And just like that, we’ve reached the year-end and also, somehow, the decade. As is the tradition around here, let’s close out this year with some predictions from you about where platforms and democracy are headed in 2020 and beyond.
16 Predictions for Social Networks In 2020
The next big social networking platform is the email
Newsletters will be the new websites and expect to see the communities growing up around them in interesting new ways, led by companies like Substack. The prediction will be the rise of newsletters, and subscription-based media generally — will contribute to a new divide between those who just see the ads and those who pay to avoid them.
A deep fake app goes mainstream in the US
Depending on how you think about that Snapchat aging filter getting viral, one arguably already has. But Ben Cunningham (ex-Facebook) predicts some facts about machine-learning-based video editing apps will take off in 2020, with its features eventually coming to the Instagram camera. Feels like a solid bet.
Social platforms will continue to struggle with the disinformation and its consequences
An obvious point, maybe, but the Blake Bowyer makes it in a compelling way. He also states that Facebook’s decision is just not to fact-check political ads which leads to the misinformation campaigns and their awful second-order consequences, such as Pizzagate. Facebook is going to beat up every time a major politician lies on its platform in 2020 unless — until? — it reverses its policy. (Joe Albanese, who is a former Facebook employee himself, predicts the company will do just that.)
Metrics keep going invisible
Instagram reportedly ditched like counts because it led to the people i.e, particularly young people who are posting more. If that proves true elsewhere, expect some more metrics to disappear in 2020, reader M.D. predicts.
The flight from feeds to the curation
Algorithms faded a bit into the background in 2020 as human editors return to the big aggregators. They’re already working on Facebook’s new news tab, on Apple News, and on the editorial teams at Twitter and Snap. Even Google says it is just the very beginning to take into account the quality of original reporting in its suggested news stories. All of this is welcome, even if feeds are still in command with the lion’s share of attention.
Splinternet will happen
We’ve talked before in this column about how the internet is quickly dividing into zones. There’s also an American internet, a European internet, and a Sino-Russian-authoritarian internet, and they all appear to be rapidly pulling apart. Jason Barrett Prado also predicts that this trend accelerates in 2020, limiting the potential size of any one social network.
The gamer chat network is already popular among the young people—and the journalists who just now routinely find white supremacist networks and criminal gangs are using it. Reader Ian Greenleigh predicts that the Discord will have a big 2020 as giant everyone-in-the-same-room social networks lose favor and “the interest graph moves underground.”
Cunningham also suspects that the streamers will gravitate toward the virtual reality, where Facebook’s Oculus Quest is arguably the best of the breed. Streamers will also draw the audiences, who will buy the Quests to see what all the fun is about. As Cunningham acknowledges further, this prediction might take a few extra years to come true.
The debate over Section 230 hits a stalemate
Just as Congress couldn’t reach a consensus on the national privacy law in 2019, they’ll stumble over how to alter the Communications Decency Act in 2020. Andrew Hutchinson predicts that Congress will legislate the removal of “misinformation,” but that seems unlikely (and, perhaps, unconstitutional) to me.
The next big policy fight is over the location data
With the increasing attention which is being already paid to the expanding surveillance networks created by our smartphones, reader Dan Calacci predicts location becomes a hot topic among the regulators.
TikTok gets serious competition
Matt Navarra predicts that we’ll see a rash of new short-form video apps take off, including Byte and Firework. Add that to the ByteDance’s challenges list in America next year, along with skeptical regulators and a churning customer base.
Libra just fails to launch
The beleaguered Facebook cryptocurrency project just struggles to get off the ground in 2019 as regulators continue to hate it, partners continue to leave it, and Facebook itself decides to save its powder to fight government battles elsewhere.