The Future of the Internet: Like Now But Better

By December 19, 2008

Pew Internet & American Life Project asked technology stakeholders in an online survey to assess scenarios about the social, political, and economic impact of the Internet by 2020. The results keep separate the responses of 578 experts from the 1,196 total respondents. Experts agreed that the mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the Internet for most people in the world. Increased computing power, lower price, and global protocol standards all account for the "bottom" three-quarters of the global population to make up fifty percent of all people with Internet access. The transparency of people and organizations will increase, but experts were split on related developments. Such include ideas that personal damage due to posted videos would lessen, or people would prefer social data exchange over anonymity. It will also not necessarily yield more personal integrity, social tolerance, or forgiveness.

Input device trends that are scarcely being implemented today mark major shifts in the coming decades. By the year 2020, hand-held devices will predominantly use speech-recognition and touch. Small devices will project a virtual keyboard visible to the user, doing away with the physical object, but most interaction will be spoken or performed with single gesture interfaces.

Sixty percent of experts do not believe that digital media controls will be successful or that content owners and Internet service providers will be able to identify offending clients. Enforcers "will remain in a continuing 'arms race,'" the study says, "with the 'crackers' who will always find ways to copy and share content without payment.

"The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who's connected," and the majority of experts agreed that this vague distinction would be favorable. To be fully connected will mean incorporating daily life with virtual worlds as popular social and work tools.

The full text of the report is available in PDF format.

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