Archives for posts with tag: technology

Max Knoblauch of Mashable writes about the predictions of some tech experts regarding what’s in store for email in the next 10 years.

Email is not sexy. That is to say, the design and functionality of electronic mail, since its inception, have remained fundamentally consistent and relatively unexciting— we type out messages, send them to our contacts and wait for a reply.

In 10 years, that foundation will still exist, but we’ll likely have a lot more options.

     Video Source: Vimeo.com

According to experts, such as Yesware founder Matthew Bellows, the time for email to expand and innovate is now.

“There was an idea that email was dead a few years ago,” Bellows tells Mashable. “That’s just not true, obviously.”

Though competing messaging platforms and other options have come and gone, email has remained perhaps the primary use of the Internet since it began. When Gmail entered the mix 10 years ago, the seeds of evolution were planted. Now, email seems due for another great change.

We reached out to developers and designers like Bellows to see what those changes will look like, and how they’ll affect the way we send and receive email.

Image Source: Mashable.com

1. The dawn of third-party applications

Currently, most major email providers do not expressly support third-party applications. This makes it challenging for other companies, beyond the provider, to increase the usefulness of email as a whole for users with niche needs. For Bellows and the team at Yesware, whose tool is built on top of preexisting email providers to allow users simpler solutions to common business problems, this fact makes it difficult to grow.

“We’re kind of hacked in right now,” Bellows says. “Every time Gmail changes, we have to change.”

According to Bellows, email providers would be wise to encourage more and easier third-party programming. He believes that when Facebook launched its “Facebook Platform” for third-party development in 2007, the value of its service exploded. Users could go to Facebook for niche interests such as gaming, and all Facebook had to do was open the door. Users stayed on Facebook longer, third-party developers had an easier time reaching customers and your over-sharing aunt was able to play Farmville to her heart’s content.

In 10 years, Bellows sees third-party development exploding on email services like Gmail.

“I don’t think [Gmail is] against it, I think it’s a matter of priority for them,” says Bellows. “I think it says something that in the meantime, they haven’t shut us down.”

Gmail Product Manager Alex Gawley doesn’t disagree with Bellows prediction, but sees third-party development happening in different ways.

“It’s less about third-party devs building on top of Gmail than building within the emails that they send,” Gawley tells Mashable. To him, the future will be about senders putting richer information within emails — package tracking data, surveys, etc. — rather than building apps to improve the service itself.

2. Smarter input, history and management

“What’s going to be constant is this:We will be sending each other electronic messages and we will have way too many of them,” Bellows says.

According to him, the usefulness of speech recognition tools such as the iPhone’s Siri have yet to be fully developed. In the future, he believes more of us will send emails through voice input programs rather than keyboards. Pointing to Google Glass as an example, Bellows sees email adjusting and adapting to innovative new tech in ways that, for now, remain largely speculative.

Augmented intelligence, Bellows says, will help us figure out what to say, along with whom to say it to. And our conversation histories will more adequately inform us about whom we speak to and and how we know them. All of this, it seems, will help to increase the productivity of the ever-increasing pool of digital workers.

3. Personalized design

Kevin Fox, former user experience design lead at Google and the original creator of the Gmail interface, sees the future of email design evolving on a similar path to that of the greater web.

Email is so much the lowest common denominator in terms of design,” Fox tells Mashable. “Lots of communication that would’ve been done through email 10 years ago is now being done through chat, social networks and texting.”

More than ever, there is reason for email providers to start thinking seriously about design. To Fox, this means a greater focus on message building. Similar to Twitter bios or Facebook cover photos, Fox believes the emails you compose in the future will have more user personality included.

According to Fox, message composing could adapt a system somewhat similar to pre-built template documents, creating greater ease in messaging, depending on whom you’re communicating with.

4. Large user growth through mobile

Approximately 6 billion people will be using email in 10 years, according to Bellows. As more of the world’s population gets connected, the need for innovation and structural changes will only grow. Experts agree that most of those users will come from mobile.

“Mobile usage is growing very fast — that’s why we’ve invested so heavily in it,” Gawley says. “That’s certainly where we see a lot of growth.”

According to Fox, the increase in mobile use will likely lead to more ways users can send emails. “Email on mobile devices is more of a reading tool,” he says. “You’ll compose a message if you have to, but it’ll be shorter and there’ll be mistakes.”

Fox believes more and more emails will be created in ways other than through simply opening a compose window typing up a message.

While the future of email is largely hypothetical at this point in time, it seems clear that it will finally get a bit more exciting.

 

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TechCrunch.com dishes on Twitter’s bid to go mainstream as it moves closer to its highly anticipated initial public offering (IPO) next week.

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Image Source: techcrunch.com

And so it begins. Twitter, now firmly on the road to IPO, has equally firmly turned its attention to monetisation — which means it’s turning on new features that are designed, first and foremost, with advertisers in mind. And with the goal of attracting a more mainstream user base.

Exhibit A: in-stream photo and video previews on the Twitter web client and Android and iOS apps.

(This being timed to coincide with Halloween is probably not at all coincidental. The disproportionate pull of people dressing up for Halloween on apps and services would make a fascinating study — see also Frontback recently tweaking its offering so you can compose a shot with two images from the rear camera — thereby enabling users to take lots of shots of other people’s costumes).

Returning to Twitter, what that means in practice is the densely packed wall of 140-character tweets which allowed Twitter to be an exceptional information delivery mechanism is now being interrupted by visual media.

Pictures, as countless photo-sharing apps prove, draw the eye and the attention. They crowd out words. Which means that the Twitter timeline has become less functional, and more trivial.

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Image Source: techcrunch.com

Pictures are distracting. That’s why advertisers love them. The big bold image can grab you, even if the product itself isn’t something you’d go looking for yourself. Images by their nature are arresting.

But if your primary product is an information network, then injecting visual media necessarily dilutes the offering.

Literally in the physical space sense. These visual media tweets take up more room than a typical text tweet (unless it’s stuffed with line breaks) — so users’ screen real estate is getting disproportionately hogged by anyone choosing to tweet out Twitter photos or Vine videos.

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Image Source: techcrunch.com

Obviously, Twitter users should expect vast amounts of visual media to be spewed out by advertisers all too soon — giving them a neat workaround to make an advert stand out in a sea of 140 characters.

Twitter’s core product is also now being diluted. The density of the information conveyed by the timeline is being watered down by whatever random visual imagery your followers are tweeting at any given moment (real-time events like popular TV broadcasts and big sports matches could easily end up overwhelming Twitter, more so than they already do).

It’s not that images and videos can’t be interesting; of course they can. But by forcing users to view media before deciding whether it is worth viewing (i.e. by reading the context provided by the accompanying text tweet before they click on the media link), Twitter is removing a vital content filter from its own network.

Now, if you’re using Twitter’s web client, there is no opt-out of this visual clutter. And that makes Twitter step a little closer to the kind of content you’re forced to eyeball on Google+ or Facebook. So basically:

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Image Source: techcrunch.com

You can turn off the new media injection ‘feature’ in Twitter’s mobile apps (perhaps for download speed/data conservation reasons), but Twitter has confirmed to TechCrunch there is no off switch in its web client.

At the time of writing Twitter had not responded to a question asking why it is not offering an opt out to users of its web client.

What this means is that if you value Twitter as a fast information resource on your desktop device then the only option is to use an alternative Twitter client such as Tweetbot (which costs £14 on the Mac App Store vs Twitter’s free web client).

(On that point, Twitter has previously limited its API, thereby throttling the growth potential of third party clients, so opt-out options are being limited too.)

In my view, Twitter forcibly injecting media previews is not cool and makes the service less useful to me. But on the flip side — and there is a flip-side — pictures are very accessible, and are more likely to appeal to a mainstream user vs a dense wall of text that needs to be filtered and unpicked on the fly. So it’s easy to see their rational here.

A wall of tweets is great for busy journalists, but likely somewhat alienating for a first time user trying to figure out what Twitter is for. And attracting more users, and more mainstream users, is a key challenge for Twitter — being as it has a growth problem.

Injecting visual media is not the only recent change Twitter has made that tweaks its product to do a bit more hand-holding for newbies and less techie folk, either.

Back in August, for instance, it flipped the format of the timeline by adding a new conversation view that displays @replies in sequence to the tweets that generated them. For seasoned Twitter who knew how to follow the @reply trail, this change was an irritation — because it also dilutes the density of and interrupts the flow of the timeline.

But for newbies it probably helps to generate context on the fly, and also signposts how the service works. In other words: two Twitter birds, one stone.

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Image Source: techcrunch.com

I recently went through the process of setting my mum up on Twitter, and when you revisit the process of starting again from scratch with zero followers it’s easy to see how hard it is for a newcomer to hook into the service.

A lot of effort is required to ‘get’ Twitter, in terms of finding other users who are tweeting about things you’re interested in. And, unlike Facebook, none of my mum’s peer group is using Twitter. It become evident that a big portion of Twitter’s efforts at the new user sign-up stage are focused on pushing newcomers to follow celebrity accounts, as a way to offer a mainstream way into its service.

As Twitter prepares to IPO, and becomes answerable to a new influx of investors, it’s inevitable that it’s going to have to find more and more ways to make its service more mainstream. And that’s going to change its core product — in ways that long-time users are going to struggle with.

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Image Source: techcrunch.com

Add to that, with so much energy and attention still being sucked into photo-sharing services/visual social networks like Instagram, Twitter is evidently feeling a need to diversify beyond text.

Prettying up the timeline with pictures is therefore an obvious next step — it’s just a shame Twitter can’t throw a bone to the subsection of long-time users that value its service as an information resource and give us an opt-out of these mainstream changes.

By all means bury that off switch deep in settings where mainstream users will never find it. But give us an out so we can keep on using the Twitter we know and love.

After all, if we wanted to spend our time idly eyeballing a stream of random eye candy, we’d have long since migrated to Google+…

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Image Source: techcrunch.com

Mitch Berman of Zen Digital Fund has decades of experience in consumer and enterprise marketing, operations, and sales. See this blog for more information about his work on consumer entertainment.

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Image Source: theandroidsite.com

Nowadays, almost everything is available at the touch of a fingertip. The race is set towards portability and functionality as gadgets and machines get smaller, thinner, and lighter but more powerful. Mobile is the symbol of today’s fast-paced world. It is no wonder that television, the largest chip off the block of traditional media, would seek portability, and be squeezed into smartphones.

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Image Source: engadget.com

The reality of TV in mobile phones was largely aided by developments in cell phone graphics. Over the years, cellphone screens have evolved to accommodate an increasingly greater number of pixels. This, along with progress in data connections and other technologies, allowed videos to move as fluidly as they do in TV screens. These changes did not only allow phones to play videos, they also practically transformed them into miniature TVs.

The concept of mobile TV has existed for some time. The project did not always fly due to the price of the service and the number of TV shows available to the public. But the development of iOS and Android became an opportunity to bring television to mobile phones. Today, apps like Yahoo’s IntoNow and Xfinity TV Player allow users TV on the go, at lower prices, too.

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Image Source: iclarified.com

TV apps present the latest step in the television’s bid to become mobile. With the benefits they offer, only time will tell whether the trend will last or fade out.

Mitch Berman is one of the visionaries behind ZillionTV and is currently affiliated with Zen Digital Fund. Follow this Twitter page for links regarding ZillionTV and the television industry.