5 Way-Too-Specific Product Predictions for 2016

As a product manager, I like to start my day every day on Product Hunt — partly because I find it inspiring and partly because I hate not being the first to discover the best new apps. For me, there was one stand-out highlight of 2015 — the emergence of interactive video live-streaming, first with Meerkat, then Periscope, then Facebook Live and others. This was something new that radically altered my online experience — enabling me to sit with refugees as they made a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, to ask questions of a journalist in Syria while they showed me around, to go backstage at a U2 concert in Paris. In many ways, it’s a better form of discovery than broadcast tv, print and online has achieved before.

I’ve always been most excited by products that are social and bring people together, but it feels like we’re still only just scratching the surface of what is possible. That’s why it feels wrong to make any product predictions this year that don’t embrace the qualities that were heralded by the launch of Meerkat on Product Hunt last year — namely spontaneity, creativity, curiosity, neighborliness and fun. Collaborative consumption is nothing new, but 2016 will bring new forms of shared experience, including collaborative production and tools for harnessing the power of our shared experiences. Already Oculus Rift is on everyone’s lips for later this year, but here are some other ridiculously specific product predictions for 2016.

1. Your Personal Broadcast Network

2016 is the year that you and your 3 friends, wherever they may be, will be able to create your own live broadcast show.

Last November, I experienced what this will be like. As a complete U2 nerd, I wanted to listen in to their final concert of the year in Paris. Fortunately, I found a great audio stream on Mixlr. Not content with just audio, I found a few great feeds on Periscope that persisted throughout the concert. Half way through, Bono brought a fan up on stage to broadcast live on Meerkat. And I got regular backstage videos on Snapchat and Facebook live. Armed with a couple of devices and a great and uninterrupted Mixlr stream, I was able to curate and edit my own live broadcast.

Some of the live streaming tools I used to watch a U2 concert.

This year watch for broadcast studio apps that enable you to stitch together different audio, video and image feeds in real time and broadcast them as one streaming video. Switch between different cameras at the Olympic Stadium in Rio while you provide your own commentary. Provide up close and backstage coverage of election campaign events, before switching to Twitter-verified experts for commentary, with your audience providing the questions. Look to online news pioneers like the Young Turks for early adoption.

A mock-up of how it might work.

2. Spotify Multi-Room

It’s always fun to think of what Spotify will introduce next. Few products embrace spontaneity, fun, discovery and collaboration as much as it does, with shared playlists, suggested tracks — and Spotify Party was another step in that direction. This year, watch Spotify get creative with the fact that so many people own multiple devices. Of course, with Spotify Connect they’ve already started — for example, you can use your iPhone as a remote control for your MacBook, or seamlessly hand-off to your iPad… However, shouldn’t you be able to play the same track on all devices at the same time (or near-synchronously)? Introducing Spotify Multi-Room!

A mock-up of how it could be introduced in Spotify (iOS).

3. Reader-Aware News Content

They say all news is local. It’s not, especially in a Presidential Election year. While social media might be your first source for news content this time round, the articles you find there will largely still be written by Chief Political Correspondents at the major media publications and they’ll be exactly the same for you as they are for me. One of the golden rules of communications is to know your audience, so shouldn’t news content be audience-aware? Responsive online content has traditionally just related to the visual layout of content on the screen, not to responsive content matter. 2016 might start to see a change in that, with news content automatically adapting to its audience.

Of course, the core truth and facts of any story are unchangeable — but supplementary material, context, vocabulary, examples, polling results are all content variables that could be personalized based on the reader’s age, location and interests. This would increase relevance and accessibility for existing readers and introduce the news content to previously untapped audiences, potentially unlocking new streams of revenue for news producers. The New York Times has pioneered interactive storytelling with rich multimedia and supporting content, so watch for any moves they make related to adapting news content to everything it knows about the reader.

A mock-up of how it could work in the New York Times.

4. Shared Mobility for the Daily Commute

Nowhere is collaboration more urgent than in the field of transportation. With each American spending more than a week every year simply sitting in traffic (check out Bill Ford’s awesome TED talk), households having 2.28 cars on average, and each of those cars being used just 5% of the time — it’s clear we need to make better use of our primary transportation resource, the privately owned car. Expect 2016 to bring a much greater focus on the elephant in the room, the fact that there is a twice-daily tidal wave of traffic congestion that predictably hits every city every weekday, with cars occupied by just 1.1 people on average. 2016 will be the year of the commute, with different services teaming up to solve the problem.

Uber will continue to focus on helping people to get around downtown (its average trip is 3.1 miles), but has started piloting a commute carpool service. At Carma, we pioneered apps for commute carpooling, so it’s always great to see more focus given to the daily commute. We’re super excited about our new CarmaZoom service in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is the world’s first high-occupancy carshare service. In partnership with the Bay Area’s original carshare service, City CarShare, commuters can now book a seat (driver or rider seat) in a carshare car for their daily commute. Expect to see lots more collaborations from innovators in this space in 2016!

CarmaZoom — Supercharge your commute!

5. A Facebook Browser

Ok, so this one is a little crazy, but what if this is the year that Facebook releases a web browser. For years, Stumbleupon has pioneered serendipitous social-based discovery, and is still actually the 4th largest driver of social media traffic to websites, but with Facebook already testing separate news feeds for different interests and having launched Facebook Paper, it’s not impossible that Facebook is working on a standalone web browser. As the world’s online social glue, Facebook is uniquely placed to craft the web browsing into a smarter, friendlier, more personal place.

Imagine if your web browsing content was augmented by content added by your friends — and in real time. Imagine if you and your friends can browse together, highlight content, leave private comments, edit content together, create content together…

Mock up of how a Facebook Browser might work

Ok, so some of these predictions are probably too specific to come true this year, but it’s way more fun when they’re specific, right?

Emmett is Chief Product Officer at Carma

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