Today I walked into a toilet block and the light turned on as I walked in. Despite being such a little thing (that was probably automated by a switch/timer system on the door) it made me happy. A few decades ago an automated system like that would have been incredibly cool but today we just take for granted. This then made me realize that I was standing in a climate controlled building with hundreds of desktop computers within a few hundred meters and thousands of chips in general.
To somebody of the early twentieth century it would appear that we live in a completely different world. 100 years ago flight had only just been invented and yet today we can look up at the sky and see the trails of scores of airplanes. Not only that but we’ve sent man to the moon and robots to everywhere within a billion kilometers. Its certainly not bad.
Little elements of old school science fiction do exist in the modern world. We have complex displays capable of display all sorts (and they’re flat) of information and images – we can even touch them and view them in 3D. We have a complex network that connects billions of people around the planet. Billions of people carry devices that allow them to communicate with something in their hand.
Despite everything that we can do and do do every day mankind is always capable of imaging the future. We still haven’t conquered the other planets (largely due to the recession and cosmic limits) but we’ve managed quite a lot. Not bad for a civilization that’s only been intelligent for a few hundred thousand years.
I was discussing with a friend earlier what YouTube will be like in ten years time, because the future certainly is uncertain. The site, currently owned by Google, is making losses of almost half a billion dollars a year and clearly Google needs to fix this to maintain the site, especially considering the only reason they can keep it up is because of profits from all the other Google services.
But what if Google did have to sell out YouTube? Could YouTube survive on its own? YouTube is certainly a very capable company, or department, in its own right because it has completely revolutionized online video sharing like no other website, however it is dying from the inside. I would be prepared to predict that in the next five years non-partner accounts will start to have videos removed from them – but only older and less popular videos.
Of course, if YouTube does survive the financial crisis it will probably be very similar to what it is now. It will probably still have ads (and we’ll still block them with AdBlock+) and it will probably have a very similar UI on desktop, because there isn’t much that they can really change. Its like Google, Facebook or Twitter – you can’t really change the way it looks because otherwise it will stop being the way that it is.
The only major thing that YouTube really has left to do is to open up live streaming to all users via webcams, because they have pretty much everything that users have wanted changed in the past year, and frankly I am quite happy with the service as it is. YouTube might even get further integrated into Google, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a merger with Google+ within the next few years, which could make sense because YouTube is one of the most visited ‘social networks’ and combined with Google it definitely supersedes the user base of Facebook.