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Internet in 2025: 5 Intriguing Predictions

How will the Web evolve over the next decade? Technology experts weigh in.

Web Turns 25: 10 Graphics To See
Web Turns 25: 10 Graphics To See
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

What will the Web look like in 2025?

That's the question the Pew Research Center posed to nearly 1,500 science and technology experts for a new report celebrating the Web's 25th anniversary.

Their answers ranged from optimistic -- citing improved education, better global partnerships, and positive changes to the healthcare system -- to foreboding: privacy as a luxury only for the rich, an expanded global wealth gap, and the amplification of loss and abuse.

Here are some predictions from researchers, professors, authors, and scientists.

1. Big data will affect the public's actions and behavior.
"When the cost of collecting information on virtually every interaction falls to zero, the insights that we gain from our activity in the context of the activity of others will fundamentally change the way we relate to one another, to institutions, and with the future itself. We will become far more knowledgeable about the consequences of our actions; we will edit our behavior more quickly and intelligently." --Patrick Tucker, author of "The Naked Future: What Happens In a World that Anticipates Your Every Move?"

2. The Internet will facilitate political awareness and peaceful change.
"With mobile technologies and information-sharing apps becoming ubiquitous, we can expect some significant improvement in the awareness of otherwise illiterate and ill-informed rural populations to opportunities missed out by manipulative and corrupt governments. Like the Arab Spring, we can expect more and more uprisings to take place as people become more informed and able to communicate their concerns." --Rui Correia, director of NetDay Namibia

[For more optimism on the societal impact of future technology, read Why You Should Be Excited About Future Tech.]

3. Dangerous divides will emerge.
"We have to think seriously about the kinds of conflicts that will arise in response to the growing inequality enabled and amplified by means of networked transactions that benefit smaller and smaller segments of the global population. Social media will facilitate and amplify the feelings of loss and abuse. They will also facilitate the sharing of examples and instructions about how to challenge, resist, and/or punish what will increasingly come to be seen as unjust." --Oscar Gandy, emeritus professor at the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania

4. The Internet will bring about the age of the "global supercomputer."
"The Internet is morphing from the global library into the global supercomputer. By 2025, almost every application or service we can imagine will be enhanced by the application of enormous computation enabling widespread applications of capabilities like mining, inference, recognition, sense-making, rendering modeling, as well as proactive contextual computing." --Mike Liebhold, senior researcher at the Institute for the Future

5. New business models will emerge.
"There will be increased franchise and information sharing. There will be changes to business models to adapt to the economics of digital communication and storage. We may finally get to Internet voting, but only if we have really strong authentication methods available. Privacy must be improved but transparency about what information is retained about users also has to increase. More business will be born online with a global market from the beginning. Massive open online courses will become important revenue streams." --Vint Cerf, Google VP and chief Internet evangelist

What do you think the Web will look like 10 years from now? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
3/18/2014 | 3:01:38 PM
Re: I am a skeptic!
^^That's a great quote. Sometimes looking back on predictions that fell flat can be just as fun as making them.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 11:10:25 AM
Big data, boring people
"We will become far more knowledgeable about the consequences of our actions; we will edit our behavior more quickly and intelligently."

Tucker is on to something with the idea that big data will continue to shape how people behave and censor themselves. I know I self-monitor my social media interactions much more than I used to. But will that carry over into real-world behavior where people always stay in line and watch their backs? I see how this could lead to more self-awareness and better etiquette, as Tucker implies, but it doesn't sound like much fun. 

 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
3/13/2014 | 3:48:32 AM
Re: peace and prosperity
Mak, 

I like that positive thinking. :) 

I would love to believe there would finally be an era of peace and prosperity. However, as history tells of centuries of human primitive behaviour that don't seem to come to an end despite technology advancing quickly, I am not sure such a degree of civilized behaviour could be possible in just 10 years' time. 

Improved education, and positive changes to the healthcare system are two things that will keep on improving overtime with the betterment of the Internet. I agree that many more people in remote places will have Internet access, better communication with the rest of the world and with this better business opportunities.

Now, what about privacy predicted as a luxury only for the rich? Privacy is almost lost; so does this mean we are walking toward times when privacy will be considered a thing of the past in its totality? :/  

-Susan
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
3/12/2014 | 6:42:23 PM
peace and prosperity
I like what Tucker and Correia said, and I agree with Rob
Obviously in ten years more, plenty more people we'll have internet. It will reach places that we never heard of. All of this will bring more awareness, communication, dialogue, and what not, more education for the people. And with that, I believe a new era of peace and prosperity will be at our doorsteps.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 5:34:48 PM
Re: Your predictions?
Oscar Gandy essentially thinks the Internet will lead to more conflict as social media and other networked connections fill people in on how terrible their lives are and how much better the privileged few have it. Really? I think Prof. Gandy underestimates the power of the Internet to do just the opposite for individuals: help them make more money, get access to more life-sustaining and -fulfilling information, spread the word to effect positive change.

 

 

 

 
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
3/12/2014 | 5:32:25 PM
I am a skeptic!
Someone said recently "They promised us flying cars, we got 140 characaters".

I don't see any dramatic new 'stuff' happening. What I do think will happen is that internet will become a considerably more transparent entity. People won't think "Hey, my TV is connected to the internet, what is new on Netfilx streaming?" They will just think "What is new on Netflix?" My guess is that we will see simliar attitude/viewpoint change across the board.

But no flying cars.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 4:51:03 PM
Arab Spring?
Optimistic projections based on the Arab Spring strike me as dated, given that "peaceful" revolution was followed by violence and another change of leadership in Egypt, followed by more turmoil.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 4:23:11 PM
Re: Your predictions?
I wonder whether in ten years we'll see a kinetic attack in response to an online attack. At some point, countries are going to resolve to do something about online actions that do meaningful economic harm.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 3:32:55 PM
Re: Internet voting
Where there's money and power, there's corruption. Criminals go where the money is, after all. Today credit card data and Bitcoin, tomorrow, sell an election to the highest bidder by manipulating the voting system with enough finesse that it's not obvious, and enough intelligence to do just what's needed to tip the scales. Like a major league pitcher fixing a game by throwing a few extra balls.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 12:52:28 PM
Internet voting
Note the caution with which Vint Cerf treats the possibility of online voting. That's going to be much harder to make real than MOOCs. Do you agree?
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