The next trend on the internet

The internet is one of the major achievements of mankind in the last decades. It has changed our lives significantly. I cannot even imagine how life would look like or how to manage without it.
As the internet develops or reinvents itself every 4-5 years I see new trends popping up and this post I would to give you my view on how the internet developed and what my take is on the next big trend on the internet.

Data exchange age
When the internet was invented is primarily data exchange network. The US army and (mostly) North American universities used it to exchange data with each other. I call it the data exchange age. The internet population mostly consisted of academics and military personnel.

Communication age
In the 80s the internet changed to a communication network. Users used E-Mail and IRC (chat) to communicate. Standardized communication protocols were implemented to facilitate the communication. In these years the internet expanded rapidly from a primarily US-presence to the rest of the world. It was the communication age. At this time the internet population was still mostly composed of academics and military personnel. But above that students started using the internet more frequently.

Communication age
After communication age came the information age. It started with the invention of the world wide web in 1990. Companies were promoting their products online. The digital brochure was born. Simple websites were setup all over the world and the first web browsers like Mosaic and Netscape appeared. Also the first internet providers opened their doors to offer the internet service via dialup for everybody. This changed the internet population dramatically.

Commerce age
In 1995 Amazon started selling its books on the internet and in 1996 Dell its computers. These events started the commerce age. In the commerce age companies started selling their products over the internet. At this time Microsoft started offering their web browser as standard part of their Windows operating system.

Interaction age
Next came the social networks like MySpace (2003), LinkedIn (2003) and Facebook (2006). I call this the interaction age. In this age people start to interact with each other on the internet. Using these social networks people brought their private life to the internet. Before it is was limited to some personal web pages, email and chat. The social networks made it easier to reach other and connect and keep up to date with your social life.

Cooperation age
In upcoming age will be the age of cooperation. Interaction brought to the next level. In this age people start creating together on the internet. And like with any new major age you see the first signs popping up all over the internet. A few examples:

  • NikeID where customers can design their own shoes which Nike will make
  • Dell IdeaStorm where customers can make recommendations and vote on ideas to make Dells products better
  • Lego DesignByMe where customers can design and create their own Lego kits
  • Wikipedia where users work together to make the best encyclopedia in the world
  • Reddit, del.icio.us and Digg where users work together to make the best news sites

The cooperation age enables users to create and work together to make better products and services. These can be in cooperation with commercial organizations like Dell or Nike, but it can also be without commercial involvement like Wikipedia.
The best example of the cooperation age is the open source movement. Programmers develop computer applications and share them freely on the internet. They work together in groups to create large software applications. Great examples are Linux, GNU and Apache. In these groups thousands of developers work together to create the best software possible. These groups are composed of spare time hobbyists on one side of the spectrum to professionals on the other side of the spectrum. Nobody owns the software and everybody is free to use them in their own products. Linux runs now several mobile phones from companies like Nokia, Samsung and Motorola. It runs on televisions from Sony and several brands of netbooks.

Another example is co-creation where designers work together with customers to create new personalized and customized products. These products better fit the need of the customer since they were involved in the creation process. And of course this is not applicable for every product currently available, but a regular BMW 3-series is available in more than 1 million permutations straight from the production line. You can design your personal car on the internet and order it with your dealership. In these are one on one cooperations between a company and their customers. Combine that with cooperation’s between multiple customers, designers and companies and the options are endless. Companies like Ponoko (2007) and Shapeways (2008, my company) are in this arena. I see the creativity of customers designing on a daily basis and it is exciting to see how they use the options we make available to them.

The next trend on the internet will be the cooperation age enabling groups of people working together to create new products and services. This will be another major impact the internet is going to make in our daily life.