Every year I ask myself, “How will work and life change in a material way over the next three to five years?”
As a founder myself (Behance), Adobe’s Chief Product Officer, and an early investor in over 80 startups — these trends inform my work and are a fun annual exercise.
2022 was a pivotal year for:
Now, what are the forecasts and implications for the years ahead?
As web apps, communal browsing, and decentralized technology continue to grow, browsers have become too generalized and antiquated for the future of web apps.
This new age of web apps will increase collaboration, help create more productive workflows, and will tap into the power of the cloud for AI features and heavy computation. Web apps offer virality and infinite possibilities for product-led growth, and are finally powerful enough for sophisticated apps like Photoshop. But the full potential of these apps is constrained by the browser, a general purpose and increasingly outdated piece of software.
Thus, a new generation of specialized browsers will emerge.
Browsers will be reimagined for collaboration and higher performance web apps — like Arc from The Browser Company. Some browsers, like one being developed by Triangle Labs, will specialize in decentralized applications with less friction and far more security and confidence. As the ultimate interface on top of the web, browsers will begin to compete with the apps themselves. And the growing ecosystem of third-party plug-ins will compete directly with the next generation of these purpose-built browsers.
AI will commoditize decades of content marketing and SEO tactics, and usher in a new era of brand and influencer marketing.
With models like ChatGPT driving the cost and time required to write effective SEO content down to zero, every brand will “flood the zone” of search engines, completely commoditizing content marketing.
ChatGPT has done to writing what the calculator did to arithmetic. You can now ask AI to write an essay on dinosaurs in the style of a 6th grader… or a 9th grader. After a few seconds, you’ll get an entirely original output every time.
Education curriculum’s should focus on things humans must do as opposed to things computers can now do for us. While most writing — from content marketing to product specs — will be assisted by AI going forward, crafting presentations and oral rhetoric using counterintuitive arguments and creativity will be skills that bring a premium. Education curriculums must adjust accordingly. Math should be taught in Excel or Airtable, and writing should be taught alongside the art of prompt engineering.
The war for interface:
Leading knowledge and workflow management products will pivot to launch their own interface for queries.
In just the last few months, some of the internet’s greatest repositories of content like Quora, Notion, GitHub, Stack Overflow, and other legendary sources of user-generated content have announced their own AI-powered chat experiences.
This all leads to the uncomfortable realization that, in the age of AI, if you don’t own the query interface, you’re just assembling training data for those who do. We know “interface layers” commoditize the technology underneath, but I didn’t realize interface layers would also commoditize content. Today, AI is the ultimate interface layer, as it not only disrupts underlying services, data, and content, but also synthesizes and presents it all in transformative ways.
AI-powered, in-product assistants will make a major comeback (Microsoft’s infamous “Clippy” was just ahead of its time!). Q&A interfaces on top of AI are the biggest threat to Google and other information sources that monetize via traffic.
If you ask ChatGPT about a medical condition, you get a comprehensive, often bullet-pointed answer that rivals anything you could construct from dozens of Google searches.
Now, imagine if a more health-specific AI model were personalized for you, with a private database of every health result, every trend from your Whoop band or Apple Watch, your family health history, and every ailment you’ve ever had. Conversing with such a deeply informed resource would be 10 times better than our first line of defense today (Google) and could connect dots far better than we do on our own.
I anticipate that the first line of healthcare will increasingly be AI-based, and we’ll start seeing this in the next 24 months.
Much like Netflix, we’ll tune in to see the supercut of our lives presented as short and highly engaging AI-edited daily or weekly episodes. The vanity metric and competitive component of this new era of social apps will simply be your contributions “making the cut” among all of the stuff you and your friends record throughout the day.
The AI editor/curator will decide what everyone in your group will find interesting (measured by previous allocations of attention) to determine what content makes the final cut. One team exploring this space is Studio, a “group camcorder” taking off amongst teenagers. More generally across the next generation of social apps, the traditional social graph will continue to become less relevant as TikTok-like AI-powered algorithmic feeds determine what we see based on what we like. However, I am on the lookout for hybrid solutions that leverage both social graphs alongside AI-powered editing and curation.
We are more creatively confident in kindergarten than we are as adults. Our confidence deteriorates as we become discouraged by comparing ourselves to others and the difficulty of learning how to use creative tools.
But now free web-based tools with templates have helped us conquer the fear of the blank screen. Plus, powerful generative artificial intelligence enables anyone to express themselves creatively without a notoriously steep learning curve.
As a result, the value of creative work will shift from outcomes to process and ingenuity. The original idea, the judgment, the innovations in process, and the story become more important than ever.
Compensation models will shift from time-based to value-based. Do creative people get paid for their judgment and ideas, or their time? Historically, time has been the easiest measure of work and the most popular factor for charging for work completed. But, in an era in which much of our mundane and repetitive work is accomplished by AI-powered assistants, the time required for creative work has materially reduced.
So, how do creators start charging for value added, as opposed to time spent? Perhaps there will be some mutually agreed upon pricing model that takes experience into account? Perhaps more creative teams will get compensated based on the performance of their work?
One of the most exciting and under-discussed opportunities is new compensation models for creators to monetize the use of their style or likeness to generate original art or music. Compensation is ripe for re-imagination in the era of AI.
Content creators with mass audiences are seeking novel ways to own the relationship.
Remarkable minds like Sahil Bloom, who shares curiosity and lessons learned in viral social threads, or Becky Kennedy, who (alongside my wife Erica) created Good Inside as an indispensable resource for parenting with over 1.6 million followers on Instagram, are increasingly unwilling to rely on a single platform. I have watched Sahil build a fast-growing Substack that has become a business in itself. And the Good Inside founders have launched a subscription-based community that is off to a wildly successful start. In both cases, these subscriptions go way beyond lead generation; they are alternatives (or complements) to books and social profiles.
As social platforms get insecure about losing their creator’s content, they will respond in ways that spawn the era of “platform-less creators.”
We’ve seen Twitter’s short-lived policy outlawing links to competing platforms, but they will surely continue to down rank tweets with outbound links. These behaviors to keep people onsite are anti-Creator.
My friend Li Jin wrote a great playbook for this new world in which creators can leverage new tech to own their audiences. Ultimately, I believe all creators-turned-businesses will own their audiences through newsletters and personalized, subscription-based communities.
Flawed censorship and moderation policies will cause operators of social platforms to act more as stewards than owners.
Social platforms have been struggling more lately with the lines of censorship, policy, and active policing of content. The problem here is that the management teams of these social platforms are acting as owners (decide right and wrong) vs. stewards (we are here to serve the community, we will engage you in decisions, seek not to pass judgment, and strive for transparency whenever possible).
One lesson learned building Behance to a community of 35 miilion highly opinionated creative people: you don’t own a network, you are the steward of a network.
Some of you may have seen this uncanny deep fake of Morgan Freeman circling the internet. Clearly, we can no longer rely on our senses to determine truth.
If you’ve been playing with any of the latest AI-powered video and editing features, you’ve likely realized: we’re entering an age where we can no longer believe our eyes. The same tools that speed up workflows and empower creative professionals to create wondrous media are becoming easier to use and more powerful. We’re just years away from anyone being able to render a conversation with the unmistakable voice and likeness of somebody else without their permission. Our human senses and judgment will be hackable by anyone.
“Verify, then trust” is the new “trust, but verify.”
It’s an era of both wondrous creativity and new genres of risk. We must be imaginative not just about what can go right, but also about what can go wrong. Humans must develop new instincts to verify before we trust and become less prone to manipulation. We must usher in an era of attribution, where content shows WHO made it and HOW it was made (and unsigned content is assumed to be fake or AI-made). When humans see anonymous content without any verifiable “content credentials” about its origins (from open source efforts like the Content Authenticity Initiative), we must stop believing it by default.
At Adobe, we are full steam ahead embracing this open source solution to enable creators to add content credentials but we need more engagement from both the content creation and social platforms of the world.
As people gain creative confidence, culture will change as fashion and life design (your furniture, wallpaper, etc.) becomes hyper-personalized.
Today, the designs in your life are created by small teams and generalized for the masses. The clothes you wear, the media you consume, the digital dashboard in your car, the items in your home — they are all made by a few and generalized for as many as possible. But with widespread creative confidence will come a desire to culturally flex yourself through personalization. I anticipate a world in which you customize your shoes or clothing before checking out.
I anticipate that our experiences in cars will be personalized by us using templates for the dashboard design and customization kits for interiors. And when we start wearing AR glasses around, every person’s world will look remarkably different, by design, just because we can!
And new technology will emerge that enables user personalization without compromising user privacy. Yes, sounds like a total contradiction, but I am aware of one early-stage team assembling around this opportunity without creative solutions, the great “opt out” of data.
Current market conditions shift companies from the “carbs era” to the “muscle era” of building great organizations. Coming off a decade of excess, in which the easiest way to acquire customers and scale organizations was to throw more money and people at the problem, the world is left with countless bloated organizations, redundant teams, and extraneous processes. But today’s economic woes are a much-needed forcing function. We’re entering the “muscle era,” where we must solve problems by changing how we work and building a more resilient and capable team. Resourcefulness outperforms resources.
We can look at Twitter as a case-study for rapid resets.
What happens when you remove multiple levels of managers and bring everyone doing the work closer together? Do you regain the agility of startups? Do you instantly shed years of “organizational debt” that restrains a product’s potential? I suspect we’ll see more bold resets of companies around the world, reimagined for a world in which most functions can be automated.
Scott actively invests based on these observations, and is an investor in The Browser Company, Circle, Triangle Labs, Airtable, Notion, Whoop, and Studio.
Scott Belsky is an entrepreneur (Behance, 99U), executive (Adobe), author (The Messy Middle and Making Ideas Happen), an early-stage investor, and is an all-around product obsessive. Continue the conversation and find Scott on Twitter, check out other recent posts, or sign up for “Implications,” a newsletter about the unexpected implications of new products, design, and technology.
Tech trends for 2023 from Adobe's chief product officer – Business Insider
Every year I ask myself, “How will work and life change in a material way over the next three to five years?”