A Database Will Become Something Else Altogether. But What?

By on December 9th, 2010

Multics released the first commercial relational database management system in 1976. Soon thereafter, in the 1980s, direct marketers moved to computerize and warehouse names and addresses. Zoom forward to today. Databases have become the fundament of direct marketing, customer relationship management, and a lot of other core business initiatives. The question is: Where is this evolution going?

In particular, I’m thinking of Facebook, which is becoming an Internet of its own [or even theInternet itself, some argue], with vast quantities of personal information databased in one location. With the addition of Facebook business pages where folks actually shop from within Facebook, this “FB universe” takes on a whole new dimension of control [and, reportedly,profitability].

Should FB begin to thoroughly monetize it’s database by selling its data warehouse [and how can it possibly resist the temptation?] consisting of trillions of terabytes of information (names, email addresses, photos, educational background, connections, shopping and Internet habits, photos, videos, birth dates and records of children’s growth and activities, from over 500 million subscribers internationally, as of this hour) how will external databases compete? Despite a firestorm of warnings about what not to do on Facebook and the fact that we sign away our rights to everything we post there, the user base keeps growing. So …What will happen to databases as we currently know and love them?

It’s a huge question. And only imaginings of the Brave New World variety can intuit the possibilities. As I work on the April “Lists and Databases” issue of DMAW’s Marketing AdVents, I wonder how many years into the future this vital element that has driven direct marketing for three decades will remain as we have come to know and love it.

Thoughts anyone?

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