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In 2015, popular online social networks will be reduced to serving for social branding, and a next generation of apps using peer-to-peer networking instead of cloud computing will be used for texting and image and video sharing.

The exodus from popular social networks will be accelerated by increasing revelations of both the storing and monitoring of personal communications by the government, and experimentation on users of social networks for the financial benefit of third parties. The exodus, like most all technological trends, will be led by the young and the tech-savvy, and the rest of the worlds’ users will slowly follow as technology inevitably spreads.

Thus, we’ll see a continuing decrease in the use of popular social networks in 2015 due to an increasing desire by users to keep their personal information private in an electronic world where more and more of their personal information tends to be shared on social networks with everyone by default.  With privacy settings and terms and conditions changing so frequently, all but the very tech-savvy privacy-minded users struggle with knowing whether or not the next status they post, image they upload, or comment they make will be visible only to their friends, their friends’ friends, or to the rest of the world – including current or potential employers.

Additionally, the quickening pace of electronic communications has spoiled many users. They expect to receive responses from their family or friends much more quickly than what social networks typically elicit their users to provide, and users are looking to other apps as alternatives.

Communication apps have associated reputations, and when it comes to timeliness in getting a response, it’s much more likely that your family member or friend will reply more quickly to your WhatsApp text or Snapchat photo notification than loading Facebook, finding your wall post, message, or share, and then providing a reply or comment.

Communication apps have associated reputations, and when it comes to timeliness in getting a response, WhatsApp or Snapchat will likely get you a faster reply than Facebook, which requires finding your wall post, message, or share, and then providing a reply or comment.

But that’s not to say social networks like Facebook will not continue to serve an important and particular purpose in 2015 and beyond. People won’t use common social networks for sharing private family photos or conducting a quick chat, but I predict they will increasing use them to develop personal brands. The personal brand will include a user’s carefully selected profile photos to convey an image the user wants to be perceived as, and for the selected sharing of other photos, articles, comments, likes, and other associations that the user has carefully selected to frame the image the user wants to portray.

A person’s social network page will be used the same way corporate brand pages are used for on social networks – managing a public brand.

The popularity of certain features to enable fleeting conversations or casual sharing of media with others on social networks like Facebook will be lost to a plethora of feature-specific, albeit perhaps less efficient, alternative applications. The apparent inefficiency of using multiple apps to do what is possible in a single social networking app is alleviated by users knowing their communications are private, will have a faster response time, and in 2015, will be available using cross-device synchronization of communications.

In 2015 we will see these apps become available on and synchronize across your different devices. I predict it is only a matter of time before communication services like WhatsApp and Viber synchronize your messages or communications across your devices so that you can continue a conversation on your tablet that you started on your smartphone. Additionally, the more intuitive nature of using different “tools” (i.e., apps) having distinct privacy settings for different forms of communication is in some ways more intuitive and understandable than managing various different groups and privacy settings for different features within a single app interface.

The most transformative technology revolution of 2015 will occur behind the curtains. We’ll see a return to peer-to-peer networking that will result in major technological changes on how and where data is processed by servers. This will help address users’ concerns about knowing whether their communications are being stored by a corporation or government, and to make their communication data faster and more reliable.

Specifically, increasing technological improvement and adoption of decentralized, peer-to-peer technologies in 2015 will replace cloud computing as the preferred means for making personal communication like texting and sharing photos and videos with friends and family more private. This transition from the cloud to peer-to-peer may initially be mediated by “hybrid” cloud networking and peer-to-peer solutions envisioned by companies like Space Monkey, but in time, these will be completely peer-to-peer, advancing beyond what popular products like BitTorrent and Bitcoin have made possible today. Peer-to-peer solutions would address certain limitations and concerns with the cloud, namely data security (e.g., all your communications are not in any one place ready to be stolen), access speed, and availability (e.g., where a hurricane knocks out a data center and renders websites and apps wholly unavailable for use).

This would not be entirely new as the original intent and architecture of the Internet was fairly decentralized, but it would be a revolution in that the cloud will no longer be the default solution for all of network technologies’ new problems.

In 2015 we’ll either see existing popular personal communication apps transition to a hybrid cloud/peer-to-peer model or solely peer-to-peer back-end process, or more likely we’ll see new apps using peer-to-peer technology replace the currently popular ones. Competition in the mobile app environment due to a low cost of entry will benefit us, the users, in a way that would not be possible if an existing social networking app using soon-to-be outdated technology were the only option.

Ahsan Shaikh is a partner at McDermott Will & Emery. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from UC Berkeley, where he studied cloud and peer-to-peer type networks, and previously worked at networking company Cisco. As part his legal practice, Ahsan regularly meets with leading engineers working on and inventing cutting edge technologies related to social networking, cloud storage, content delivery, user interface software.


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