Home' Technology Review : July August 2008 Contents FEATURE STORY 39
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We asked a few technology
innovators, luminaries, and
users what the Web might
be in five to ten years.
By Kristina Grifantini
Director of the
World Wide Web
Consortium and inventor of
the Web; Cambridge, MA
"I would like to see the Inter-
net reach people in rural
areas and help alleviate
poverty. I would like to see
more people reaching the
Web from devices big and
small, fixed and mobile. I
look forward to more voice
scenarios such as driving,
and also to increase accessi-
bility (e.g., for people with low
vision). The long tail of video
on the Web is creating a new
market of direct access to
independent films and also
has the potential to help with
literacy issues. I hope for
the proliferation of Linked
Open Data: the Semantic
Web done right. I hope that
governments will open their
data stores to all citizens. A
mashup sphere will feast
on a wealth of Semantic
Web data and herald the
next wave of progress and
creativity on the Web."
Vice president and
evangelist at Google
and co-designer of
the TCP/IP protocols and the
architecture of the Internet;
"There will be higher-speed
Internet access by fiber and
wireless media. Seventy
percent of all mobiles will be
Internet enabled in 10 years
or less. Gigabit speeds in
wired and wireless modes
will be more widely avail-
able. Many more appliances
(home, work, car, on your per-
son) will be online. IPTV will
offer radical new consumer-
controlled advertising oppor-
tunities. IPv6 will be the
dominant mode of access
and use of the Internet. Multi-
touch and voiced interfaces
will be very common. Devices
will discover each other
when they are local and
interact in a P2P fashion."
Main developer of
system and founder
of the Free Software Move-
ment; Cambridge, MA
"No one can see the future,
because it depends on
you. But I see a danger
in the Web today: doing
your computing on serv-
ers running software you
can t change or study, and
entrusting your data to
U.S. companies required to
give it to Big Brother with-
out even a search warrant.
Don t risk this practice!"
Professor at Texas
and designer of the C++ pro-
gramming language; College
"The total end of privacy.
criminals, and friends will
trawl through years of accu-
mulated data (ours and what
others collected) with unbe-
lievably sophisticated tools.
Obscurity and time passed
will no longer be covers."
Compare the situation of social networks with that of Google,
which manages to make money putting ads in front of users.
With about 140 million unique visitors per month, Google
earned $16 billion in 2007, largely from ads that people did pay
attention to. (It may bear mentioning that Facebook recently hired
Sheryl Sandberg away from Google, whose phenomenally suc-
cessful ad program she had led.) Google's AdWords auction sells
ads on a cost-per-click basis: advertisers pay not for a thousand
viewings but for each individual click on a particular keyword.
Advertisers choose how much to spend over any period of time,
and they can influence the placement of their ads by paying more.
Bids vary according to keyword, of course, but they were averaging
around 70 cents per click in the first quarter of 2008.
Advertising on Google works because visitors come to Google
looking for specific information. If a user who types "scooter" in
the site's search field is hoping to buy a scooter, the keyword ads
that appear at the right of the search results can be more useful
than the results themselves. In social networks, on the other hand,
users show up to find friends; ads are, at best, irrelevant to that goal.
The click-through rates on social-networking sites bear this out.
While around 2 percent of Google users actually click on a given
ad (and the number is much higher when users are conducting
searches for purchasing reasons), fewer than .04 percent of Face-
book users do, according to a media buyer's report obtained last
year by the Silicon Valley blog Valleywag.
USERS IN THE CROSSHAIRS
When social-media insiders are asked how advertising could cap-
ture users' attention, they always answer, "Targeting."
Targeting is at the core of traditional advertising; apparel manu-
facturers advertise in Vogue, for example, to reach readers inter-
ested in fashion. In the case of social-networking sites, targeting
means sifting through the data in your profile to get an idea of what
you're interested in. Social networks know more about you, your
preferences, and your behavior than most businesses, and profiles
are generally considered, in the words of former Fox Interactive
Media executive Ross Levinsohn, "digital gold." Mining that gold
is the best way for a social-networking site to make money---but,
given users' attitudes toward privacy, the trickiest.
Startups that help advertisers and marketers better target the
users of social-networking sites are fashionable investments for
venture capitalists in North America and Europe. Such startups
hope to sell advertisers detailed information about individual
social networkers. They include the brand-new 33Across (which
we profile in our list of 10 notable startups, which begins on page
50) and the more established Finnish company Xtract, which
counts Vodafone, T-Mobile, and Blyk among its customers and
has begun selling its software to advertising agencies and online
marketers and publishers.
DONNA COVENEY (BERNERS-LEE)
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