Why Look Back? The Future Is Forward ….

It is a day after New Year and virtually everyone is back at their desks appearing to be hard at work. These are among the slowest news days of the year in which everyone’s fingertips are slowed by two weeks of excessive eating, drinking and dreams of dancing sugar plums. Having had our fill of family, food and fun, most of the techies I’ve talked with in the past 48-hours are chomping at the bridle to get back to work.
Last Wednesday, I pulled out my crystal ball to take a glance into the future by publishing 15 predictions for 2007. It is only appropriate that this week, I hold myself to account for my 2006 predictions.

According to my count, I was absolutely correct half the time with 5 out of 10 predictions coming close enough for counting. I was a bit early on one, way off base with three others, and totally out in left-wing field with another.

Not bad. Jim Hedger continues to educate, entertain and enlighten us. If this were baseball, he’d be batting .500, a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. If it were horseshoes or hand grenades he’d be on the losing team. We’re not sure about prophets and psychics, but we’d be willing to bet he’s right up there with the best of them. He can compete, but Jim better not stick his neck out too far.

Here, in the order in which they were written are last year’s predictions.

1. MSN + someone (Wrong but rumours persist. Let’s call this one early.)

This is the one I am counting as a bit early. While it might have been a “must-happen” for Microsoft, no major merger, purchase or expansion was announced. That doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t going to make a move sometime in the future though. Rumours persist about interest between Microsoft and Yahoo. We also strongly suspect AOL is being prepped to be offloaded by Time Warner as a separate entity.

Another indicator pointing towards Microsoft acting acquisitive is the fact it has finally finished the early copies of its operating system Vista. While there might be more work to do with Vista, its development has taken most of Microsoft’s energies over the past few years. Now that it is off the drawing board and working its way into desktops and laptops, Microsoft might be searching for another obsession.

The AOL rumor is more believable than Microsoft. Do you really believe Microsoft will partner with someone? Yeah, kind of like they shared their code with the rest of us, right?

2. Usability and Search Engine Optimization (Correct)

I think I was correct about this prediction. Usable and search friendly website design became a standard service offered by most high end search marketing shops over 2006 because it had to. SEOs are being measured by more than a website’s placements in search results. An easier to use site leads to stronger sales from greater conversions.

Come on, Jim. Was that really all that hard to predict?

3. SEO/SEM Community expands services to include specialties and features such as Google Base, MSN Fremont and Yahoo Shopping. (Sort of, Kind of, almost…)

Results from Google Base are increasingly being integrated into Google results and are thought to be both adding to and eventually replacing results from Froogle. Several SEO and SEM shops began offering services around adding listings to Google Base but there has not been a lot written about how to work within it. 2006 was not a banner year for Yahoo Shopping though it was not necessarily a bad one either. We really can’t say what has become of MSN’s GBase clone, code-named Fremont, as nothing seems to have come of it.

Yeah, some of the things SEO/SEM companies are doing is a bit ridiculous.

4. Yahoo moves aggressively into home entertainment. (absolutely wrong)

This one was absolutely wrong. The only really entertaining thing to come from Yahoo this year was the Peanut Butter Memo, a manifesto written by Yahoo Sr. VP Brad Garlinghouse that urged other Yahooligans to “catch the balls”, after laying off between 15 and 20% of its workforce. Shortly after the memo was leaked by tech blogger Paul Kedrosky, Yahoo did make two significant layoffs when an executive level reorganization sent COO Dan Rosenweig and LA-level Exec Lloyd Braun packing. Braun best represented Yahoo’s movement towards the entertainment industry. After Google’s purchase of YouTube, the die was cast and many of Yahoo’s infotainment aspirations appear to be dying. The Yahoo Publisher Network might prove me wrong on this point.

That was entertaining, wasn’t it? And we were at home when it happened.

5. Google’s dominance remains practically unchallengeable. (Correct but that was an easy one)

Controlling approximately 50% – 70% of the search engine market (depending on whose statistics one reads), Google continues to be the unchallenged king of the search space.

No kidding. This one ties into prediction #2. Because Google leads, SEO principles are the hot thing on the list. The Man pitches a slow ball down the center of the plate, the batter hits a home run and thinks we should call him “Babe.” Nice going, Babe.

6. Google’s reputation takes huge hits. Mainstream net-users begin to compare Google 2K6 with Microsoft circa 1995. (Correct, but this one too was easy)

Google started to really take it on the chin this year on almost every front. From charges of invalid click charges issued by dissatisfied PPC advertisers to controversy over its practices in relation to the Chinese Government to fears that Google is going to control the world of information, Google has faced significant public relations challenges last year. Moving in to 2007, the PR outlook does not look great for Google.

Everyone likes to beat up on the guy in the lead. In some ways, Google deserves it. But a lot of the flack is really unfair and displaced. Once the wasp’s nest has been knocked down, it’s a little difficult to cut off the stingers.

7. International conference planners tend to move away from US-based locations as increased security discourages or denies some non-US participants entry into the United States. (Totally out in left-wing field)

I was very wrong on this one. There are more conferences than ever, most of which are based in the United States. Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security will find ways to introduce increased security measures (such as the requirement for everyone entering the United States to carry a passport, including Canadians) in 2007 but a quick glance at my conference schedule this year shows that if anything has changed it is the increased number of events held in the United States.

Yeah, well, the U.S. is the U.S. When Great Britain was the leading world empire, all the world flocked to London. Remember all roads lead to Rome? Today, all roads lead to the U.S. Maybe all those foreigners are going to the U.S. because of the increased security. Do you think?

8. LookSmart revamps vertical search tools, re-issues press release and is stunned to find nobody really cares. (I think I was right but didn’t notice. did you notice anything?)

LookSmart? Since when? ’nuff said.

LookWho?

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