Five internet predictions for 2010

In this month’s feature, we list our pick of the topics tipped to dominate online technology news in 2010. All of these predicted trends point to an interesting and innovative year ahead for web based services.

1. Cloud computing. With the growing trend for remote working, either from home, on the move, or when travelling abroad, the ability to access your documents, data, and applications wherever you are is becoming vital. ‘Cloud computing’ refers to the move towards internet based services which enable users to do everything online, in contrast to traditional desktop applications which may restrict usage to your office PC. This will be further reflected by the launch later this year of Google’s ‘Chrome’ operating system, an alternative to Windows on which the only installed software will be a web browser.

2. Tablets vs smart phones vs netbooks. It is rumoured that Apple will shortly announce a new touch screen ‘tablet’ device, likely to to be named the ‘iTablet’ or ‘iSlate’, with Microsoft and others also planning similar products. Having larger screens than smart phones, but smaller and lighter than netbooks, tablets will aim to offer a new way of portably browsing the internet, and look set to cause a significant shake up in both markets. Apple’s device will also reportedly offer eBook support, making it a potential competitor to existing eBook readers.

3. Location-aware apps. When using the internet on the move, it is possible for your whereabouts to be determined automatically via GPS (Global Positioning System), mobile phone networks, or wireless access points. Location aware applications can make use of this information and respond accordingly, for example by showing your position on a map, or updating your status on a social network. It is predicted that the coming year will see some creative new uses for this technology, offering innovative services for users as well as opportunities for providers of targeted content.

4. Real time web. In the past, users have needed to check their favourite websites for updates, or wait for search engines to index content before it appears on result pages. The ‘real time web’ refers to a move towards immediate retrieval of information as soon as it is published, reflecting today’s demand for instant web content shown by the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds. Recently, Google has begun to integrate real time ‘tweets’, breaking news and other content into its search results, which may now give rise to the advent of real time SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

5. Web 3.0. References to ‘Web 3.0’ as shorthand for the next phase of the web’s evolution are now beginning to appear more frequently in the media. There is currently no widely accepted definition, and Wikipedia has deleted its page for this reason, although it is often mentioned alongside ‘semantic publishing’ to describe the use of metadata to provide additional context and integration between web documents. This lack of consensus over its meaning is unlikely to prevent its increasing use over the coming year, which could yet see a clearer definition emerge.