Predictions for 2006

Although punditry seems to require year-end assessments and predictions, I usually resist the urge. But this year I came up with an angle. The following table reports three facts for each of four startups acquired in 2005: the date on which the service was first mentioned here; the date on which it was acquired; and the elapsed time in days.
first mentionacquisitionelapsed

The acquisitions happened six to nine months after the services captured my interest. That got me to wondering what products, services, or techniques were capturing my interest roughly six to nine months ago -- from mid-March to mid-June -- and whether they'll mature in 2006.

March 15: Flash video

Now, suddenly, there's an explosion of content that can legally be ripped, mixed, burned, and blogged. The RIAA isn't the problem here. We need to find our way out of the QuickTime/Real/WinMedia/Flash fireswamp.
Nine months ago I wasn't convinced that the Flash player would become the dominant video playback standard Macromedia hoped it would, and I'm still not 100% sure that it will, but I'm getting lots of mileage out of the technology myself and recent events suggest that 2006 will be a big year for Flash video.

March 23: Screencasting

Very, very cool. It reinforces my hunch that the combination of easy-to-create blogs and easy-to-create narrated screen videos could put users in charge of software marketing, education, and training.
That's from an entry about Paul Everitt's oXygen screencast. 2006 will undoubtedly bring more appreciation for the power of screencasting. I expect this once-sleepy category of software to come alive, with plenty of action on the commercial front and (let's hope) in the open source realm too.

March 29: Enterprise social software

VK: We wouldn't take a job that we knew would lead to a resource action.

IW: Resource action?

VK: Layoff.
This scary exchange between me and social network analyst Valdis Krebs, which appeared in my cover story on enterprise social software, helps explain why I expect progress in this category but no explosive breakout in 2006. The opportunities are there, but then again they always have been. Social software, formerly known as groupware, faces three major challenges in the enterprise: reaching critical mass, rewarding individual effort, and respecting privacy. Solving this multivariate equation requires slow cultural change as well as speedy technological innovation.

April 6: TiVo integration

Tonight I used TiVo to skim through a dozen accumulated hours of CSPAN's Booknotes and BookTV. Then I watched the two talks that grabbed me: Shashi Tharoor on Nehru: The Invention of India and Irshad Manji on The Trouble with Islam. At the same time, using LibraryLookup, I found that Tharoor's book is available at the library and Manji's is on order.
When the TiVo SDK debuted in 2005, many of us were disappointed to find out that it wasn't complete enough to support applications enabling these kinds of two-way scenarios. I hope TiVo extends their SDK next year. They'd be crazy not to.

April 19: Local proxies

I've been experimenting with a local Web proxy that XHTML-izes and transforms Web pages on the fly.
Realtime XML transformation of Web pages could have applications that go way beyond ad blocking.
Although I didn't know it at the time, I was ineptly trying to create something that already existed: Greasemonkey, the protean Firefox extension whose many possibilities continue to excite me. I'm expecting lots of action in 2006 at the intersection of Greasemonkey, microformats, structured blogging, and structured search.

April 27: Framework for integrated test

I'm curious to see what Microsoft will make of Ward Cunningham's ideas and techniques. I interviewed Ward in Refactoring the business and, in my blog companion to our feature on test-driven development, he talks about the FIT framework that he's used to push testable business logic into spreadsheets that business analysts can make and use.
Ward, as it turned out, left Microsoft in 2005. But FIT (framework for integrated test) is going strong. The topic came up in my interview podcast with Jeff Nielsen. Glimpses of it also appear in my screencast about Mindreef Coral, which points in the same direction. Along with the many inscrutable vendor offerings promising "end-to-end SOA governance," I hope 2006 will bring some relatively simple tools that enable business stakeholders to inject testable requirements into the software development process.

May 19: Email sender authentication

As part of this week's cover story on email's future, my piece explores the current crop of sender authorization proposals.
I've been flogging this idea for a decade. Maybe it'll break out in 2006, maybe not, I won't be holding my breath.

June 2: WinFS

Personal information management, in Longhorn, will be a walled garden with its own notion of schema, and its own query language.
The justification for this headache, if there is one, must lie not in the realm of "finding stuff" but in the realm of "organizing stuff." WinFS relationships, in other words, must be capable of delivering such compelling benefits that there was no choice but to invent a proprietary storage model from the ground up.
WinFS is interesting for a number of very good reasons. But one thing we know for sure is that it won't change your life in 2006.

June 15: Browser local storage

An Alchemy application, though, always works with a genuine local data model that it stores as sets of XML fragments and navigates in a relational style. Bosworth's hunch is that a Web-style thin client, driven by a rich data model intelligently synchronized with the services cloud, could do most of what we really need -- both offline and online.
That's from a column entitled Thin client, rich data. The next turn of the AJAX crank has to involve an intelligent local data store. It's been on my wishlist forever, but Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich told me to expect results in 2006, so I do.

1 Jon Udell can't count. Good catch, thanks! I dyslexically swapped the arguments to a date conversion and neglected to proofread. So my timeline is a bit screwed up, but on the bright side, I get credit for being extra-prescient about!

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