What’s Next?

What’s the next big thing in technology?  Everyone is always asking that question.  Like it can be answered with any precision.

I think what’s next is the architecture of participation.  The revolution of the ants.  Everyone getting into the action.  Making the action that much more interesting.

I had this interesting experience this week.  I check Technorati every so often to see who is linking to me.  I saw that a blog was linking to me talking about how I turned The Grameen Foundation onto blogging by donating the AdSense proceeds from my blog to them.

So I clicked through to read the post and at the end of the post the blogger said he was leaving for two weeks of vacation in Thailand.  Shit I thought, that’s not the place to be going on vacation this year.

So I went to the top of his blog to see his most recent posts and read some of the most gut wrenching stuff about the Tsunami and his personal experiences with it.

I haven’t read the NY Times in almost three weeks. I picked it up on the airplane home and read the week in review section.  The stuff on the tsunami tragedy was predictable, exactly what you’d expect a professional newsroom to put out.  Except that it was boring to me.  What was interesting to me was what this blogger who linked to me was saying on his blog.

Internet explorer is boring to me too.  In the same way that the Times is boring.  It’s predictable.  Firefox is exciting.  People are personalizing the software and making it accessible for everyone.

Even the iPod, the closed system that Steve Jobs won’t open up, has created a whole new ecosystem around it.  You can export the XML from iTunes into a host of music portals that will analyze what you are listening to and recommending other stuff you should like.  Bose is making whole stereo systems that wrap around an iPod.

Next up someone is going to start making stuff that makes the picture iPod really useful, like a screensaver docking station so when it’s charging, everyone can see the photos on it.  Or a Bluetooth thing that let’s you show your photos on your TV.  Who knows what it will be.  I didn’t see the iTrip coming.  But it came and is changing the car audio experience.

Adsense and Amazon Associates let me be a publisher with my blog.  I get paid for generating leads for others.  They don’t know me and I don’t know them.  We both win.

One of my favorite entrepreneurs is Mark Gerson who realized that doctors knew more about which drugs were getting prescribed and which drugs were really working.  So he created a panel of doctors and started charging hedge funds for access to them.  He built a huge business in less than five years with this model. Putting the big money managers in direct contact with everyday people who happen to know more about what’s going on than the so called experts on Wall Street. 

The revolution of the ants.  Technology is not consolidating power into the hands of the very few.  The opposite is happening.  Everyone is getting in on the action.  Technology is opening the doors like never before.  And so we are building an architecture of participation that enables this to happen even faster.  That’s what next.