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Opportunities 2006 - Usefulness

2006 is going to be a year where the creators of web technology have the opportunity to make their services better in terms of integration, usability, and usefulness.

Ken Yarmosh, Looking towards 2006

I recently saw a man walking through the airport while on his cell. He had a hands-free device, where the microphone was located on the wire that plugs into the phone. As a result, he had to hold the wire near to his mouth, so that the mic could actually pick up what he was saying. With all the other items he was awkwardly carrying, he could have used that hand. After all, that was the point of the hands-free device.

It’s funny how often technology does not do what it’s designed to do. It is supposed to make our lives easier or more efficient. It is supposed to be useful.

When it comes to the Web and the Internet, we find ourselves using software to manage software. It’s the reason services like Plaxo and ClearContext exist – to help manage e-mail and contacts.

But compare that to Gmail. An incredibly useful application in and of itself – no third party plugins required. It solves a problem; effectively managing the craziness that is an e-mail inbox.

Just take a look back at 2005 to see that usefulness was what helped so many services flourish. Flickr provided a way to effectively manage and share photos online. Del.icio.us powered an effective means to access and share bookmarks online. Skype facilitated a simple and effective means to talk via the Internet.

Companies would do best to build products and services that meet needs – that solve everyday problems people encounter with their digital lives. They can be niche based or appeal to a larger audience. They must, however, have a compelling value proposition.

Integration is going to play a big part in making the Web more useful in 2006. But there are other opportunities too – Search 2.0 is just one example. What types of useful opportunities do you see this year?

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