What's the next big web service

Who will be "the next big thing" on the internet?

Google has dominated the web world for almost ten years. There is hardly a user who does not come into contact with the services of the internet giant. But the time has come to look for a successor. Who will be the next big thing on the internet?

One of the most exciting and popular questions in web and IT circles is the "next big thing". The criteria for when a service has reached this highest of all statuses vary depending on one's own perspective. According to my personal definition, a service becomes the next big thing when it fundamentally changes existing usage patterns and structures, is used regularly and consciously by almost every user and has a really clever business model that turns it into a money printing machine.

Anyone talking about the next big thing today usually uses Google as a benchmark. For almost a decade, the online giant has been in the comfortable and remarkable position of being known and used by almost everyone, of having revolutionized access to information and of achieving dream profits quarter after quarter.

The first ten years of the 21st century will forever go down in history as the Google era. But even if the previously unbeatable combination of omnipresent internet search and highly relevant marketing system should celebrate further successes in the future and make the Google balance sheet shine, it is time to start looking for the next hit again; for a service that could achieve a similarly brilliant rise as Google once did with its search engine.

Which offerings that already exist today would be most likely to be considered for this?

Facebook

With over 222 million unique visitors, Facebook reached almost a quarter of all Internet users worldwide in December, making it by far the largest existing social network. A weakening of the uptrend is not in sight. Given its rapid growth, it does not seem unlikely that the US company will break the 500 million visitor mark within the next two years.

Anyone who actively and regularly uses Facebook knows that communication and social life run completely differently than in the gray past of social networking. Those who do not have a profile are and feel increasingly isolated (especially in countries with high Facebook penetration) - even if critics like to question this. The fact is: Facebook is revolutionizing the way people interact with one another.

What is still lacking in the service of great success are profits. Sales in the three-digit million dollar range are offset by high operating costs, which cannot yet be recovered via the advertising marketing channels that have been implemented up to now. But as Andreas Göldi recently explained: It is completely normal that it takes a while for companies to develop functioning business models for new types of media. Facebook is unlikely to have reached its full potential yet.

Twitter

The microblogging service Twitter only has six million users worldwide. A business model is still not in sight. Still, Twitter ends up on my list of candidates for the next big thing. The enormous attention that the service has received in recent months as a result of political and current events (US presidential election, Hesse election, plane crash in New York, Mumbai attacks) shows the fascination that the speed and networking of Twitter exerts on people.

Whether one day everyone will actually publish 140-character messages on Twitter is open - As a unique, combined communication and research tool for global real-time reports as well as the simplest and precisely therefore impressive networking tool, the company from San Francisco has a great future ahead of them - provided that the Twitter makers find a way to monetize the success accordingly. Bonus argument: Anyone who has been pulled under the spell of Twitter (which can take a long time) no longer wants to do without the service (used correctly).

Spotify

Largely unknown to users in Germany, the financially well-equipped Swedish startup Spotify is preparing to change the music industry, which is known to be in trouble. Spotify streams millions of songs legally via a desktop client (and soon a mobile application too) and does it so well that the user has the impression that he has all the tracks on his hard drive. Spotify is currently in negotiations with the record companies in order to be able to offer not only the paid version of the service, but also a free version of the service financed by advertising, as quickly as possible.

In its home country Sweden, Spotify is already one step further: There, anyone who has been invited by another user receives access to the free version. Invitations are hard currency and the Spotify hype has just reached a new high. Here in Stockholm, for example, there is hardly a private party where Spotify is NOT used in the course of the evening - despite countless browser-based alternatives. No matter where people write about Spotify on the web - the service always creates a storm of enthusiasm.

Spotify does not give any user or sales figures. But if the popularity of the service, which has already been achieved through perfect marketing in Sweden, as well as some top recruitments in recent times are an indication of what would happen with an international launch, then Spotify definitely has what it takes to be the "next big thing".

Skype

The VoIP service Skype is a real oldie with more than five years of existence. Even though eBay was never really happy with the company, which was acquired in 2005 for around three billion dollars, and rumor has it that it is considering a sale, Skype is one of the most successful web services ever: Over 400 million people use the software for phone calls and chats. According to its own statement, Skype has been generating significant profits for some time.

Despite its already remarkable success from today's perspective, Skype could still have its heyday ahead of it: that is when the service is increasingly spreading to mobile phones in order to replace expensive mobile phone calls with inexpensive phone calls via the data network - which is what mobile phone companies currently do Reasons) is still a thorn in the side. Another potential for Skype lies in the possibility of using the Skype credits used for SkypeOut calls as a practical means of payment for web-based micropayments - a growth area in the future Internet.

Hulu

Admittedly, to call Hulu possibly the next big thing is daring. But the joint venture between the two major US television companies Fox and NBC is developing splendidly, offering an ever larger number of high-quality films and series for on-demand streaming and is also comingin the advertising industry. They prefer professionally created content to user-generated content for their campaigns.

Hulu's biggest hurdle is to acquire global broadcast rights for the content offered. Currently, the service can only be used from the USA (apart from a temporary exception recently). Obtaining permission to stream TV and film productions internationally is likely to be even more difficult than in the case of the music industry. After all, television stations around the world would lose their previous national exclusive broadcasting rights.

Even if the possible international expansion of Hulu is still subject to various question marks, it is already clear that Fox and NBC have created an exemplary, impressively simple and convincing platform for IP TV and equipped it with the content required for such a project needed to be successful in the long term.

Google

Of course: Google could also be the next big thing. That is when the company succeeds in dominating the future largest growth area in the Internet - the mobile web - and its advertising marketing to the same extent as it has done in the stationary web. With its Android operating system for smartphones and other portable devices, the starting situation for the web giant could hardly be better.

Should Google not succeed in developing THE (mobile) web service of the next decade on its own, the war chest will be so well filled for the foreseeable future that one could theoretically buy any other service from this list - provided that the competition watchdogs play along . So it's not unlikely that the next big thing after Google will be Google again.

Conclusion

In my opinion, each of the listed services has the potential to achieve a web-wide distribution / user base, to radically turn existing structures upside down and generate a lot of profits in the process. For a number of well-known but not mentioned companies, on the other hand, I see a greater risk of failing one of the three criteria mentioned.

As successful as Apple is with iTunes and the iPhone - I think it is unlikely that one day every user will use Apple products and services - at least as long as Apple maintains its focus on hardware. Or that established big players from the IT and technology world such as Microsoft, IBM or Nokia could make such a big hit in order to advance into Google-like dimensions in the online area in the next few years.

Of course, you can't rule it out. But from today's perspective, I wouldn't want to bet on it. Just as little as the fact that the next big thing at any price has to be a service that is already established or existing today. Just think how many garages are being worked in behind closed gates ...

And now your tips please!