The Future of The Internet is Cloudy

One of the things I love about new year’s is reading about year-end predictions. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s my curious nature.

But I’m fascinated when I see where some people think we’re headed. There are some bloggers whose predictions fascinate me. Two have captured my attention: ReadWriteWeb and the Manhattan Marketing Maven.

And yes, even yours truly loves making them, too.

As with all predictions, it’s no different than flipping a coin. The law of averages kicks in. But it’s not a 50-50 ratio. A third will come true, usually dead on the money. Another third won’t at all. And the final third may come true, but not exactly as predicted.

I’m subjected to that same law, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, in keeping with that sacred tradition of new-year projections, prognostications, and picayune pontifications, here are two major areas I believe we will see happening in the new year, if not the near future. Are you ready? Here goes…

1. Internet Marketing Will Grow Up

Web 2.0 is essentially a sign that the Internet is growing up. It’s not fully an adult, yet. But I guess you can say it’s now a “teenager” rather than an “infant.”

As it went through puberty, it was an authority-challenging, angst-filled, hormone-raging, know-it-all, rebellious, moody, maturing, coming of age of sorts. It wants all the benefits of adulthood but without all of its responsibilities. It prefers to remain a child.

Internet marketing is an example. It’s growing, and will continue to grow, but not without its growing pains. It will explode, but the old way we used, and used to look at, Internet marketing is going to radically change. We’re seeing a lot of evidence of this already.

Yes, the industry is going through a major shakeup.

(As an example, our recent major announcement explaining the drastic change in the way we teach Internet marketing is a reflection, and the result, of this evolution.)

This shakeup will involve many different things. It’s partly due to new regulations, partly due to the recession, and partly due to people’s growing level of sophistication with the web. That’s why I believe Internet marketing will no longer be considered a “niche.”

In fact, Internet marketing will be less and less about…

  • Internet marketing;
  • Making money;
  • And gaming systems.

The industry has grown to the point where mass markets are crossing what Geoffrey Moore calls “the chasm.” In other words, it’s no longer a hot new niche exploited merely by geeky innovators and early adopters who wish to use the web to make a few bucks.

We’re going to see Internet marketing entering the mainstream. We’re going to see more and more people trying it for the first time — newbies to Internet marketing who want to find work or start a real business online. One that’s not about Internet marketing itself.

Stated simply, the landscape of Internet marketing — and the people in it, both the market and the marketers — is radically changing and will continue to change in 2010.

Take a look at all the major Internet marketing players online these days. One can instantly see how the roster has dramatically changed, even in just a few years. Many new faces have emerged, and many old ones have disappeared or gone underground.

By the way, I know some pundits claim otherwise — often to counter the many rumors that the Internet marketing industry is saturated, overpopulated, or dying altogether. They do so, particularly if they have a vested interest in it or a product related to it.

These pundits claim that the Internet marketing market is still a perfect niche to get into. I agree it’s alive and well, but I don’t agree it will be the perfect niche. At least, not the usual “Internet marketer selling Internet marketing to Internet marketers” niche.

(I often quote Paul Myers, who once said that the Internet marketing industry is made up of a bunch of incestuous cannibals. I think that quote is quite befitting, here.)

We’re going to see more and more diversification. More and more actual marketing principles, strategies, and tactics applied to the Internet. More and more strategies outside of Internet marketing, particularly outside the bizoppy, make-money arenas.

I’m talking about real businesses selling real stuff using real marketing strategies. And by “real” I don’t mean just physical products and hard goods. I include digital products, too.

I’m talking about businesses that sell non-Internet-marketing stuff. To me, too many products appear like ponzi schemes, where someone teaches how to make money online, and the way they make their money is by selling… their make-money product.

No. I mean real stuff. Not snake-oil. Not “secrets.” Not “how to game [technology, system, or website] to get a gazillion visitors or make a gazillion dollars overnight.” And certainly not circular, “Make money by becoming an affiliate of my make-money product!”

(OK, I know this sounds more like a rant than a prediction. But hear me out.)

True, when something new enters the scene, eventually we see its misuse, overuse, and abuse. It’s sad but inevitable. There’s the abuse of systems as well as the abuse of the people using them. Internet marketing is by no means any different.

But novelty usually wears off and the newness becomes lackluster over time. Any new tactic and market, as well as their abuse, have a shelf life. They die or they change.

You can only trick search engines, social networks, CPA networks, or whatever for so long, until these get wise to such tactics, change their algorithms, or become so saturated they kill off a large number of abusers in one vast, merciless cleanup attempt.

(Like the many “Google slaps,” for instance. Or the recent FTC changes.)

James Allen, author of “As a Man Thinketh,” wrote: “Circumstance does not make the man: it reveals him to himself.” It’s a beautiful quote, but to me it has a lot more meaning.

I think it’s a lot like another famous saying by Dr. Wayne Dyer, who once said, “If you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice.” In other words, when someone is under pressure, what comes out is really what’s inside. It’s who they are at their core.

The recession is one such pressure. Probably the biggest one.

When times are great, questionable tactics and borderline businesses tend to easily slip under the radar. People are not paying that much attention. And it makes perfect sense, since we have more disposable income to take risks trying new things.

But when times are tough, a marketer’s true colors start to shine through. Good, decent, honest, and ethical marketers stand out. Equally yet conversely, scammers, spammers, and smarmy snake oil peddlers seem to come out of the woodwork, too.

More importantly, when hit with financial stress, people are either extremely desperate and vulnerable, or extremely cautious and cynical. People’s bullshit detectors are on high alert. And it makes either side conspicuous, self-evident, and easier to spot…

… Be they good or bad, be they white hat or black hat, and be they market-focused or money-focused (i.e., selling at the service of others versus at the expense of others).

We’re going to see that dividing line getting thicker, and gray areas becoming less and less gray. And we’re going to see solid, long-term, real businesses selling real stuff becoming more distinct from the drive-by, one-hit-at-a-time, serial marketers.

Bottom line, don’t expect apple juice when squeezing an orange. If you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. You get what’s truly inside, at their core.

Marmalade, anyone?

2. There’s a Cloud Hanging Over Us

One of the most recent developments going on with the Internet is the idea of cloud computing. I submit that cloud computing will become more and more popular, if not the norm. Whether you know it or not, you’re probably using it already.

Are you using an online backup service? Are you transferring files from one computer to another using a filesharing service, or perhaps a webhost? Or simply, are you using an autoresponder service rather than sending emails directly from your computer?

What cloud computing means is, rather than having all your files, software, multimedia, links, even peripherals, all centrally located on your computer, you can access, and work from, applications, files, and peripherals on, or distributed through, the Internet.

There are three levels of cloud computing:

  1. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
  2. Platform as a service (PaaS).
  3. Software as a service (SaaS).

Infracstructure is where computers and hardware connect with each other via networks or, more significantly, the Internet — secure channels on the Internet, to be specific.

You may have heard of things like “Intranet.” Today, we are seeing an increase in VPNs (i.e., virtual private networks) and RDPs (i.e., remote desktops), where we can access other computers through the Internet, and do so remotely, privately, and securely.

Even in the home, we are seeing less of a need to buy multiple peripherals like printers, hard drives, and multimedia players, and using “servers” instead, within the home using Wi-Fi, to share those resources among multiple computers.

Secondly, cloud computing as for platform is the realm of the operating system and OS core services, like Windows for example. More and more operating systems and services are available on, and distributed through, the Internet as well.

For example, when you had no choice but to buy, download, or install Microsoft Office or some other compatible software to print a simple Word Document, now you can simply use Google Documents or ZoHo online. I even use it to convert documents in a snap.

Of course, Microsoft is not taking this sitting down. They are converting much of their software to a web-based format as well, such as the upcoming “Office Live.” Google is coming out with its own operating system, which will be almost completely web-based.

As for software, it’s self-explanatory. Just like Google Documents mentioned earlier, many programs, which used to be available in standalone executables, are now available online — either as pay-for-access, ad-supported, or password-protected services.

Even email clients are slowly becoming dinosaurs in a world where POP accounts are being converted into IMAP (where email is read, sent, stored, and manipulated directly on the server, without the need to download them, and no matter where you are).

If you’re a marketer, then you’ve likely encountered some form of cloud computing…

… From using Gmail for your email and using an online autoresponder service for building your lists, to communicating with staff, clients, or freelancers using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, BaseCampHQ, or other similar collaborative tools.

For example, ever since Sylvie and I have started using Amazon S3 for storing our multimedia files, we have saved a ton of money, bandwith, and resources by serving the files from a larger-capacity and much more robust service such as Amazon.

The key benefits, of course, is the intra-operability and cross-platform compatibility of working in a cloud environment. It doesn’t matter what kind of computer you have. All you need is a browser and an Internet connection, and you’re off to the races.

Sure, there are risks, such as exposing ourselves to hacker attempts — both while in transit through the Internet and once it’s saved in the cloud.

Granted, powerful encryption protects the information in transit. The safety of where the information resides is a bigger risk, in my estimation. So it’s doubly important to ensure the information is protected on high-quality, highly secure servers.

Above all, the biggest risk, of course, is your connection to the Internet itself. If you lose it or work on a poor connection, your ability to work via the cloud will be hampered. But as broadband becomes ubiquitous, this is becoming less of a concern.

Another big benefit are cloud-managed updates and upgrades.

Rather than forcing you to download the latest updates, the software or application can be centrally updated, behind the scenes in one fell swoop, for all its users. Just one flip of the proverbial switch, and bam! Everyone has the latest version. Instantly.

No need to wait for an update to propagate to all the users, or for users to uncover bugs as their systems and software configurations vary so significantly from one and other.

But the one area I want to focus our attention on is SAAS, that is, software as a service.

This area, I believe, will explode in the coming months if not weeks.

We are seeing more and more of this already: membership websites, online training courses, streaming multimedia programs, dynamic content, and web-based software — with ad-supported access, password-protected access, or full access at a recurring fee.

Take online photo editing services, like Picnik or Photoshop Express, for example. Rather than forcing you to buy a $800 gorilla like Photoshop, or its cheaper alternatives, you can easily upload, manipulate, and store photos online, either for free or a small fee.

Bottom line, if there’s something that needs to be done on your computer, chances are there’s an online application for it somewhere. Somewhere on the Internet, that is.

So my tip to you is, keep a watchful eye on what people are looking for.

If there’s a need somewhere or a problem that can be solved, don’t immediately jump to the idea of building a standalone software, infoproduct, or multimedia piece.

Instead, think of building a centrally located, password-protected, one-time signup or recurring-fee service model. Because there just might be a silver lining beyond that cloud — one you own that could potentially make you a lot of money.

About The Author

Avatar of Michel Fortin
Michel Fortin is a certified SEO consultant, content strategist, and marketing advisor helping plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic clinics attract more patients. Since 1991, he helps cosmetic and aesthetic professionals increase their visibility and grow their practices. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.

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