The soothsayer has spoken again: Mary Meeker, the general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, released her official "2013 Internet Trends" report, a whimsical, 117-page slide deck on the future growth of a variety of tech verticals and start-ups. (Key among them, for instance: Snapchat. It has grown to nearly 160 million photos per day--from zero about a year ago.)
The report touches on mammoth growth opportunities for entrepreneurs, and highlights the explosion of mobile, video, and photo sharing as cornerstones of Web activity. It also covers the expansion of wearable tech devices, like glasses, that may eventually become a staple of normal, not-insanely-geeky human apparel.
Of course, take these predictions with a grain of salt. Forecasting trends is a notoriously tricky business (QR codes, anyone?), which few investors ever master. And while the Snapchat growth chart shows some hockey-stick-like now, its longer-term chart may be more bell-shaped.
For the truly diligent, head over to Kleiner Perkins' site, where you can peruse the report free of charge. Here's a condensed version, highlighting five of the most important pieces.
1. Image and video sharing is here to stay, even if it's not in Snapchat form.
In 2006, maybe a million images were shared on a daily basis. Today, between Flickr, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, there are nearly 550 million. Obviously, that growth has been fueled by a variety of factors, most notably the prevalence of smartphones and social networks. More generally, though, the explosion of connected Web users helps explain the image-sharing revolution. Today, there are 2.4 billion Internet users.
Video, which Meeker says is "ramping very fast," is poised for a similar revolution. Particularly, Meeker calls out Vine, the six-second video app, as indicative of the overall video sharing market--it's doubling month-over-month--and doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon.
2. Get ready for the wearable-device and quantified-self revolution.
MyFitnessPal, which tracks everything from your caloric intake to the amount of exercise you completed on a daily basis, has seen an absolute explosion in usage: in October 2012, after the company launched, it received fewer than a million API calls--a measure of how often developers use the app. Today, it has more than 50 million API calls per month.
Of course, the quantified-self movement goes hand-in-hand with the devices that make it possible. Meeker points out the rise of hands-free, always-on, connected devices such as Google Glass make this movement possible. And for those naysayers that say wearable tech is just a fad--Well, Meeker would like to remind you that Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment, once said in 1977 "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
3. Drones are not as far off as you might think.
The use of commercially-viable drones has been bandied about the Valley for several years now (sadly Tacocopter turned out to be fake) but Meeker believes we're closer to having drones as part of every day life than you might believe. First there were smartphones. Then tablets. And now, Meeker says, we're entering the drone age.
In agriculture, drones are used to pinpoint "potential crop damage early on." In sports, drones can capture unique angles of players on a field or course. And in public safety, drones can supply much-needed supplies to areas hit by natural disaster.
4. China surpassed the USA in terms of active iOS and Android users
This one is fairly straightforward, but speaks to the magnitude of opportunity inherent in the Chinese market. It's also worth noting that the Chinese, proportionally speaking, spend more time on the Web and mobile than their counterparts in the United States.
5. You can't ignore the boom in online education.
The graph below is a fairly sobering reminder that the future of post-secondary education (i.e. college) will exist for many in the cloud. According to Meeker's sources--a Babson study--32 percent of students in 2011 were taking at least one online course.
Online education is also becoming more accepted by the academic community. Back in 2003, nearly half of all educators believed online education was inferior to traditional classroom learning. But by 2012, the mentality had shifted: about 75 percent of educators now believe that online education is just as good, if not better than classroom learning.