At Bloomfire, 2010 will certainly be a year to remember. We officially launched Bloomfire at SXSW in Austin, Texas, the tech conference where Twitter and foursquare got their start. After adding early adopters like Overstock.com and Kellogg’s to our client list, we launched version 2.0 in November, targeting not just the Fortune 500 but also the Fortune 5,000,000 with our new Plans and Pricing (which includes the free Basic plan). That sparked a surge in new Bloomfires, and we celebrated the launch of the 1000th Bloomfire by IdeaSown. We’re ending 2010 with roughly one new Bloomfire being launched every hour by customers around the world.
I think our traction can serve as a teachable moment for our industry. By distilling what we’ve learned, here’s what our industry can probably expect in 2011.
Before iPhones, uploading something to the web usually required finding the nearest web-connected computer, turning it on, then firing up a handful of different programs and websites—navigating several menus along the way—in order to upload my piece of text or image.
Nowadays, I can simply snap a photo with my instant-on iPhone and upload it to Facebook with the click of a button. Consumer-facing Internet services such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are leading the charge to make uploading—or “posting”—as friction-free as possible. Why? Because part of their business model depends on having more and more users post more and more stuff online. The more stuff they put online, the more eyeballs the stuff attracts, which opens up more opportunities to put ads in front of those eyeballs. In other words, they’re driven by the bottom line to become as friction-free as possible.
People using these consumer-facing services are being conditioned to expect increasingly friction-free functions. And they’ll carry these expectations with them whenever they use other Internet products like ours.
As the cost of shipping bits and bytes drops, more and more online software companies will be able to provide their products for free, like ours. Good news for employees at large companies—no more capital expenditure reports to grab the latest and greatest tools!
Jakob Nielsen, a renown Internet design consultant, has been regularly tracking his Internet connectivity speeds since 1984. His latest 2010 update illustrates how connection speeds adhere closely to Nielsen’s Law (similar to the oft-quoted Moore’s Law), which means IT geniuses are figuring out how to ship more and more bits and bytes from one side of the planet to the other in less and less time.
And if we think about it, for those of us in North America, our Internet bills haven’t climbed at the same rate.
For Internet companies like ours, we’ll be able to provide our services at an increasingly low cost, thanks to advances in IT. For example, Evernote—a popular app—only spent less than $0.03 to support one user for the entire month of January, 2010. In other words, all of the text, images, audio, etc. that the user utilized—real bits and bytes—only cost $0.03 to ship.
I remember when I used to be on Windows and I’d click the Start button to get overwhelmed by a list of pre-installed apps. Then as I used my computer more, I started installing more and more apps and the list kept getting longer and longer.
Some of those apps are beginning to be replaced by Internet services. For example, while my Start menu used to feature Microsoft Word, I’ve now removed it from the list because I use Google Docs instead. As this list in our Start menu gets replaced by cloud-based Internet services, a new list of Internet services organically emerges. So the list of apps is still there—it has simply relocated from my Start menu to the cloud.
In the same way that apps on my Start menu played nice with each other, apps in the cloud will be pressured into playing nice with each other too. For instance, a lot of the customers we talk to suffer from “form fatigue.” They’re sick of filling out countless forms when they’re surfing the web, either to sign-in to their Bloomfire or log-on to Amazon.com upon checkout. They just want these services to know who they are and remember who they are. That’s the idea of the “single sign-on.”
You may have noticed that you’re now able to login to some Internet services with your Facebook account via Facebook Connect. That’s an example of an elegant single sign-on integration between Facebook and your favorite Internet service. We’re going to see more of these integrations, not just with Facebook, but with a variety of popular Internet services.
MailChimp’s a great example. They’re an Internet company providing email newsletter services. Check out their $1 million integration fund. They recognize that a great way to obtain new customers is to integrate their services with partner services, thereby tapping into their partner’s customer base. So they’re luring potential partners towards them with $1 million.
What is “online curation?” Chris Cox, Facebook’s VP of Product, offers a great example in a recent 60 Minutes interview. He recalls watching his dad shuffle through 999 TV channels to find something to watch. What if we could simply flip on the telly and see a notification: “16 of your friends liked this week’s The Office episode. So we recorded it for you. Click here to view now.”
Drawing from the data Facebook has about your friends and their activities, Facebook’s system was able to automatically recommend something that had a high likelihood of appealing to your tastes. This is online curation, and it takes various forms.
The name of the game is relevancy, and as social learning products and services get smarter by studying how we interact with those around us, they’ll use that data to serve us information that appeals to our digital taste buds.
Imagine using curation technologies to automatically serve highly-relevant webinars, video tutorials, and other content to our learners, 24/7. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…there’s endless potential here.