As every new year begins, analysts and pundits make predictions about what will be hot in the forthcoming months. We're no exception, so check out our list of 10 hot websites and services to watch in 2010.
If Grooveshark's growth over the past two quarters is any indication of its trajectory in the new year, 2010 should be a groovy time for the young music site.
What's the hook? You can go to Grooveshark and play, for free and in reasonably high fidelity, pretty much any song you can think to search for.
In addition to making your own playlists, you can network with other Grooveshark members and learn about new music from people you consider (or come to consider) 'taste makers'.
You can upload your own music to share with other listeners, and when somebody else buys a song that you've uploaded, you get credited.
Too good to be true? At first Grooveshark's business model sounded fishy to me - it seemed like blood in the water for the sharks who work in the legal departments of the record labels. (How many fish gags can I fit in here?)
But Grooveshark offers some tempting bait for the labels, too: if you hear a stream you like, you can easily buy it from iTunes or Amazon in higher sound quality than that of the free streaming song (labels profit).
And in theory, the social networking aspect of Grooveshark keeps the conversation about music going, and promotes more song sales (labels profit).
However, whether Grooveshark can challenge Spotify's popularity will remain to be seen, as it after all offers a very similar service to Spotify, which is already hugely popular.
5. Google Voice
Apple had good reason for turning up its nose, because Google Voice is poised to shake up the business of selling voice communications.
Google Voice unifies your various phones under one number, and manages all aspects of your voice communications. But the part that will eventually make Google Voice a household name is its free or cheap long-distance calling.
The stars are aligning for Google Voice, which is currently only available in the US. Google recently purchased Gizmo5, a VoIP service provider that allows users to make free or inexpensive VoIP calls from their mobile phones.
And the software might just run on a mobile phone whose insides are all Google: for example the Google Nexus One, so it will work on a cellular network, but can also use VoIP whenever possible.
Instead of a carrier subsidising the cost, Google could subsidise it in exchange for the right to display ads on the device.
Consumers would then have an alternative to signing an expensive two-year contract with a service provider.
This is all speculation right now, but such a result is just the kind of total market disruption that Google seeks, and is good at.
Google is obviously developing and acquiring technology for entry into the voice business; it only remains to be seen how dramatic Google's entrance will be.
Regardless, Google Voice will be the engine powering it.
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