by Adam Ostrow
This article first appeared on MASHABLE.
Over the last five years, social media has evolved from a handful of communities that existed solely in a web browser to a multi-billion dollar industry that’s quickly expanding to mobile devices, driving major changes in content consumption habits and providing users with an identity and social graph that follows them across the web.
With that framework in place, the next five years are going to see even more dramatic change. Fueled by advancements in underlying technology – the wires, wireless networks and hardware that make social media possible – a world where everything is connected awaits us. The result will be both significant shifts in our everyday lives and a changing of the guard in several industries that are only now starting to feel the impact of social media.
The growth of social media in the past five years was fueled not just by innovation from Internet entrepreneurs and developers, but by several key advancements behind the scenes. The rise of YouTube – which I called the most important social media innovation of the past decade – would not have been possible without the wide availability of broadband and the advent of Flash 7. Similarly, the rapid rise of mobile apps in the last few years would not have been possible without major advances in smartphone capabilities (jump started by iPhone) and higher speed mobile networks.
Jumping ahead to today, consider for a moment that the first smartphone to run on 4G (the successor to 3G mobile broad and capable of significantly faster mobile broadband speeds) – the Sprint HTC EVO – hit the U.S. only this past June. Sprint’s 4G network, however, only covers about 40 million people. Similarly, wireless broadband ISP Clearwire reported in May that its network – which is also used to offer service to Sprint, Verizon, and Time Warner cable subscribers – only reaches 41 million people. At the same time, mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to surpass 1 billion worldwide by 2013.
Add to that a surge in public and private investment in wireline broadband that will give 90% of homes in the U.S. the option to have 50 mbps downstream broadband within the next few years, and the bottom line becomes clear: There’s currently an enormous supply and demand gap to be filled, and when that happens, it will enable a whole new wave of social media innovation.