AOL’s Digital Prophet, David Shing: “Apps are a rubbish concept”

AOL’s Digital Prophet, David Shing: “Apps are a rubbish concept”

The pace of change and talks at the London Web Summit is frantic. Five to ten minutes per speaker, five panellists in a short session. You’d be pressed to take it all in and skilled to get your message out.

Enter David Shing, AOL’s ‘Digital Prophet’ who went at his talk so fast that even his own slides could not keep up (there was a minor technical hitch).

The chatty Australian stands a good half foot taller than he should, due to his extraordinary hair cut and charismatically energetic nature. He’s odd, but he’s friendly.

Shing’s presentation romped through future projections, current trends and even things that most marketers would not want to hear at a futurecasting, lightning talk, “Email is hot,” he says. “Expect a 256% increase in ROI for email.”

Tips for the future

As a former designer and founder of a startup that died and restarted (reanimator?), Shing knows the territory. “Share and engagement are what you are going to hear about from Facebook,” he notes.

“There is too much confusion, and ‘Defriend and Unfollow’ will be the new thing.  You need to be a good curator and you need to be original,” he continues. “It’s a fight for attention. If you curate something delicious, then people will have more time in their lives for you.”

Shing also knows that the underlying principles of technology still apply, “All technologists are looking at battery life. We’ve finally caught up to the technology and now we’ve over-capacitized it and we are waiting for hardware to catch up again.”

Fewer apps for that

“Apps are a rubbish concept”, Shing states flatly, suggesting that HTML5 should replace them all. “What’s important are M-sites. It’s like the desktop of Windows 98 – if an app isn’t on your top screen, I wonder what the redundancy is on screen five.

“So there ‘s already a hierarchy there. This is why HTML5 and the next iteration of the graphical web are so important, they will be ubquitous across all devices.”

Even if Shing can fit more into an Internet minute than most, can he summarise some advice?

“Embrace fragmentation and go niche. Tech forecasting is a portfolio game, you need multiple iterations and you need to fail fast.”

It seems like an expensive game and being original appears to be the key to negotiating success. “Oh yeah, you need to stand out like dog’s balls,” grins Shing. Which is advice a bit harder to forget.

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