Just like that, 2018 has come to a close. I realize there are a few days left in the year, but the content industry is already well into its cycle of recaps and predictions, and readers can be forgiven if they would like to their attention to more festive matters to close out the year. Personally, I have a lot of shopping to do — but I’ll also be spending the time planning 2019. It’s going to be a big year for The Interface, and I need to spend some time away from Twitter to give it some shape. There may be a bonus issue or two — I have a few stories publishing before the end of the year that are relevant to our interests here — but otherwise your daily rundown of the day’s top news in social networks and democracy will return Jan. 7th.
And what sort of world will we return to? I asked you to share your predictions for social media in 2019 on Twitter, and you had lots of great ideas. (Unfortunately I heard almost exclusively from men!) Let’s look at some of your best suggestions, with a few of my own sprinkled in:
SOCIAL NETWORKS: Monte Thigpen predicts more paid social networks. The conventional wisdom holds that social networks only function if as many people as possible are on them. But it seems just as likely that the conventional wisdom is wrong. For an idea what this might look like, consider the rise of paid Slack channels.
Nik Sharma is among those who think 2019 will see a return to the group chat as our social network of choice. I said this myself on a recent episode of Recode Decode. And Taylor Lorenz said it in 2017, because that’s how far in the future she lives. (Ryan Ruark adds that this phenomenon will be of particular benefit to Discord and Slack.)
Dave Smith says “Apple or Google will try some sort of social network again.” We know former Facebook wunderkind Michael Sayman is cooking up some sort of social app at Google, so consider this prediction endorsed.
POLICY: Will Oremus says “Heads of state with autocratic leanings will use this year’s valid concerns about Facebook as an excuse to block access, nationalize it, or ban it from their country altogether.” It’s happening already, so sure!
Bret Carmichael predicts we’ll see steps taken toward national privacy regulation, hampered by party warfare. Sounds about right! Reminder that the industry has until 2020 until California’s privacy bill goes into effect, and folks I’ve spoken to expect that the race to pass a national bill will come down to the wire.
FACEBOOK: Ken Goldsholl predicts a decline in usage in North America. Brandon Arvay predicts paid Facebook group memberships. I predict that the modest decline in users will make some of Facebook’s content moderation / foreign interference problems better in 2019, while introducing new worries about its long-term business. And I do not predict that 2019 is the year that Facebook stories take off.
INSTAGRAM: Matt Wood predicts that Instagram’s ongoing Facebookification project will continue, but also that the app will suffer a serious data breach. I won’t guess the specifics, but I do think 2019 will see some sort of reckoning over Instagram. Its charismatic founders are gone, the press is waking up to some long-simmering issues there, and there’s an increasing sense among a certain elite that looking at the app all the time is bad for you.
On the product side Tu-Lam Pham says shopping will have a breakout year on Instagram. I predict we’ll see that standalone shopping app in 2019, myself. And probably that direct messaging app they’ve been testing, too.
TWITTER: Will Pfeffer, knowing it will hurt me, predicts “Twitter will make dozens of controversial UI changes and none of them will involve an edit button.” He is probably right.
Kevin Middleton says Twitter will get pulled from the App Store over adult content — a prediction that seems surprisingly likely after the Tumblr fiasco this year.
I predict Twitter will muddle along, and everyone will constantly call it “this hell website” and use it anyway.
YOUTUBE: Former Facebooker Ben Cunningham predicts more serialized longform content on YouTube. Could we see “Serial,” but for video? What about “S-Town,” or “Slow Burn,” or “Caliphate”? Would love to see some folks try. For an idea of what this might look like, check out Shane Dawson’s docu-series on the notorious failed YouTube conference TanaCon.
No one, for what it’s worth, predicted that YouTube would get its right-wing extremism problem under control.
SNAP: Cunningham predicts more augmented-reality stuff at the expense of everything else, which sounds about right. Absent a surprise hit product, it’s going to be a tough year for Snap.
TIKTOK: No one really sent in a TikTok prediction, unless you count AppAnnie’s PR agency, which offered this: “In 2019, 10 minutes of every hour spent consuming media across TV and internet will come from individuals streaming video on mobile. App Annie predicts this growth will be fueled in part by the rise of social video apps like TikTok and the prominence of short-form video in social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat.”
I can’t tell whether TikTok is simmering mostly below the radar right now — the low-and-slow-growing social network that Facebook has traditionally feared the most — or whether it’s already petering out. So count the future of TikTok as a true 2019 mystery, at least for me.
NEW APPS: Alex Alam DM’s fun prediction about a new social app that links various chat apps together, Adium-style:
Maybe this year or next, I’d expect to see a hilariously well-funded startup claiming to be “IFTTT for chat apps” which basically just means they remade Adium/old OSX Messages. If they time it right, there will be much ballyhoo until the major platforms arbitrarily shut off API access, crippling and dooming it. It will somehow still work with IRC, gchat, and uhhhhh, Yo.
Alam also predicts “six or more” failed Tumblr replacements, along with significant growth for Mastodon.
Jannick Malling emails to say that the next generation of social apps will simply add social features to existing vertical apps:
“It will start to be thought of more as an [operating system] for every app type, whether that’s for real estate, mental wellness, financial investing, or even scooters.
In every niche interest or activity, the apps that serve will continue to become more inherently social – because the underlying demand/desire for connecting with others and building a sense of community around those is still intact.
Something else we can predict with some certainty: the arrival of Byte, Dom Hoffman’s “sequel” to looping-video app Vine.
TROLLS: Shout out to the following joke predictions:
- “A US congressman provides a succinct, accurate and illuminating explanation of how a social network, any social network, functions.” — Ned Berke
- “LinkedIn stories, in a desperate attempt to boost engagement, crossover into Microsoft 365 products and cause rioting in the streets when folks learn they cannot opt out.” — Nick Haase
- “Facebook Portal 2 announced and it can walk and follow u around ur house. Zuckie promises that it goes to sleep Roomba style at night but u woke up in the middle of the night once and it definitely was looking through ur cupboards” — Originalsmell
Thanks for reading The Interface this year. Happy holidays to you, and here’s to time well spent together in 2019.