The Future Of The Internet

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“In only a few short years, electronic computing systems have been invented and improved at a tremendous rate. But computers did not ‘just grow.’ They have evolved… They were born and they are being improved as a consequence of man’s ingenuity, his imagination… and his mathematics.” — 1958 IBM brochure

The Internet is a medium that is evolving at breakneck speed. It’s a wild organism of sweeping cultural change — one that leaves the carcasses of dead media forms1 in its sizeable wake. It’s transformative: it has transformed the vast globe into a ‘global village’ and it has drawn human communication away from print-based media and into a post-Gutenberg digital era2. Right now, its perils are equal to its potential. The debate over ‘net neutrality’ is at a fever pitch. There is a tug-of-war going on between an ‘open web’ and a more governed form of the web (like the Apple-approved apps on the iPad/iPhone) that has more security but less freedom.

IBM brochure3

An illustration of a computer from a 1958 IBM promotional brochure titled ‘World of Numbers’

So what’s the next step in its evolution, and what’s the big picture? What does the Internet mean as an extension of human communication, of the human mind? And forget tomorrow — where will the web be in fifty years, or a hundred? Will the Internet help make the world look like something out of Blade Runner or Minority Report? Let’s just pray it doesn’t have anything to do with The Matrix sequels, because those movies really sucked.

This article will offer in-depth analysis of a range of subjects — from realistic expectations stemming from current trends to some more imaginative speculations on the distant future.

Security

“Death of the Open Web”?

Those words have an ominous ring for those of us who have a deep appreciation of the Internet as well as high hopes for its future. The phrase comes from the title of a recent New York Times article4 that struck a nerve with some readers. The article paints a disquieting picture of the web as a “haphazardly planned” digital city where “malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary.”

There is a growing sentiment that the open web is a fundamentally dangerous place. Recent waves of hacked WordPress sites revealed exploited PHP vulnerabilities and affected dozens of well-known designers and bloggers like Chris Pearson5. The tools used by those with malicious intent evolve just as quickly as the rest of the web. It’s deeply saddening to hear that, according to Jonathan Zittrain, some web users have stooped so low as to set up ‘Captcha sweatshops’ where (very) low-paid people are employed to solve Captcha security technology for malicious purposes all day. This is the part where I weep for the inherent sadness of mankind.

“If we don’t do something about this,” says Jonathan Zittrain of the insecure web, “I see the end of much of the generative aspect of the technologies that we now take for granted.” Zittrain is a professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University and the author of The Future of the Internet: and How to Stop It; watch his riveting Google Talk on these subjects.6

Wild Bill7

The Wild West: mainstream media’s favorite metaphor for today’s Internet

The result of the Internet’s vulnerability is a generation of Internet-centric products — like the iPad, the Tivo and the XBOX — that are not easily modified by anyone except their vendors and their approved partners. These products do not allow unapproved third-party code (such as the kind that could be used to install a virus) to run on them, and are therefore more reliable than some areas of the web. Increased security often means restricted or censored content — and even worse — limited freedoms that could impede the style of innovation that propels the evolution of the Internet, and therefore, our digital future.

The web of 2010 is a place where a 17 year-old high school student can have an idea for a website, program it in three days, and quickly turn it into a social networking craze used by millions (that student’s name is Andrey Ternovskiy and he invented Chatroulette8). That’s innovation in a nutshell. It’s a charming story and a compelling use of the web’s creative freedoms. If the security risks of the Internet kill the ‘open web’ and turn your average web experience into one that is governed by Apple or another proprietary company, the Andrey Ternovskiys of the world may never get their chance to innovate.

Security Solutions

We champion innovation on the Internet and it’s going to require innovation to steer it in the right direction. Jonathan Zittrain says that he hopes we can come together on agreements for regulating the open web so that we don’t “feel that we have to lock down our technologies in order to save our future.”

According to Vint Cerf, vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, “I think we’re going to end up looking for international agreements – maybe even treaties of some kind – in which certain classes of behavior are uniformly considered inappropriate.”

Perhaps the future of the Internet involves social structures of web users who collaborate on solutions to online security issues. Perhaps companies like Google and Apple will team up with international governmental bodies to form an international online security council. Or maybe the innovative spirit of the web could mean that an independent, democratic group of digital security experts, designers, and programmers will form a grassroots-level organization that rises to prominence while fighting hackers, innovating on security technology, writing manifestos for online behavior, and setting an example through positive and supportive life online.

Many people are fighting to ensure your ability to have your voice heard online — so use that voice to participate in the debate, stay informed, and demand a positive future. Concerned netizens and Smashing readers: unite!

Freedom

Net Neutrality

Some believe that the fate of the Internet has been up for grabs ever since the federal government stopped enforcing ‘network neutrality’ rules in the mid-2000’s. In a nutshell, net neutrality means equality among the information that travels to your computer: everyone has the right to build a website that is just as public, affordable, and easily accessible as any other. However, some companies like phone and internet service providers are proposing ‘pay tiers’ (web service where you need to pay premium fees in order to allow visitors to access your site quickly). These tiers of web service could kill net neutrality by allowing those who can afford premium service (particularly large media companies who don’t like sharing their audience with your blog) greater access to consumers than the average web user.

The debate over net neutrality reached a boiling point when Google and Verizon announced a ‘joint policy proposal for an open Internet’9 on August 9th, 2010. Despite the proposal’s call for a “new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices” amongst online content, many criticized it10, citing leniency and loopholes.

Net neutrality needs to be made law. If the Internet were to have a slow lane and a fast lane, your average web user could lose many of his or her freedoms and opportunities online, thereby shattering the core values that make the Internet so profoundly valuable to society. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this thorny issue. To learn more, read the full proposal11 or watch the Bill Moyers episode ‘The Net @ Risk.’12

The World into the Web

Browser-based Everything

Google is developing a variety of applications and programs that exist entirely within the browser. Their PAC-MAN game13 was a preview of what’s to come because it allowed in-browser play of a simple, lightweight video game that required no downloads and relied on pure HTML, CSS, and Javascript. At the company’s 2010 I/O conference, Google laid out its plans to develop “rich multimedia applications that operate within the browser” (according to this New York Times report on the conference14). The company plans to sell in-browser web applications like photo editing software (imagine using a Photoshop equivalent entirely within the browser) that it will sell in a web applications store called the Chrome Web Store.15

If our programs and applications are about to be folded into the browser, what will exist within the browser in ten years? Currency? Education? Consciousness? Personally, I’m hopeful that my browser will be able to produce piping hot cheeseburgers sometime soon.

The Internet as a Collective Consciousness

The Internet is a medium, and philosopher Marshall McLuhan believed that all media are extensions of the human senses. The engine of our collective creative efforts is the force that’s causing the web to evolve more rapidly than any biological organism ever has.

buddha16

Transcendence is one of the great themes of human culture. Image of seated Buddha statue: The Metropolitan Museum of Art17

The Internet is an extension of the collective human mind and it’s evolving into a medium of transcendence. By constructing a place where the collective human consciousness is both centralized in one location (on your computer) and globally accessible (for those with the means to reach or use a computer, that is), our human spirit is transcending the human body. Way back in 1964, McLuhan himself wondered, “might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?”

With the advent of trends including social media, ‘lifecasting,’ and ‘mindcasting,’ the Internet is being used as a real-time portal for the human consciousness. Perhaps those trends will be inverted by some web users of the future: instead of bringing offline life to the web (as so-called ‘lifecasters’ do when they stream live video of their attendance at an offline event), some web users will live their entire public lives online. Imagine a pop star who conducts her entire career online: every interview, live performance, music video or album release conducted solely through a browser window or mobile screen. Or a media theorist who exploited the platform of the web while discussing the theoretical ramifications of those actions. It’d be a great gimmick.

The Web into the World

The ‘Web of Things’

The ‘web of things’ or ‘Internet of things’ is a concept that will be a reality (at least in a rudimentary form) in the near future. The idea is that devices, appliances, and even your pets can all be tracked online. With Google Maps for iPhone, you can currently track your location on a digital map in relation to the streets and landmarks in your area. So it’s not hard to imagine a world where you can zoom in on your location and see detailed, 3D renderings of your surroundings: the cars on your block, the coffee machine in your kitchen, even Rover running around in your backyard! And it’s a good thing that you’re digitally tracking the location of poor Rover; he’s liable to hop the fence and make a run for it now that you’ve created a satellite computer out of everything you own (including his dog collar) by attaching a tracking device to it.

AT&T is betting big on the web of things. According to this Reuters article18, the phone service provider is investing in tracking devices that could be installed in cars, on dog collars, and on the pallets used to move large shipments of products. The dog collar, for example, “could send text messages or emails to the owner of a pet when it strays outside a certain area, or the device could allow continuous tracking of the pet.”

Combine the concept of the ‘web of things’ with Second Life-style 3D imaging and you can imagine a web-based duplicate world — a virtual world that corresponds to the real one. But what are the implications of a world where every physical item has a corresponding digital existence online? Can we track the physical effects of climate change in the web of things? Will there be a digital avatar for every pelican carcass in the vicinity of the oil spill that’s devastating the Gulf of Mexico? It’s a tragic shame to develop a virtual world if we let the natural one go to waste in the meantime.

Interactive Landscapes

It has been said that today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s reality. Unfortunately, most good science fiction stories are cautionary tales set in dystopian nightmares.

N Building19

QR codes on the façade of Japan’s N Building. Photo: Gizmodo20

Simon Mainwaring reports21 on the N building in Japan, where “the whole building facade has been transformed into a real time dialogue between smart phones and what’s going on inside the store.” The exterior of the building is layered with QR codes (an alternate form of bar code) that can deliver real-time information to your phone. In Stephen Spielberg’s film Minority Report (adapted from a short story by mad genius Philip K. Dick), Gap ads came alive to hawk khakis to Tom Cruise. Looks like we’re about one step away from this scenario.

Mr. Mainwaring imagines a future with “billboards that watch you shop and make targeted suggestions based on your age, location and past buying habits,” and “stores will effectively be turned inside out as dialogue and personalized interaction with customers begins outside the store.”

The technology is cool, but it sounds like a pretty annoying future if you ask me. Who wants to be accosted by a holographic salesperson? The web grants us a great opportunity to use our collective voices to speak out on topics that matter to us. Because there are no regulations yet for much of this technology, it may be up to concerned citizens to make themselves heard if Internet-based technology is used in intrusive or abrasive ways.

The ‘Innerweb’

Cyborgs are among us already — humans whose physical abilities have been extended or altered by mechanical elements built into the body (people who live with pacemakers are one example). What will happen when the Internet becomes available on a device that is biologically installed in a human? What will the first internal user interfaces look like?

Here’s one speculation.

In the near future, we may be capable of installing the Internet directly into the user’s field of vision via a tiny computer chip implanted into the eye. Sound far-fetched? I doubt that it would sound far-fetched for Barbara Campbell, whose sight has been partially restored by a digital retinal implant (CNN reports on Barbara’s artificial retina22).

Ms. Campbell was blind for many years until she had a small microchip surgically implanted in her eye. A rudimentary image of Ms.Campbell’s surroundings is transmitted to the device, which stimulates cells in her retina, in turn transmitting a signal to her brain. It’s a miracle that the development of a bionic eye has begun to help the blind see.

How else might doctors and scientists take advantage of the internal microchip? Perhaps the user’s vision will be augmented with an Internet-based interface with capabilities including geolocation or object identification. Imagine if technology like Google Goggles23 (a web-based application that identifies images from landmarks to book covers) was applied inside that interface. The act of seeing could not only be restored but augmented; a user might be capable of viewing a landscape while simultaneously identifying web-based information about it or even searching it for physical objects not visible to the naked eye. Apply the concept of augmented sight with the idea of the ‘web of things’ — an environment where physical objects have a corresponding presence on the web — and you can imagine a world where missing people are located, theft is dramatically reduced, the blind can see, and ‘seeing’ itself means something more than it used to.

If the web is an extension of our senses, it follows suit that the web may be capable of modifying those senses or even accelerating their evolution.

The Crown Jewels

“The next Bill Gates will be the deliverer of a highly technological solution to some of our climate change challenges.” — Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham

In preparation for this article, I considered a variety of wild ideas and fun speculations about the future. Could the Internet be used to solve the problem of climate change, generate tangible matter, or contact extraterrestrial life? Maybe those ideas sound like the stuff of imaginative fiction, but in a world where quantum teleportation has been achieved24 and researchers have created a living, synthetic cell25, it almost seems as if the concept of science fiction is being eradicated while real technology brings our wildest fantasies to life. Here is the result of my most daring (absurd?) speculation.

Time Travel

Eadweard Muybridge26

The functionality of the Internet relies on a linear series of events. Image: Eadweard Muybridge

I called on physics teacher Mark Stratil to answer my last burning question: could the Internet ever be capable of facilitating the development of time travel? Here’s Mark’s answer:

“The Internet is still based on computers, which make linear calculations. Right now, all computers are based on binary code, which is a series of yes and no questions. You can make something that’s incredibly complex with a series of yes and no questions, but it takes a certain amount of time. The Internet still has to go through those calculations and it still physically has to make one calculation that will lead to the next calculation that will lead to the next. So no matter how fast we can get our computers – they’re making billions of calculations, trillions of calculations per second – there’s still going to be some lag time. They’re still limited by time in that way. They still need some time to make that conversation or that calculation.

In that way, they’re kind of chained to time. Their whole existence is based on a linear sequence of things that happen. In order to create something else, something that goes outside of time, you would have to make it a non-linear system — something that that’s not based on a series of yes and no questions, because those have to be answered in a precise order. It would have to be some kind of system that was answering all the questions at once.

So Mark’s short answer to my fundamental question was basically that the Internet, in its current state, would not be capable of facilitating time travel. However, if the Internet was liberated from the linear structure of binary code and migrated onto an operating system that ‘answered all questions at once,’ then maybe it could have the potential to manipulate time or transcend the boundaries of time.

Sounds unlikely at this point, but one of the Internet’s greatest capabilities is the opportunity to share and develop ideas like these!

Conclusion

Responsible Evolution

Through technology, we hold the reins to our own evolution.

For the first time in history, it might be said that there are moral implications in the act of evolution. The Internet is an extension of our senses and our minds, and its progress is propelled by our own creative and intellectual efforts. The future of the Internet will be shaped by millions of choices and decisions by people from all walks of life. Designers and programmers like us have the advantage of technical skill and specialized knowledge. Given the increasing presence of the Internet in our lives, our choices can have deep reverberations in human society.

We’ll face small choices like what color to use for a button and larger choices like which platforms to endorse and which clients to support with our work. But the real questions form broad patterns behind every media trend and every mini technological revolution. Can we use technology to develop solutions to environmental problems — or will we abandon the natural world in favor of a digital one and the ‘web of things’? Have we fully considered what it means to merge biology and technology? And finally, do we really need a digital tracking device on our coffee machines?

What a thrilling time to be alive! Let’s proceed with great enthusiasm and a commitment to designing a future that is meaningful, peaceful, and staggeringly exciting.

Partial Bibliography

Related Posts

You may be interested in the following related posts:

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://techcrunch.com/2010/05/19/google-web-growth/
  2. 2 http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/04/the-gutenberg-parenthesis-thomas-pettitt-on-parallels-between-the-pre-print-era-and-our-own-internet-age/
  3. 3 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/brochure.jpg
  4. 4 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/magazine/23FOB-medium-t.html?ref=magazine?src=smt3
  5. 5 http://www.pearsonified.com/2010/04/wordpress-pharma-hack.php
  6. 6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAsb4gtEpaw
  7. 7 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/bill.jpg
  8. 8 http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/one-on-one-andrey-ternovskiy-creator-of-chatroulette/
  9. 9 http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2010/08/joint-policy-proposal-for-open-internet.html
  10. 10 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/technology/10net.html?_r=1&hp
  11. 11 http://www.scribd.com/doc/35599242/Verizon-Google-Legislative-Framework-Proposal
  12. 12 http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/net/watch.html
  13. 13 http://www.google.com/pacman
  14. 14 http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/google-pitches-a-web-centric-future/
  15. 15 https://chrome.google.com/webstore
  16. 16 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/buddha.jpg
  17. 17 http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/43.24.3
  18. 18 http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62N6ST20100325
  19. 19 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/nbuilding2.jpg
  20. 20 http://gizmodo.com/5446228/augmented-reality-facade-shows-buildings-real+time-deets-and-tweets
  21. 21 http://simonmainwaring.com/future/the-future-of-shopping-what-happens-when-walls-start-talking/
  22. 22 http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/12/11/bionic.eye/index.html
  23. 23 http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/
  24. 24 http://io9.com/5544743/china-has-a-quantum-teleporter-and-we-dont
  25. 25 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/21/science/21cell.html
  26. 26 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/muybridge.jpg
  27. 27 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/magazine/23FOB-medium-t.html?ref=magazine?src=smt3
  28. 28 http://simonmainwaring.com/future/the-future-of-shopping-what-happens-when-walls-start-talking/
  29. 29 http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/04/the-gutenberg-parenthesis-thomas-pettitt-on-parallels-between-the-pre-print-era-and-our-own-internet-age/
  30. 30 http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/google-pitches-a-web-centric-future/
  31. 31 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAsb4gtEpaw
  32. 32 http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/net/watch.html
  33. 33 http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Future-of-the-Internet-IV/Overview.aspx?r=1
  34. 34 http://techcrunch.com/2010/05/19/google-web-growth
  35. 35 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/07/06/the-evolution-of-the-logo/
  36. 36 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/08/the-dying-art-of-design/
  37. 37 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/17/lessons-from-swiss-style-graphic-design/
  38. 38 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/21/art-manifestos-and-their-applications-in-contemporary-design/

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Dan Redding creates websites and print design at his studio, Magnetic State. Follow Dan on Twitter.

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  1. 1

    Very well thought of Article and very informative. Thank you.

  2. 2

    Nicely put together article Dan. It must have spent a lot of time in the research phase for this one. Thanks for the great read. ^_^

  3. 3

    Nice article.
    Hope that the Internet will be accessible in the future :-)

  4. 4

    Rupnarayan Bhattacharya

    August 11, 2010 4:56 am

    Its really tough to say what will happen in future as new technologies are evolving everyday. We can only hope for the best.

  5. 5

    Have been watching Verizon & Google announcing their version of net neutrality this week. Thank you for giving an honest view on this subject. Its getting hard to decipher what a corporation like Google wants us to believe about “Net neutrality” and what reality is.

    • 6

      Thanks Josh. That complex subject could easily take up a post on its own. I basically just tried to summarize the issue so that readers might research further and make up their minds for themselves. Check out this scathing piece at Wired: http://bit.ly/8XYmi2

  6. 7

    The Internet is evolving. Technology is evolving. The world as we know it is evolving.

    William Bell
    Massive Dynamics

    • 8

      “Who will be man’s successor? To which the answer is: We are ourselves creating our own successors. Man will become to the machine what the horse and the dog are to the man; the conclusion being that machines are, or are becoming, animate.” -Samuel Butler, 1863 (four years after publication of Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’)

  7. 9

    These comments don’t encourage discussion, they’re comments for the sake of writing comments. Like this one. Long live the internet!

  8. 10

    I think the ‘open web’ vs ‘Apps’ thing is slightly misleading. For starters, 17 year olds were writing popular games on their proprietary home computers back in the early 80s, and some of them are writing iPhone and Android Apps now.

    Secondly, there seem to be a lot of people out there who object, in principle, to writing any software that consumes web services, but presents the data using non-web technologies. I think this is a bit of a mistake – it is viewing ‘the web’ as being synonymous with the browser and HTML – the presentation layer, when what is more important to innovation is having an underlying open data layer.

    The existence of Twitter client apps does not negate the Web in any way, unless companies actually start producing apps rather than sites. So far, I don’t see any sign of that.

    Basically, I think there is a lot of FUD coming from people who believe in the idea of a completely standardised computing environment, based on all software being delivered through the browser only. A lot of these people were advocating Java as achieving the same thing in the 90s. They see incompatibility as a problem to be solved, but the flipside of the same question has to be understanding why consumers choose particular systems.

    What is also interesting is that mobile Apps suggest that users actually prefer having different Apps for Facebook, Twitter, etc over browsing to web apps – even if the ‘Apps’ are actually implemented in web technologies.

  9. 11

    It is very misleading to claim that closed environments (such as xbox or ipad) cannot be exploited. is the author of this article not familiar with the iphone jailbreak website that uses a PDF exploit to jail break an iphone without any other necessary tools?

    • 12

      I believe the scenario presented is not the current state of lock down success, but rather the intended goal and what might become of it in the future.

  10. 14

    I found this article really interesting and “scary” at the same time… I’m really excited and looking forward to experiencing the internet as it evolves, but at the same time, I have major concerns over malicious practices on the web.

    The “Wild West” metaphor describes the internet (in it’s current state) perfectly – Perhaps there could be a “Most Wanted” site for Cyber-Criminals, offering bounty’s for their capture? – Or am I just getting too carried away?

    Anyway, thanks for writing this article. I really enjoyed reading it. But I must say, I have to disagree with your statement “Let’s just pray it doesn’t have anything to do with The Matrix sequels, because those movies really sucked.” – I loved those movies, despite Keanu Reeves appalling acting!

  11. 15

    Interesting article. Lots of things are happening and its fun to speculate what it all means. Came across this article a few years ago:

    FAQ about the meaning of Life

  12. 16

    Pretty awesome article… I particularly like the humor included throughout, which really helps in reading an article of this length.

    “Personally, I’m hopeful that my browser will be able to produce piping hot cheeseburgers sometime soon.” – LOL

    As far as time travel through a non-linear solution… this still wouldn’t really solve the problem with calculation duration, as well as, there are reasons why it is a linear structure… cause and effects are the utensils of a reactive web. The further abstract a solution is, the more intensive of calculations per task is required.

  13. 17

    What about the content of the web? I think the type of content and information is transitioning as well. People are beginning to see the impracticality of “Top X lists” and beginning to gravitate to more useful advice.

    That is why I started http://UXMovement.com where I share practical tips on user experience design. If you’re interested feel free to check it out.

  14. 18

    Great article! I actually think the future of the internet lies in the fact that commerce has gotten that more easier and innovative for all of us. Just look at what companies like DubLi, FourSquare and Twitter are doing to lead the way for us!

  15. 19

    I’ve never read something so distorted in my life. I’m upset i just wasted 5 minutes of my day on this…
    But, hopefully the author will take 5 minutes to read my comment, and then we will be even.

    False claim #1:
    proprietary products are safer than open source
    The truth : It is a poor assumption to say that there is a connection between proprietary software and security.

    Example:
    Firefox = open source, and was wildly popular because it was very secure.
    Internet Explorer =Proprietary and incredibly buggy and historically has many security vulnerabilities .

    Conclusion
    Friendly reminder, progress is driven by business and business models. And business is driven by offering quality to customers. And if consumers want secure products and secure internet experience, than thats what the great open source community will focus on ( and open source doesnt mean they dont make money, i.e. firefox was open source and free for consumers, but it still made incredible amount of money by making google its default search engine… that’s a winning model)

  16. 20

    Not one word of mention towards ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)

    This is by far one of the most pressing issues regarding our freedom on the internet today. Not 50 or 100 years. This is being set in motion now.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement

  17. 21

    The death of net neutrality is a sad proposition indeed.

  18. 22

    Very interesting, well written article.

    Though, as a designer, I would just like to see web get to the point where there is pure creativity without the burden/limitations of writing clean code like a professional coder must in so many languages. Just as in print they used to have manual type/image setters with that now being achieved easily on robust layout software with direct to plate printing, my hope is that the internet has achieves that type fluidity and more (like high speed laser printing).

    I know this thinking makes me seem silly to some. I also know this kind of talk makes true web programmers upset and perhaps a bit scared (just like the typesetters of yesteryear) with thoughts of quality control and job security. One must ask though will not website creation progress towards ease of use to the user? Inventions just like the camera, the computer, the telephone, even the automobile had need, in their first years, of specially trained technicians in order for them to run at all, now most anyone doesn’t need much training to run well if not exceptionally well. As a trained designer I do know that things of this nature are abused by laymen (like photography). But I do hope that site development will go from 3 days/months to within the hour with all (if not more) of the robust features we enjoy now.

    Here’s hoping…

  19. 23

    The word “privacy” doesn’t come up a single time in the article. I think you are missing that development completely. Observation, government control, bank oversight over personal finances, credit ratings… all that has happened already (the financial crisis was only possible thanks to the internet) – so where do you think will THAT go?

  20. 24

    And what about the Semantic Web? :)

  21. 25

    The Internet its a tool for the humanity, if change it by the the users and enterprises; but his consecuences (descripted in this article) is progress. Actually, I m thinking and writing about a theme for a future paper: “the Internaut or the future human be will be”

  22. 26

    ….. a very interesting article about the “Future of the Internet” !! :-)

  23. 27

    You make many excellent observations in this article about long term trends. But the problem with many neo-futurist takes on the future of technology and culture, you miss out on one growing trend: abandonment and rejection of new technologies. I’ve been a web developer since the early 1990s and my first look at the WWW was a demonstration given by Marc Andreeson to visiting librarians when he was still a grad student at the Univ. of Illinois. While I really enjoy where technology is headed, I’m hearing from more and more non-techie friends that they are tired of social media, Facebook, cell phones and the Internet. One trend will be the growing numbers of people who go on “digital diets” and others who simply go offline for good.

  24. 28

    Centralization in the name of “security” is the ever present nauseating stench continually emanating from the high and mighty statist mouthpieces such as the New York Times and establishment ivory league legal alarmist’s like Jonathan Zittrain, I’d much rather deal with the potential inefficiencies involving the internet which are not a fraction the oppressive inefficiency history has continually proven is the only resultant outcome of top down, government framed centralized control of anything.

  25. 29

    Great article Dan. I am a web developer my self and I believe in net neutrality. It’s too cool to see peoples going web…. I know it has some security loopholes. But let’s see what Google comes up with.

  26. 30

    A very interesting article. Personally internet for me is a place where you find information about anything, where I can put my views about any topic and lastly keep contact with my whole social circle. Today you are somewhere known by your status on the web.

    But yes it’s not secure. I still think thrice before sending my confidential data over it. I totally agree on the net neutrality thing. The biggest advantage of internet is that it can reach out to each and every single person without restrictions.

    Lastly er even I would like it if my browser gives me cheese burgers but i would prefer tea, as I need one in every one hour.

  27. 31

    A very good article about the future of the internet. I think in the future, flash games will be very popular on the internet. Just like this website:
    Physics Games

  28. 32

    if we go beyond the internet how it could be..because each and every minute the world is changing y cant the internet….it was a good to read this article..

  29. 33

    “And finally, do we really need a digital tracking device on our coffee machines?”
    Alas technology and business are so completely intricate that we have little power to counter even blatantly stupid innovations. If someone invents a useless hi-tech device she only needs a good marketing team to convince people they really want it.
    If, as a developer or engineer, you refuse to create such or such device for ethical reasons, you’ll soon be replaced by someone who will.
    So yes, if you worry about helping the world rather than making it worse, leave your actual company and join one with respectable ethics.

  30. 34

    You wrote:

    “Through technology, we hold the reins to our own evolution. For the first time in history, it might be said that there are moral implications in the act of evolution. (…)”

    I think you are trying to describe “CULTURE” which alway has been technological, intellectual, sociological, etc. EVOLUTION…

    Always in history, when new technologies, communication methods, knowledge (“Have you heard…? The earth is a globe and not flat!”) arose, these were accompanied by moral implications which led to new thinking-models and revolutionary human behaviour.

  31. 35

    Nice article, interesting stuff but not to sure about where the time-travel bit came from.

    Also where is may solar powered internet fountain?

    • 36

      That like a few other parts in the article should be interpreted metaphorically. You would translate that in: “Internet can do anything”

      Best depiction of what internet does to people is in Pixar s Wall-E.

      • 37

        I know some of my ideas here are far out, but the most fun part of writing this article was to consider those big, crazy ideas. I pitched most of them to brilliant physics teacher Mark Stratil during a two-hour interview I conducted with him. I really did ask him if the Internet could ever be able to generate tangible matter so I could have a burger! Maybe I should transcribe and publish that whole interview sometime.

        • 38

          But the internet DOES generate tangible matter!

          Havent you ever bought something off the internet and have it appear like magic at your door in a few days?

          all you had before was intangible stuff – money you worked for but didnt actually have in your hand, and when you ordered, all you had to go on was a representation of what your item looked like

  32. 39

    great article i really enjoyed it. good job.

  33. 40

    Great sharing of information! A lot of ideas about the future of the internet. I believe internet always be useful to everyone. It gives a lot of information all over the world.

  34. 41

    awesome article….. and worth reading.No body can guess about the future of internet as its evolving day by day. thanks for the article.

  35. 42

    Great article.

    In our today’s world, the purpose of the internet has largely been to bridge the communication gap – and so the Internet turns out to be the most important fitting solution to “that” most important problem of today. The future has its own most important problem and the most fitting solution of it yet to be discovered with the unveiling of the problem. And so that’s buried deep in the future.

    The “Web” development branches should continue to be management by the www consortium and not by law. For whatever reason, when any law by any third parties (private companies, government etc) are introduced into the “web”, that same day will be the start of the death of the Internet, no matter how small the regulation will be. When the rules change, the methodology of the game changes.

    Just like all other technological advancements of the past (e.g. the typewriter, industrialism, etc), the Internet will one day give birth to something new as well that will take its place, and then die. And so just like all other technological inventions and innovations of the past, the Internet should be left alone to evolve itself and to give us its best, since its not a destination, but a journey towards something else (new) more functional, more useful, and more fitting for the problems of the future.

  36. 43

    What people do not realize, or some do but won’t admit it, is that if the internet tomorrow became prohibitively expensive or restrictive, or went away all together, people would sit down and build their own with the available technology. This in fact may be going on right this minute.

    This action would be comparable to people turning to agriculture after doing hunting and gathering for years from a seemingly inexhaustible resource.

  37. 44

    sadly the internet is and will always have folks looking to do harm, nice thing is, most of us use it for what it is, what it promises to be and do. looking forward to what’s around the corner

  38. 45

    Great article!, very informative

  39. 46

    Thanks for so many thoughtful comments, Smashing readers. I liked Fred’s suggestion that if the Internet became “prohibitively expensive or restrictive, or went away all together, people would sit down and build their own with the available technology.” Maybe the Internet itself could become the prototype for something bigger.

    Another topic I became fascinated with while researching this article was the Singularity movement, which deals with the idea that the evolution of our technology is rapidly accelerating, and that humanity will begin to merge with technology in the near future. Here’s a fascinating video about Ray Kurzweil, the most prominent figure dealing with the subject: http://bit.ly/E0jQp

  40. 47

    A very interesting and thought provoking article! While the discussion over security and net neutrality in the Wild West of the web is scary, it’s exciting to think about the untapped capabilities of the internet and how we can use it to enact positive change in our future-cheeseburgers included.

  41. 48

    Great article

  42. 49

    Demeuzois Julien

    August 12, 2010 7:06 am

    Some years ago i had to give thought to the shapes that fit to the word “ubimedia”, here’s a slideshare document who compiles my researchs : http://www.slideshare.net/demeuzois/contenus-et-stratgies-marketing-quelle-place-et-quel-avenir-pour-le-marketing-visuel

    it could be a graphic extend of your article… (sorry, french language but it’s mostly a visual document)

  43. 50

    Do we really need to suggest and support the biological evolutionary theory while talking about changes to these man made systems that we change?

  44. 51

    Semantic Web is the Future of Internet

    Web of Data or maybe LinkedData

  45. 52

    I believe there will come a day in the not too distant future when there will exist computers that can answer all questions at once, rather than in a linear sequence. The speed potential of quantum computing and electronic crystal data storage systems are basically limited only by the rate of our ability to implement them.

  46. 53

    Interesting article but I gotta say… anyone who thinks the internet has anything to do with transcedence has a shallow view of what that word can mean.

    • 54

      After having given this comment considerable thought, I have come to believe that you are the one with a limited definition of transcendence. Transcendence does not only come about through explicitly spiritual pursuits; it can be experienced by everyday people as well as religious prophets. Transcendence can be experienced through art, through poetry, through a simple, sublime moment in nature. And if we are talking about liberation or expansion of the human consciousness through technology, then we are talking about a form of transcendence there, too.

      Thank you for your comment. It really did make me ponder.

      • 55

        Of course I’m wrong. The other alternative has the potential to take you out of your comfort zone. Who wants that ?

  47. 56

    Nice article but you lost me when you equated “hacker” with “a person who causes security breaches” or “inappropriate behavior”.

  48. 57

    Computers can make non-linear calculations, simple put a non-linear function to calculate.
    Actually they do a lot of non-linear calculations.
    The limitation of using bits with 2 states is not, by any means, linear calculations only.

  49. 58

    Loughlin McSweeney

    August 12, 2010 11:13 am

    I think people will look back at 2000 – 2015 as the absolute golden age of the Internet and more concisely the world wide web. As ISPs and the entertainment industry lobby groups get their teeth stuck into destroying net neutrality (which in my opionion will become apparent by 2014) people will start to realise what they let slip away.

    Consider Apple – their products (specifically the iPhone) has caused a worldwide interest in mobile technologies, development frameworks and mobile apps. And it’s all fully controlled by Apple, they make the rules and say to jump and the developers have to ask how high.

    This model flies in the face of Tim Berner Lee’s original vision of an open web, it’s just a small window into how the beginning of the end is panning out in front of us all and the vast majority of us either don’t realise, don’t understand the issue or simply just don’t care…

  50. 59

    Good stuff, very Informative.

  51. 60

    Great article, quite stimulating. One of the issues with most of the arguments though is that it seems to assume technology is eveolving at the same rate all over the globe. I can tell you as someone who resides in a third world country this is not so…the majority of the world has no access to cutting edge technology and so its gonna be a while before a computer chip is embedded in all dogs.

  52. 61

    Dan, real nice work here. I am looking forward to the Internets evolution! Pretty fabulous stuff.

  53. 62

    This article is scary. It looks like in the future the concept of “privacy” will no longer exists thanks to the internet. It reminds me of Big Brother :/

  54. 63

    Very informative!

  55. 64

    what a mind F***!!!! to answer all the Questions at once!!! that is God! is the final version of the Internet God2.0. WOW!!!

  56. 65

    Great article! Thanks very much.

  57. 66

    At the end, we must remember that technology is only a tool and don’t let be humans be the tool of technology. Don’t let apps rule our life lol

  58. 67

    Great article!
    I have some thoughts of my own about it:
    1) If you want secure internet the open web is the direction to go. If large companies and governments would have technological control over the web that wouldn’t make it any safer (By the way I can’t believe that this kind of control is economically or technically phaisable!)
    Rules just spawn more demand to break them. (There is always more corruption in authoritative regimes than in democratic ones).
    If everyone can contribute to the web there will be more efforts to make it safer. Considering that there are more people with good intentions than ones with bad.
    And as people before me have added closed systems aren’t necessarily safer than open ones. – Just look at Linux vs Windows when it comes to security…

    The other thing: I have a theory of my own on the legal side of things.
    Say there would be some international treaties regulating the web’s content and large media companies would allay with telco giants to get them advantages for content delivery… OK
    I’m pretty sure that there would be countries that would deny these agreements and allow hosting of any kind of content within there borders – Think of it as Switzerland, an Cayman Islands for data!
    In every regulations – technical are legal – there will be loopholes, and the more regulations the more loopholes there are.

  59. 68

    mm… I kind of disagree. I doubt the Internet will stop being safe or free or secure. Why? Because we, as users, decide what we post online and we don’t. So far, the web is the only truly 100% democratic thing in human history, and, as you can see, both positive and sinful things dwell together in the same place.

    Also, I will control what I post online every time I write or program a web page. Your claim for an insecure web are groundless. Same for the net neutrality claim, I’m afraid.

  60. 69

    Every time I loose something I’m starting to look for it at google.com. Then i realize that you can’t look for your keys in an seach engine, but I think you will in 10 years.

    Peter Eklöf

  61. 70

    Very deep and interesting article, kudos to you my friend!

    Are you ready for the revolution of evolution……..

  62. 71

    Super stuff.. enjoyed reading it..

  63. 72

    The Matrix rules!

  64. 73

    thanks for the clarity and thoroughness on the subject. I’ve put a lot of chips on Google.. I hope they don’t turn evil .. and I don’t think they will. In the end, I believe there will always be a backlash of hackers that will circumvent the medium to stay ahead of the game.

  65. 74
  66. 75

    Very good, well thought-out article Dan, thanks for sharing it. And thanks SM for publishing this kind of work – great stuff, please keep it up!

  67. 76

    yup…!!!
    Very nice article.
    Keep it up. :)

  68. 77

    Perhaps the evolution of quantum computing could one day facilitate time travel? That would be cool!!
    With regards to using the Internet to support environmental sustainability, I’ve recently begun teaching a ‘Sustainable Futures’ unit on the MA Interactive Media at LCC, University of the Arts London, and hopefully more courses like this will follow suit. In my own company we’re also starting work on developing Web apps to help support sustainable initiatives, as we know the right tools can really help facilitate progress, and it’s progress in this direction (rather than the increasingly ubiquitous forms of digital marketing) I’d really love to see.

  69. 78

    Interesting Article ! how is internet impacting the world of Paper Media design?

  70. 79

    Interesting read

  71. 80

    Thanks for posting, very interesting post.

  72. 81

    Thanks for this post
    its all true because now everything is adjust into one single browse

  73. 82

    Nicely written article! Be interested to hear if you’ve read Accelerando by Charles Stross and your take on it.

  74. 83

    Fantastic article – if Smashing Magazine had more of this quality, it’d be awesome turned up to 11. More!

  75. 84

    The Internet is evolving like life in the future everything will be web, every day take over as the cloud computing in the world

  76. 85

    I Imagined a new World on this article!
    Awsome!!!

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