Internet Communications

What will the Internet be like in 5 or 10 years?
Answered by John Sculley, Caterina Fake and 2 others
  • John Sculley

    John Sculley

  • Caterina Fake

    Caterina Fake

  • Lee Rainie

    Lee Rainie

  • Diana Bocco

    Diana Bocco

  1. John Sculley Serial Entrepreneur Mentor (former Apple CEO)


    I think it's pretty clear that the enterprise Internet, if it gets over the challenge of putting your highly important information on somebody else's computer -- if you can get past that, which means that security and authentication and the ability to control what's coming from the cloud out to the individual device, and do it on a device management basis -- if we can solve those technical problems (and I'm pretty sure that some smart people will do that) I suspect that the Internet won't be one network anymore.

    It'll be thousands, hundreds of thousands of different proprietary networks, maybe sharing some common protocols, but having a lot of privacy built into it. And it's going to be the way work gets done. I think to complement that -- the network: you can call it the Internet, you can call it whatever you want to call it in the future -- it's going to be largely oriented around mobile productivity.

    So we've seen the empowerment of the individual with personal computers in the '80s. We've seen the empowerment of organizations and access to information with the Internet basically going over wires to personal computers. Now we're just at the early years of mobile connectivity and mobile connectedness and mobile collaboration. And when you match that with something that's called M to M (machine to machine) -- where a lot of things are going to happen, where there's no intervention by a human being, just smart sensors, smart computers, smart analytics, and you put those two trends together and just carry that out another decade or so -- I believe it's going to entirely change the way people work. It's going to entirely change the shape of corporations. It will change whether people actually even have to go to an office any more.

    More answers from John Sculley »

  2. Caterina Fake Entrepreneur, Co-Founder, Hunch and Flickr


    There's a lot of things that are changing right now. Mobile, for example, is huge. This is only something in the past five or six years that has come to the fore. People have now these smart phones -- a little computer in your pocket, which you didn't have before. That computer knows where you are; it has all your social contacts on it. It has all this information that can be used to help you.

    I can't tell you how many times I've [something like] said, "Oh gosh, I need a hardware store." And I am standing in a neighborhood that I don't know, and I look at my phone, and it finds me one on the spot. That kind of thing is incredibly useful, incredibly transformative. This sort of ubiquity of computers and mobile, that's very different. That's actually something that's very new.

    More answers from Caterina Fake »

  3. Lee Rainie Director, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project


    Information spaces are going to change radically. I mean, literally, information will insinuate itself into more places than it ever has before. We're in the early days of augmented reality. We can hold up our smartphones to the environment and learn what's in the environment. You hold it up to a building, and it will tell you who works in that building and how old it is and when was the last time it was inspected. Or you can hold it up to a landscape and say here's the history of this place, or here's the geologic information that you might care about in this place. We are learning more and embedding more information in our physical environment; but we're also finding increasingly powerful ways to represent our physical environment in digital spaces.

    We don't necessarily have to do all this travel to get to somebody else. We can do a video call. We don't necessarily have to do physical mapping of spaces. We can do that in virtual ways. I know people now who are siting windmills based on their guided tours on Google Earth. They are just looking at spaces that seem hospitable to placing a windmill because they can do that now in a virtual way, where they used to have site visits. So the increasing merger of the data and the information world with the physical world is absolutely taking place and will become a much more dramatic part of the human experience.

    The other thing that will happen is that the Web itself or the information environment itself is going to get smarter. Search engines are going to get smarter. The semantic Web -- maybe it doesn't come into being, but something smarter about what matters to us and what's relevant to us and what's high quality information for us.

    We're not going to do search queries in five years that yield 2 million results in .11 seconds. We're going to probably get something that's a lot more social, a lot more relevant, a lot more tied to who we are, and so we will find new ways to rely on this environment and navigate in this environment.

    The gadgets that we're going to use, the interfaces that we're going to use, I mean, Microsoft Kinect is already pointing the way for interfaces that are going to be motion driven -- that you're not even going to need a device or a mouse or a keyboard to necessarily pull together all the stuff that matters to you. There will be ways potentially and these are on the drawing board.

    So we might carry around a little device in our pocket that looks like a pen. You pull up the top of it, and it becomes a projector. You pull out the bottom of it, and it projects onto a screen. You can type on a flat surface. You haven't got a keyboard in front of you. You've literally got a touch-screen that's rendered on a table top and things. So the interfaces themselves are going to change.

    And there's going to be sort of ways in which we are going to outsource parts of our lives to smart agents that we are going to -- in this world of semantic Web or however you want to call it where the Web knows more about us and knows what our needs are, there will be agents. There will be elements of intelligence that will figure out a lot more directly how pieces of our lives are integrated so that when we have a cough, it will know which doctor we want to go to and when the appointment should be scheduled and what medicines we might like to take so the pharmacist might be prepared to give it to us. So there are ways in which all of this stuff gets integrated in interesting ways, and the big question is a device question. We ask the device question: "What's going to be the hot new thing?" Everybody wants to know these things. I get asked it all the time when I go out and speak.

    So we asked experts: "In the next 10 years, just don't tell us what the hot things are going to be, but just tell whether you think you'll know. Will smart people who are in this space and immersed in this space -- do they know now what's really going to be taking the public by storm in 10 years or not? Is it just all going to take us by surprise?"

    Overwhelmingly they said it's going to take us by surprise, even these experts who live this life. Part of the reason is that they kind of know the environment's going to change, and it's hard to know how people will behave in a brand new environment where bandwidth and computing power and information are just even more readily available than they are now. And the thing that they always pointed to when they were talking to us about this was the iPhone. They said, "If you'd asked us this question in 2000 and said, 'What's going to be hot in 10 years?' we wouldn't have predicted the iPhone. And we wouldn't have predicted social networking." So they're pretty humble about what the gadgets and applications that are going to take the world by storm in 10 years. So I'll be humble about whether I can see that too.

    More answers from Lee Rainie »

  4. It's hard to predict what the future of the Internet will be like. After all, a decade ago we didn't have Facebook (it launched in February 2004) or Twitter (July 2006). Although we might guess what the future will bring, somebody could always invent the "next big thing" and surprise us all.

    Social media tools are likely to keep growing and changing. Rather than being "just-for-fun," social media sites also have become business tools. Linked In is an example of merging social media concepts with business purposes, but expect to see more options for e-commerce, networking and job hunting in the near future. Experts believe that social media also will push a shift toward more user-generated information. At a minimum, information generated by private people will rank just as high in searches as pages from traditional sources, such as news feeds.

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt believes the Internet also will be more dynamic in the future. Schmidt compares it to teenagers: They have short attention spans, so they spend little time on any specific apps or sites [source: Huddle]. The Internet of the future will be the same: flowing, fast and "jumpy," so you'll get the most information in the time possible. Online magazines and newspapers will be more "wiki-like." This means that rather than a block of text, you'll face a long, probably horizontal screen with tons of busy pages and lots of links, videos and interactive tools.

    As Internet speed grows, so will the medium. The official goal is for everyone to easily access speeds of 100 Megabits per second. Sweden is already working toward this goal and plans on having it in 90 percent of the country's homes by 2020 [source: Huddle]. With faster speeds, it's likely that virtual file storage, real-time document sharing and cloud computing will be standard. Collaborative projects also will become more commonplace. Collaborative writing apps and brainstorming tools such as Wridea and Twiddla will allow people to participate in joint ventures. BBC Audiobooks even joined forces with award-winning writer Neil Gaiman to start the novel "Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry," which was then completed by more than 100 people who added one sentence at a time via Twitter.

    In short, the Internet will become a more active platform better connected to "real" life. Instead of serving as just a portal for information searches, it will help people become more productive, improve content delivery and advance real-time collaboration.


    More answers from Diana Bocco »

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