Why I think 2013 will be the year of "passive"

Dec 31, 2012
Vote on Hacker News

Each year we try to identify trends – Gartner often hits sector trends, but I tend to look cross-sector, at how people will view products in general. Remember when social was everything? If you had a product, you had to add social – connect to Facebook, share with friends, etc. Now that’s all a given, just like ‘gamification.’ Remember when everything had badges – I updated my status – I get a badge. Review a restaruant, here’s a badge – don’t forget to share your badge on Twitter! So what’s next? I think what’s next is “Passive,” and here’s why:

No one will make ‘the next Facebook’ or even ‘the next Google,’ because we would look at ‘the next Facebook’ and go “yeah, but how are you better than Facebook?” Users are not only committed to their social networks and their search engines, but they aren’t willing to search for anything, anywhere. If I download a new app, I don’t want to have to ‘search’ in order to find the value, it needs to be pushed to me. Some people call this recommendation, some call it discovery – I think cross-sector, and I call it “passive.” When I first touch your website, your product, your service, I want to passively receive value, before I commit to any activity. Fill in a new profile? Yeah, right! Connect via Facebook and tell me immediately what you can offer me – you already have my profile, my social information, my friends, so what are you going to do with it?

I run into many startups who haven’t quite gotten this yet. I try out their app, and a few minutes in, I’m still looking around for what I’m supposed to do. “What’s this tab do?” “Oh well, when you come back each day, this is where you receive messages from …” Too much. Why would I come back to your app? I have a strict “two page” rule on my iPhone – first page are apps I use every week, 2nd page are backups, like other email clients when Sparrow‘s being a pain in the ass.

Whatever you’re trying to create, you should already have enough data on me through other networks that you can provide me at least a taste of the value your service offers. Despite what this Hacker News thread suggests, a tutorial is OK if you want to suggest first activities for me – I’ve downloaded your app or come to your website because I’m curious, so don’t hesitate to point me in the right direction.

Look at YouTube Capture, one of Google’s latest iPhone apps, for example – when I open up the app, it knows what I want to do – shoot film. So I’m immediately one button away from shooting a video, and it automatically throws it up on YouTube when I’m done. It couldn’t be any more simple. RunKeeper (not a new app, I admit) has one button that says “Start activity” when you open it, and the defaul screen is the start activity screen, not your timeline or records. It knows that you’re opening it because you’re about to go for a run.

Unless you think it’s extremely undertapped, stop trying to build new ‘graphs,’ and start using existing graphs to create value. Yes, owning the data gives you more freedom, but users have grown tired of committing to graphs – I won’t leave Facebook even if they tell me they are auctioning off pictures of me naked from 2006. You know why? ‘Cause I don’t want to start all over again only to have 2017 roll around and find out some other service is selling my naked photos. I’m committed, so start using that data and build me a cool app in 2013!