There has been a lot of speculation and head scratching about the next version of Facebook, the new Twitter or the next generation of social media platforms. Analysts, businesses and the community are all trying to predict what will dominate the market, and which product will be one step ahead when the new generation of tools appear. There are several conflicting schools of thought here. My own theory about what’s going to happen is totally different from those of some of my technical colleagues in the industry, but it resonates well with what others say. The future depends on your point of view of course’on whether you view social media as an enterprise discussion or a consumer discussion. Both are valid points. However, the main methods that tie both of these enterprise and consumer markets together are mobility and search.

One of the biggest step changes we will see in social media is through the advancement of search. Search will play a powerful role in making new social media items discoverable. Currently search engines often display blog posts and forum comments, videos and podcasts. Google has already launched itself into the social space with its Google Buzz service. Real-time items in Buzz already display in Google search results. Facebook, traditionally a walled garden, now has items appearing on search pages and Google Alerts will show the latest tweets for your user name and where they have been syndicated.

As search engines strike further deals with social media application providers, information or status updates will be returned in search results outside the social media application itself. This is available at the moment, albeit in a limited functionality, but trending news items on Digg, trending topics on Twitter and widely shared items on Facebook could soon appear in search results for your query along with ordinary search results. The exposure of real-time results will have quite far reaching effects on the way we interact. This advancement will bring more people into engaging with social media sites.

People who don’t traditionally class themselves as social media consumers or users will be exposed to new forms of media information through searches. This will enable new consumers to interact with each other and engage with your brand. Over time, this new way of interaction will permeate more into the way we use search with search engine enhancements. Perhaps there will be the ability to refine search results by your social group, which may encourage more social types of searches.

As bandwidth available to homes and mobile devices increases, the way we use video will change. Real-time video chat channels will empower the information worker to work more dynamically. This increase means that more and more of us can work from home and have a good video connection for face to face meetings with our colleagues in the office. Free or low cost WiFi will become more widespread and accessible, enabling mobile workers to remain connected wherever they are. TV and video on demand will provide access across many channels to deliver a consistent experience across PCs and mobile devices. Streaming video will be delivered directly to movie theatres so that within 10 years we will be able to see a high quality streamed movie on the day that it is released worldwide.

Applications like Facebook, which provide users with the ability to chat over instant messaging in real time, will dominate more traditional static applications. Switching from instant messages to video within the application will become simple. Social media applications will strive to become your universal inbox. Filtering systems will become more commonplace in applications as users seek to categorise their many different networks of friends and connections.