After this past year of innovation and tumult, the next twelve months are coming into focus. It’s now clear that in 2016, the original promise of the Internet will be totally, fully realized. Completely.
Next year will blur the boundaries between journalism, blogging, creating, consuming, conversation, and play. It will be a year that orients our industry around quantity and quantity, digital or otherwise. It will be the year that virality reaches complete cultural saturation. 2016 will be the year that experimentation scales, even beyond its niche.
New tools will help creators ensure that all content will be responsive across every device, at each breakpoint, in various sizes, for any bandwidth, on all consoles, in accordance with every learning style, at any brightness, through whatever medium and story format a user prefers, per any desirable time interval. At any hour, in real time. Using any language — written, spoken, drawn, tapped, or hand-waved within any VR headset. Layouts will evolve accordingly.
Display ads will be compelling, but never obtrusive or slow; relevant but never in violation of privacy. Sponsored content will go subnative, but will always be marked as such. Users, readers, writers, editors, advertisers, ad-writers, ad-buyers, ad-blockers, freelancers, employers, curators, reformatters, distributors, developers, designers, publishers, syndicators, commenters, investors: all will be brought into perfect alignment through radical transparency, a commitment to web standards, and a love for the same quality podcasts. Perfect brandshake.
Of course, advertising won’t be everywhere in 2016! Thanks to crowdfunding, micropatronage, snapcash, bitscriptions, bitconning, paywalls, playwalls, timebartering, tip jars, and dogearmarking, everyone will be paid appropriately for their work by attuned audiences who recognize the value of storytelling and journalism.
Through advances in empathy and sensible software defaults, all online spaces on all platforms will become safe. With feedback loops guiding them toward respect, people will feel most comfortable collaborating early, helping to research, design, and share the stories journalists won’t yet realize they’re writing. Thanks to advancements of scale, both big data opportunities and small data visualizations will always be presented at exactly the right size.
In 2016, all ecosystems will become interoperable. All proprietary formats commingled. All platforms open.
Above all, next year we’ll figure out how to get millions of people — even billions! — to recognize basic facts. Personalized distribution systems will present balanced perspectives around those facts to those people who will benefit most from understanding them. Thanks to hypercontextual recommendations and interactive messaging, everyone will know exactly what they need to know, learned from the particular voices and bot-farmed news outlets they’ve come to trust.
Perfect algorithms mean nary a notification will be wasted, no matter the device or protocol.
With context king and engagement friction reduced to zero, every individual will be empowered to take the actions (whether in a national election or local school board meeting) that will have the most beneficial impact on their community and the lives of the people they care about most. The overlooked will be seen, the underprivileged empowered, the APIs public and friendly.
When 2016 draws to a close, we’ll look out at each other across that pulsing quasar of perfect connected knowledge and creative citizenry, and we’ll smile. Because we built this for ourselves. We did it. Us!
And with the Internet finally complete, we will be free to move on to something entirely different.
Ryan Gantz is senior director of product design for Vox Media.