Happy new year Canada! As we begin 2018, let's take a look at a few of the big digital trends that will play out throughout the year. From cannabis to cryptocurrency, the internet in Canada and beyond will be shaped by these forces this year.
If all goes as planned, marijuana should be legal in time for Canada Day 2018. That means that an entire new legal category of businesses is opening up, a trend we see daily as the number of 4/20-related domains being registered rises higher and higher. While sales of legal marijuana are mostly expected to be handled by governments, a lot of industries could see a spillover effect (we're looking at you Cheetos).
Whether you are just curious about the underlying blockchain technology, or are thinking of investing in some Ethereum, there are cryptocurrency-related websites popping up all over the place. While it would appear that a significant portion of the growth of cryptocurrencies can be attributed to its support among hackers, there's no reason to believe that currency is any more resistant to mainstream disruption than any other industry.
3. Digital identity
Social media had a rough 2017, and 2018 is looking to be no different. As networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube tackle issues such as fake news, harassment and out-of-control bot armies it has never been more important to own and control your digital identity. While Facebook can change its algorithm and bury your content on a whim, a personal website puts you in control of your digital identity. Owning your own website, and your personal domain, means that you (not advertisers) are in charge.
While our friends in the U.S. have been talking to themselves in their living rooms for a while now, the voice revolution has just begun in Canada. Both the Google Home and Amazon Echo recently launched in Canada, and the race is on to become the king of their voice-enabled smart speakers. Canadian businesses should be thinking about how their products, data and customer service fit in a voice-powered world. Canadian consumers should be asking whether or not the benefits of an always-listening device in their home outweighs the potential security and privacy risks.
5. Data sovereignty
As Canadians increasingly look to cloud services to run everything from their email to their personal finances, it's important to remember that there is really no such thing as "the cloud". Your data lives on a server somewhere, and that server is often in the United States, which makes the issue of data sovereignty something that Canada should be considering
The bad news is that Canadians' use of U.S.-based cloud services puts their personal data at risk from hacks that aren't even targeted at Canada (remember Equifax?). The good news is that many large cloud service providers such as Amazon and Microsoft are beginning to provide Canadian-based infrastructure to store Canadian data. As our tax records, medical files, and financial data are migrating online, Canadians, and their governments, will need to decide if their personal data belongs in another country.
With Canadian retailers continuing the struggle, and Amazon continuing to devour the world of high-volume e-commerce, the power of local producers and makers is growing. While you may never buy your next smartphone from a local shop (unless it is made out of wood), Canadians are seeking out local, handcrafted products and experiences more than ever. Food, crafts, beer, home decor and art are all areas where originality, quality ingredients and local flare matter more than low prices and glossy packaging. Oh and don't forget, a .CA domain is a perfect way to declare that your business is local, and proudly Canadian.
7. International sports
2018 is a big year for sports. The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup is in Russia. In a world that is increasingly divided into small niches, large sporting events provide a common platform for people to rally around. These big events mean that there will be millions of eyeballs all pointed at the same thing which provides a great opportunity for a business to stand out with great content or a savvy social media campaign. Although Canada didn't qualify for the World Cup, soccer is still extremely popular in this country, and of course we'll all be cheering for Team Canada in South Korea. Go Canada!