Being around so many talented professionals in the online space allows me to see what’s coming down the pike sooner than the average bear. I’ve been exposed to some projects that can only leave me optimistic for what the future has in store since working for Rackspace Hosting.
2009 was the year Iranians stood up to Ahmadinejad for all the world to see on YouTube and Twitter. 2009 also featured the first president to communicate via email lists and YouTube. We saw Sarah Palin leading the charge against him via Facebook. News like the Fort Hood shootings is regularly broken on Twitter far before it hits CNN.
Anyone who thinks social media will ever “slow down” or “go out of fashion” is simply ignoring empirical evidence to the contrary.
I often don’t talk about the technical side of this phenomenon. Since I don’t see many who do, I figured I would this time. Here are some trends that will fuel social media adoption and groundswell. If you think of others or have any additions/corrections to these, please comment.
1.) Dynamic frameworks like Tornado or Hadoop. Social networks are actually pretty hard to build. Why? If they get adopted, there is a lot of simultaneous traffic going on at once. Friendfeed decided to create a web application framework called Tornado to handle their traffic. They then were bought by Facebook, who decided to open source it for others to use on their social networking projects.
2.) Non-relational databases like Cassandra. A traditional database language like MySQL has a hard time handling all the calls back and forth from a web application. Remember the Fail Whale? That’s because when Twitter took off, there really wasn’t a lot of technology accessible to the average startup that could handle all the data going to and from their servers. As non-relational databases mature, it will be easier for social networks to handle heavier loads of data transfer at the same time.
3.) Cloud computing, cloud computing, cloud computing. If you build a solid application with a solid database, but your web hosting can’t handle the traffic, your site goes down. There is no such thing as unlimited hosting for a finite dollar amount. Cloud computing allows you to handle the spikes associated with the real time web without downtime or having to overbuy. If your site is pummeled by Twitter traffic, it will now be able to handle it.
4.) The software community builder that is the API. 2009 saw LinkedIn open its API. Facebook developers also gained ground into the walled garden that is Facebook and Twitter saw an explosion of applications utilizing their API. The easier we make it to digest social networks and use them the way we want (mobile or otherwise), the more they get used.
5.) Silos like Gnip. There is a lot of data going in and out of a social network. A single API can’t handle it, so applications can use silos to better handle all the people wanting access to data. For example, if you want to build a social network that pulls tweets about only certain topics, you would pull the data from Gnip who is pulling it from Twitter. This fuels niche social networks only looking for data about certain things.