What is the Next Big Thing in Communication?

Given all the startups and brainpower in tech right now, it’s interesting to note that innovation in digital communication behaviors has been relatively slow.  Our most popular forms of communication are all so similar when broken down into basic components.

The different tools we use on a daily basis for communication are amazingly dated. Personally, I use three forms of digital tools regularly: email, SMS, and Twitter and Facebook (news feeds) – the first two of course are decades old.

The first email was sent 40 years ago, SMS is a 20 year-old consumer technology, and News Feeds like Twitter have been growing steadily in use for about 6 years. The last one on that list, Facebook and Twitter, might seem odd to bundle together under the blanketed term “news feeds”. But if you extract both services down to the basic ingredients, news feeds are the unique communication tool that we all interact with.

Furthermore, boil down these three forms of communication even further and you’ll notice they’re one of the same. Essentially the formats all contain the same information: a list-view of message content, usernames and timestamps.

There have been a ton of incremental innovations and feature improvements to these technologies over the years. Email folders and labels, privacy settings for news feeds on Facebook, real-time SMS via iMessage, Twitter clients, etc. But has any other communication behavior or technology crept into the fabric of our daily routines and become indispensable? And why is it that all communication behaviors share the same data?

Perhaps fundamental human behaviors and desires do not change. Despite having more computing power on my mobile phone then I did in a desktop computer just a few years ago, as a user I still want to do the same things I did a few years ago. And I still want to communicate the same types of data.

Perhaps the most innovative shift in the how we communicate are video calls through Skype and Facetime. But surely, there’s room for yet an even more inventive type of communication. A technology that is more personal, less interruptive, and able to express more data that messages, timestamps, media, or location. A communication tool that is aware of my status (available, busy, working, playing), my interests, and even how I’m feeling (happy, glad, mad).

Until we really push for a new innovation, startups that claim to reinvent the way people interact are perhaps just spinning their wheels and making money at the expense of creating anything really inventive – and just producing more variations on the Facebook/Twitter theme of endless message feeds.