What’s the Next Big Thing?

You could read that title and say “if I new I’d make it and be rich!”.  Ok, fair enough, but the question really is what will be the next web invention that really changes the game?  The consumer web has been a part of our lives since Netscape gave the average joe the ability to be online. That was 1994, and although the web has changed every aspect of our lives, I can point to only a few real game changers (dates are roughly when these went mainstream:

1. Web browsers (1994)

3. Search (1996 and Google in 1999)

2. E-commerce  (1996)

4. Peer-to-Peer Networks (1999 – Napster made this mainstream even though it wasn’t 100% P2P, and geeks were using Usenet groups to share music even before the web really took off)

5. Social media, and YouTube (2005)

6. iPhone (2008)

Back to the question. To take a guess at what the next big thing will be, I’ll offer up my definition of what makes something the next big thing vs. being a game changer (gimmie that soapbox for a minute, please).

Google was a game changer, but were they the Next Big Thing? Search existed way before Google happened on the scene (remember AltaVista and Lycos?). Google made it better. But, Google’s real impact and growth came through AdSense, which traces its foundation to WordNet and later Applied Semantics which Google acquired in 2003.  So, for all it’s greatest and technology apptitude (which I respect and admire), I’ll say early search engines were really the Next Big Thing.

The Next Big Thing is something we’ve never seen before. It’s something that effects our lives by making our digital life more compelling, easy, or fun.  Something we come back to over and over again, tell our friends about, and find valuable to the extent that it becomes part of our daily lives and we couldn’t imagine ever being without it. And it’s the beginning which will copied by others that try to make it better.

I’m not putting micro-blogging on the list just yet. We love it but my brother (a lawyer) doesn’t see why anyone would care. Maybe one day he’ll care and so will everyone else and then Twitter makes the list.

So, anyone care to venture a guess?  I’d love to see true 3D going mainstream on the web, changing our experience forever.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.