13 predictions for tech platforms in 2023

13 predictions for tech platforms in 2023

I like to close each year by asking you all for your predictions for the year ahead, and comparing them to my own. Before we do that though, I think it’s only fair to look at the predictions I made here last year about 2022. Overall, I think I’ve done pretty well – which means I should probably try to make more bold predictions.

A quick look at those 2022 predictions

What I said: “Europe confirms its position as the most important technology regulator in the world.”

The reality: I do think that Europe has extended its lead here in 2022 – especially over the United States, which has failed to pass a single meaningful technology regulation despite one party controlling the executive and legislative branches. To give just the most recent example, Bloomberg reported this week that Apple is preparing to allow alternative app stores on its devices — a once-unthinkable move that is now happening only because the EU requires it. The Digital Markets Act came into force in November; the similarly comprehensive Digital Services Act was passed in July. California copied the United Kingdom’s age-appropriate design code; iPhones will swap their Lightning ports for USB-C by 2024 because the European Parliament said so. The tech world Americans live in is increasingly being shaped in Europe, and there are no signs that will change anytime soon.

What I said: “Authoritarian shakeup of platforms and their employees will accelerate.”

The reality: In 2021, authorities raided Twitter’s offices and threatened Google and Apple employees in Russia. Threats against platform employees in Russia have absolutely accelerated this year in Russia, thanks to the invasion of Ukraine and everything that came after that. (Almost every tech company moved out of the country as a result.) Apart from that, though, I saw less reportd cases of government officials raping tech workers. Maybe it happened more behind the scenes; if not, but here was one where I was glad to be wrong.

What I said: “Drama Twitter is back.”

The reality: “Will Parag Agrawal be able to hold back activist shareholders and make the case for Twitter’s independence?” the most naive person in the world wrote here last December 18. “Will the whole thing be sold to Salesforce by this time next year?” asks a man who is getting closer to the truth and yet has never been more wrong. “And what will the company manage to send in the meantime?” wonders someone who completely misses the point. “Whatever the answer, I expect things to get messier before they stabilize,” offered a reporter who finally got something right on this point.

What I said: “The best thing you’ll be able to say about the metaverse is that it’s still under construction.”

The reality: Against the odds, discussions of the metaverse swirled throughout the tech world all year—until Elon Musk bought Twitter, and it all faded into the background. But I’d say I basically had this one right — especially given that Apple’s headset has been delayed until next year, and Meta’s Quest Pro got a mostly disappointing reception. There’s still a lot of talent and money going into augmented and virtual reality – albeit somewhat less of it, thanks to some sharp layoffs at most of the companies involved this year – but in 2022 the metaverse has mostly been a sideshow.

What I said: “Pro and anti-crypto factions are hardening in place, setting up a long-term religious war over the potential and dangers of the blockchain.

The reality: This did happen to some extent, as crypto-skeptics came together to promote their project more effectively. (They also held their first conference.) And Web3 is Going Just Great, from the immensely talented Molly White, was probably the best new publication of 2023. (I wrote about it here in February.)

But all-out war between pro and anti-crypto forces never really materialized because the skeptics were just… right about everything! NFT sales crashed, TerraUSD crashed, and then a bunch of related crashes led to the biggest and most criminal swan dive of all in Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX. There are still many people who encourage their fellow bag holders not to worry because where crypto has never been tried, or anything. But 2022 is the year all those people lost the benefit of the doubt.

My predictions for 2023

The media will start with his divorce from Twitter. Elon Musk’s continued promotion of right-wing causes and personalities will alienate more and more high-profile users, who find themselves increasingly put off by his shock-lying antics and whim-based approach to content moderation. Alternative platforms like Mastodon, although smaller and less intuitive to use, offer a safe haven to more and more people – especially journalists – looking for exits. By the end of 2023, Twitter will no longer set the daily news agenda for the entire US press by default. This will come as a huge relief to many publishers, who have long wished their reporters didn’t spend so much time tweeting anyway.

Bonus Related Predictions: Truth Social and Parler fold as Musk’s Twitter makes them both redundant. Meta restores Donald Trump’s account.

Using ChatGPT in education will spark a national conversation about AI. I’m cheating a bit here, since it’s kind of already happening: Zeynep Tufecki published an opinion piece on it yesterday in the New York Times. My prediction is that this conversation will greatly accelerate in 2023 as the technology spreads by word of mouth among kids home from school over the winter break. By spring break, we’ll have seen controversies related to the use of AI in education across the country, and by the end of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if OpenAI was hauled before Congress to talk about it.

The Web3 vision fades in the rear view. With the events of 2022 making pro-crypto partisans look like fools, and the threat of a recession making venture capitalists more cautious in the new year, expect 2023 to carry many crypto startups to their graves. The industry’s almost total failure to make meaningful advances in security, user experience, or almost anything I proposed here in January means that crypto will continue to be of interest mainly to die-hards. Meanwhile, the continuing parade of scams, breaches and bankruptcies will put the industry at greater risk of being regulated into irrelevance.

Content moderation will become illegal in parts of the country. The Supreme Court will uphold the social media laws passed in Texas and Florida, which make it illegal for them to remove content based on the political views expressed. Shocked platforms will rush to design a new “Texas version” of their sites that offers users a default version of the service full of hate speech and pornography; upon login, users will be asked if they would rather see a moderated version. The opt-in data we get from this experiment could end up being beneficial to all of us, even if Texas and Florida suffer.

Substack will launch an ad network. The Recharge‘s Brian Morrissey likes to say that the first step towards building an ad network is to first say you’ll never do it. Substack, the service on which the Platformer newsletter is distributed, took such a step long ago. But so much has changed since then! One, the company struggled to grow revenue fast enough to raise a Series B round of fundraising at its desired valuation; limiting his revenue opportunities to subscriptions meant depriving himself of the other, typically larger revenue stream in every major publisher’s arsenal. Two, Substack got really good this year at growing free email lists with its referral feature – but not at converting those free readers to paid ones.

The company now almost certainly has millions of email addresses at its disposal, but it only makes money from a small fraction of them. The company’s need to grow is too existential, and the solution too obvious, for Substack not to act. By the end of 2023, Substack will have launched or said it is working on a native advertising solution.

Some of your predictions for the coming year, along with a few more of my thoughts

“Meta will launch a Twitter feed, probably as a secondary brand. They can’t buy Mastodon, Post News or Parler, so probably they will build a simple feed that will keep them separate from FB and IG. They will then find a way for people to import their Twitter social graph into this new app.”

The New York Times reported that Meta is discussing it. And it should! It has the product, design, and – I’ll say it! – content moderation capabilities needed to get a large centralized Twitter clone off the ground. It would probably need a counterintuitive twist to help it gain traction – a creative constraint? a tool for monetization? — but could probably go a long way by letting you automatically add everyone you already follow on Instagram. Facebook has copied Twitter many times before. Must try again!

“Prediction for 2023: Elon Musk is going to testify before the new Republican House majority in a sensational hearing about the culture of the online wake mind virus, canceling and then immediately and obviously comically perjuring himself.”

I won’t speak to the perjury, but the odds of House Republicans subpoenaing Musk so they can shower him with praise and tweet clips of themselves exchanging pleasantries appear to be in the high 80s. And I suspect Musk will enjoy playing star witness during the inevitable Hunter Biden laptop hearing.

“Hi! My 2023 prediction: 2023 will usher in the ‘era of many social platforms,’ where people’s attention will begin to atomize across multiple platforms, each serving the needs of specific, different audiences. Although many platforms will make enough money to to be a viable business, this era will cause headaches for brands trying to figure out where to spend their money.

It seems to me indisputable that the current landscape of social networks is uncertain. Facebook is running out of steam in the United States; Instagram is in a transition period; Twitter crashes; TikTok is still banned on government devices. And green shoots are starting to pop up in the landscape – Mastodon, Post and Hive are some of the names you hear today; I imagine that 12 months from now at least two of those names will be replaced by others. The question is, once unbundled, how quickly social networks will bond again — and whether a new thing can still come out of nowhere to dominate our attention like TikTok did a few years ago.

“TikTok Search will become more powerful, leading to greater competition with Google, and a key component in ByteDance’s plans to boost its social commerce plans in 2023.”

People are already writing articles about TikTok that are better for some types of searches; ByteDance is smart to lean on it.

“I predict a wave of Gen-Z TikTokers all discovering ‘going to the movies’ as the next phase of ’90s nostalgia. Big summer movie season of monocultural hits coming in the second quarter of 2023.”

Of all your strange predictions, this was the one that struck me as the most believable. Going to the movies for nostalgia reasons, the way kids in my day went to the drive-in? I will buy it.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their predictions – I’m looking forward to checking in to see how we’ve done in a year’s time.

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