The Meta Trending Trends: 2021

2021 started with a fantastic summary of trends in the fourth annual Meta Trend Report.

It synthesizes 500+ trends from 30+ reports, ranking the 19 most frequently reported cultural trends for 2021. Reports come from: Accenture & FjordDeloitte Insights TechDeloitte Insights MarketingDentsu Facebook IQFaith PopcornFalconFordForesight FactoryForresterFuture LaboratoryFrogGartnerGoogleGWIHubspotJWTKantarKetchumMintelOgilvy ConsultingPinterestSpacecadetTrend HunterTrend WatchingWe Are SocialWGSN, and WEF.

I like the visualisation over time of trends evolutions. What is even more interesting though is the overlooked 2021 trends:

  • Found Faith: ‘Esprit de corps’ ≈ the common spirit and loyalty
  • Sex !nterupt3D: Devices, apps and screens fill our needs
  • Societal Scarring: We’re not okay
  • Screen Shot: Diligent Wokeness + Digital Footprints
  • Home Screen: Phones and laptops are our real homes

And an interesting trend around the infrastrucutre of the internet come from the Washington Post: Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet (called the Metaverse). Fortnite might get there first

The most widely agreed core attributes of a Metaverse include always being live and persistent — with both planned and spontaneous events always occurring — while at the same time providing an experience that spans and operates across platforms and the real world. A Metaverse must also have no real cap on audience, and have its own fully functioning economy.

Fortnite hasn’t reached Metaverse status yet. But Fortnite as a social network and impossible-to-ignore cultural phenomenon, Ball says, provides Epic Games a key advantage for leading in the Metaverse race. Fortnite draws a massive, willing and excited audience online to engage with chaotically clashing intellectual properties.

Sweeney said as much in his DICE Summit keynote speech February. If the game industry wants to reshape the Internet and move away from Silicon Valley’s walled gardens, Sweeney stressed that publishers need to rethink economies in the same way email was standardized. In email’s early days, different companies would have proprietary messaging systems that only worked for internal communication.

Talking about walled gardens brings to mind HBR’s Exponential view episode on Big tech and a decade of antitrust with Cory Doctorow. Cisco was listed as an example of growing culture and business by buying others invention; and in terms of vertical integration, I learned that Facebook acquired Onavo spyware as a battery monitoring to gather data intelligence on how people use Snapchat so they could predate Snapchat. It was a $200M market research that covered Facebook weakness vs Apple and Google who have App Store and Android data. It was a good reminder that initially in its first years Facebook was interoperable through its API eg. Friendsfeed (early social media aggregators wiht Facebook, Twitter and other social media from early 2010s) where you could access your Facebook feed, post and reply; since then Facebook made it harder to access your own information through 3rd party products. 

It was also interesting to hear about the expansion of software patents in 2010s and new interpretations of existing laws like the “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act” from 1986 as a very broad cyber crime law. Facebook argued successfully in court that under CFAA it was illegal to violate its terms of service (ie. that it was the same as hacking) and they shut down Power ventures who made a shared dashboard combining Facebook, Linkedin and other services in one place. They’re doing the same with Friendly browser, NYU researchers “Ad observer” project where Facebook users voluntarily submit the ads they see on Facebook and they go into a repository called the “Ad observatory” that accountability journalists, researchers and scholars use to detail whether Facebook is living up to its own policies on the propagation of paid disinformation. Facebook said “you violated our terms of services, so it’s hacking so it’s a felony and you’ve got to stop to protect our users privacy”. Doctorow summarised this as legal entreuneurships to block new entrants and innovators.

In this rich episod, Azeem Azhar and Cory Doctorow discuss incentives for investors: startups are based on software, ie. intangibles, they can’t get bank loans and need capitalisation. As you need a special form of capital, there’s venture capital and it’s most likely to get its return through a M&A. So you tighten M&A rules, reduce return on capital, reduce the flow of that capital. “It dignifies what’s going on to call it an M&A, it’s acqui-hires“: postgrad projects funded by head hunters called VC who gather a team. Then the startup founder & team work hard for 8 months to build a product, and sell to a big tech giant paying your hiring bonus in the form of buying your shares (and paying the VC a finder’s fee by buying my shares). Then we’ll throw away what you’ve built, and you can enjoy the perks of a big tech company. “You’re not founding a company, you’re just auditioning for a job.”