2012: Ending the Gatekeepers

Over at avc.com, Fred Wilson commented that he thinks 2012 will be the year that the movement goes mainstream. He sees five events — Ron Paul’s rise in popularity, Occupy Wall Street, Reddit as an populist building community and a couple of technology things —  as setting us down this course.

While I agree with Fred, I latched on to a comment by Lucas Wilk:

It all ties in with the big theme, the megatrend as you will, which is the end of gatekeeping of just about any kind. Legacy structures based on keeping the information flow from top to bottom are being made obsolete in the areas of broadcasting, publishing, commerce and now mass communications . The world is clearly becoming more horizontal and rapidly decentralized. [italics mine]

I’ve been staring this trend in the face for the past year and have been unable to put a definition around it. I’ve been calling it “when the app comes to you.” In short, our world is changing from one where we go to an app to get things done to one where the app comes to us. In the old days to send an email we would launch an email application, wait for it to appear on the screen, type in the name, subject and body and send it. Now I click a link in an app or web site and an email client launches right within the application I am working within. No switching apps, no splash screens. I do my business and move on.

There have been a number of technologies and apps that have made this “app come to you” possible. To save something to Evernote, I choose an icon on the menu bar of my Mac. To post a tweet to Twitter or save an article to Instapaper, I just choose that option in any number of apps I have on my phone or iPad. To read my articles every day, I don’t go to 200 different web sites. I grab them all in one central location using RSS. Even the web, using technologies like WebKit, now appear in my app explicitly instead of me going to a browser. Siri is just the most recent example of this. Ask it for something and it will try to take care of it, interacting with any number of web sites, apps and services to get that done.

Except calling it “when the app comes to you” isn’t particularly elegant and doesn’t encapsulate what I am seeing. What this really is is the end of gatekeeping. We now expect to interact wherever we are, in whatever context we choose. And that applies for everything: software, hardware, politics, learning, entertainment, sports. You name it we want the gatekeepers banished.

2012 is just the beginning of this movement. But Fred is right. This is the year for it to go mainstream.