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Which digital media will matter in 2026?
I wound up in some spirited conversations about this topic with my wife after we welcomed our first-born in February. It was only after our daughter was born, and we were fully committed to her name, that we started to discuss which digital identities we would reserve for her.
The focus of our conversations quickly shifted to 2026. That's when our daughter will turn 12. She will be legally eligible to sign up for a host of media properties and digital services herself. By then, she'll also be well past the age at which she'll have strong opinions about which media properties matter to her.
To illustrate one family's attempt at forecasting what will matter more than a decade from now, here's how the conversation netted out:
Email: The only email service we considered for our daughter was Gmail, based on our own personal preferences. My wife started to register a new address for our baby, but Google advised us that the service was meant for people 13 and older, so we paused.
It wasn't that we cared about the age limit. (Last year I helped my niece add a couple of years to her age to get a Skype account.) Rather, it made me wonder why we were doing it at all. We weren't going to send emails from our daughter to us or others; it felt odd creating a persona for this little individual who was already developing her own personality. While I'd wager that Google will still be around for more than a decade -- and email will exist in some form -- I trust that my daughter will be okay coming up with an address that suits her.
Social networks: Twitter seemed like the most logical social network when considering reserving a handle for a dozen years from now. Perhaps its most important asset is its deep integration with live TV -- another form of media that should soldier on. Twitter is also relatively unique in that handles still matter. On Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere, people are known by their real names, but on Twitter, you are your username (at least for now).
For my daughter, it's possible to squat on a handle and do little with it until she decides to own it. Yet even if Twitter is still around in a decade, will she use it? Maybe by 2026, teens will think Twitter has some retro cachet. Or maybe Twitter will just be a boring news aggregator that parents and grandparents use. If Twitter does have that kind of longevity, my daughter may not need her handle for 20 or 30 years. For a different approach, there are some parents who tweet on behalf of their children, but I can't imagine putting in the effort that my former colleague Matt Wurst does for @LilWurst.
Websites: Even people who have never registered a URL have been asking me if I've reserved domain names for my daughter. This one seemed like a no-brainer at first. A domain is an open book. She can ultimately do what she wants with it, and there may always be a little extra cachet to a memorable dot-com domain.
Unlike email addresses or social handles, however, domain names cost money, and many domain names sit idle. My daughter won't need her own domain if she wants to blog, run a Tumblr, contribute to Medium, post an About.me bio, or participate in whatever services are popular in the years to come. And I'm not convinced that domains will be the default taxonomy of the web going forward. Ultimately, my wife and I settled on a compromise: We'd reserve one dot-com with her full name, and a dot-me with just her first name, and hold it for three years. In 2017, we can revisit the decision.
That's how rattled I am about how fast media are changing. Nothing should be taken for granted. Some form of email will prevail indefinitely, and that may look more like Gmail, Facebook messaging, WeChat, or something we haven't encountered yet. Facebook has lasted one decade, but that doesn't mean it will last two. For many brands and people, domain names are far less important than their social identities.
Let's revisit this in 2026 and see how prescient these decisions were. I have no doubt my daughter will have opinions on this long before her 12th birthday, and she'll tell me exactly what she thinks of my decisions.