2005 : A Look Back

Now that 2005 is coming to a close, I thought I’d sum up my own impressions into neat, tasty paragraphs. As an interaction designer and just general technology fan its been a really fun, interesting year.

Home-Grown Technology Trends. While 2005 isn’t really the year of the Blog (that’s probably…2004?), I think the viral power of the blog, especially in the tech community, really showed itself this year. Ideas, technical approaches and trends materialized organically and in some cases, really took off. This was great to watch. Before blogging and other social mechanisms for spreading ideas like tagging, the world waited for the big guys – your IBM’s, Microsoft’s and Sun’s of the world – to hand us the Next Big Thing. Typically these “standards” were blessed by some standards body that was comprised of representatives of big technology companies and some academics. This changed in 2005. Loosely-defined trends like simple XML via REST and AJAX blindsided the big players. Ironically, now they’re scrambling to legitimize themselves in this arena. “Hey! We want to play too!
Simplicity. A theme I heard countless times this year, especially in the realm of design, is the value of simplicity. A hallmark of the current generation of 2.0 startups is a simple, almost toy-like design. As an interface designer, it’s exciting to see the value of simplicity really start to get recognized. We can credit Google with paving the way by keeping clutter out of the experience as much as possible. Even their ads are simple and generic (at least for now).
The Year of AJAX. No doubt, a key shift in how applications get delivered over the Web is being fueled by AJAX. Again, it was really Google that reset the rules here. Before Google Maps, web designers were handed a common mandate: make it work on as many browsers as possible. So we followed directions and played it safe, frowning upon technologies like Javascript and XMLHTTP. Google had the guts to say “the hell with that. We’re going to reset the bar here and make people want to update their hardware and software.” AJAX has been there for years, we were just too scared to use it.
The Year Of The Tinkerer. I think in many ways, 2005 was a bit of a free-for-all. We got to play around and try new things. Tagging. RSS. Software as Service. All sorts of fun experiments and mash-ups came to be. It got a lot easier to play with simpler and more open API’s. It’s all been a lot of fun, but I think the costs of all this tinkering hasn’t hit us just yet. I don’t think we’ve been billed for the past year’s accomodations just yet. I don’t think I’ve run into a Web 2.0 company that is charging money just yet. True, we may see it materialize into an ad-driven model, but we’ll have to see how much people are willing to tolerate with that. I would rather pay for software than see ads on my word processor. And this doesn’t just go for the startups. Just about every intiative Google put forth in 2005 makes no money. They’ve got 99% of their revenue coming from the right-hand side of your browser, yet they fund and support all sorts of additional initiatives. The same goes for Yahoo. Maybe I’m missing something. I know the VC money is paying attention. Then again, they seem to be hyping these startups for acquistion.
I’m sure I’m missing some other key trends and whatnot. I know there are a few other “Best Of” postings out there. Overall, it’s been a very exciting year. For me, it’s a year marked by the shift away from standard, shrink-wrapped thinking into exploring and experimenting with ideas that may prove to be incredibly powerful. I don’t think we’ve even come near the power of RSS for example. I’m just happy I get to listen in (and potentially contribute) to the community. Let’s hope we can keep on tinkering in 2007.
As for basement.org, it’s been around for almost a year now and it’s readership and subscription numbers have increased pretty dramatically. Hmmm….maybe it’s time for Google Adwords. I wonder sometimes how much money it would generate. But then again…

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