspectives on the hot topics of the year from the lists issued by the search engines:
By the way, Advertising Age reported (http://adage.com/digital/article.php?article_id=114014) that Web 2.0 was the No. 1 Wikipedia entry most cited by bloggers during the year, according to Nielsen BuzzMetrics (http://nielsenbuzzmetrics.com).
Search expert John Battelle has written his Predictions 2007 in his Searchblog (http://battellemedia.com/archives/003233.php). He feels that AOL, Yahoo!, or IAC/InterActiveCorp. will be leading candidates for acquisition by Microsoft. He predicts that a "major Internet player will really screw up the privacy/trust issue, in a way bigger than even AOL did last year." Let's hope he's wrong.
Each year Outsell, Inc. publishes an annual information industry outlook and makes it available to the industry. It is published in September to coincide with its Go! conference. Titled "FutureFacts: Information Industry Outlook 2007 ," the report predicts that the industry will reach $458 billion in revenues in the next 3 years, with a slow but steady compound annual growth rate of 6.4 percent from 2006 to 2009. It provides a list of Top 10 predictions for 2007, among them the prediction that librarians will embrace 2.0. The report also gives an interesting scorecard of how it did with its 2006 predictions—pretty well from my view. A PDF of the report can be downloaded free at www.outsellinc.com/store/products/281.
Blossom has given a forecast preview of the company's forthcoming Outlook 2007 report (www.shore.com/commentary/newsanal/items/2007/20070101forecast.html). He calls it "reality checks" for new and old forms of publishing—following "in the wake of a tempestuous year of massive shifts." The preview focuses on six key areas that require attention (the A's) for the new year: audience, aggregation, APIs, alternatives, acceleration, and Asia. It's a solid assessment in my estimation. (He likes the alphabet—last year it was the P's that shaped content: packaging, platform, premium, and personalization.)
For an excellent and thorough review of activities in open access, check out Peter Suber's comments in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/01-02-07.htm). According to Suber, "2006 was the year of the OA mandate," and "OA archiving progressed on nearly every front." He has also provided an OA-movement timeline with links (www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/timeline.htm) and offered predictions for 2007 (www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/12-02-06.htm#predictions).Finally, the December 2006 issue of Information Today featured commentaries from industry notables addressing the question: "What Shook Information Technology in 2006?" I just reread it—the perspectives range widely and offer a lot of food for thought. Thanks to all for contributing. (The article is available on a pay-per-view basis through ITI's InfoCentral archive: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/infotoday/docsearch?bcb01183271561.)