The future of the Internet – part 1

Ever since Sir Tim Berners-Lee released the code on Christmas Day 1990 for his “information management” system that became the conceptual and architectural foundation for the Web, the internet has grown up to become one of the biggest innovations in history. The technological, social, and economic transformations spawned by the internet over the past 25 years have been nothing short of revolutionary.

 

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Consider briefly just how the internet has grown up and disrupted all levels of business, commerce, and society. Consider how it has transformed the way we access information, how we work, how we connect with friends and family, the way we shop and consume goods and services, the way we’re entertained, and how we bank and manage our finances, as well as so much more.

 

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Look at the clear and steady movement from the “Internet of Information,” or what was commonly referred to Web 1.0 in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Next, the web became social and we encountered the “Internet of People and the spawning of new ways of collaboration and the beginning of social networks. Now, we’re on the verge of another epic change as more and more physical objects are linked with IP addresses. In fact, researchers predict that by 2020 over 30 billion objects will wirelessly be connected to the internet in what is now known as the Internet of Things.

The story of the internet is a fascinating narrative about how technology transforms the way we think, live, and work. It has become the major disrupter of business and industry, and spawned previously unseen levels of innovation. Just stop to consider how integrations in mobile, cloud, information, and collaboration (or what Gartner has called the “Nexus of Forces”) have empowered individuals and businesses with transformative and ubiquitous technology.

Breakthroughs in collaboration tools, open source systems, mobile platforms, SaaS solutions, and 3-D printing have led to faster, more efficient and scalable development and production cycles . . . all because of the internet. And the democratization of technological knowledge has been advanced by disruptions in online education like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which offer free or reduced-cost education to anyone in the world with an internet connection.

The success of the internet and its massive growth and scalability over the past 25 years has also led to serious speculations about what the future holds for this most amazing of innovations. Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, in association with Elon University, has raised this very question recently by looking at “the future of the Internet, the Web, and other digital activities.” Canvassing various experts, the organization brought together its findings in the report Digital Life in 2025. The future of the internet is crystallized into 15 “theses” – eight of which are characterized as hopeful, six as concerned, and the last “as a kind of neutral, sensible piece of advice that the choices that are made now will shape the future.” A nice summary of the 15 predictions are offered here.

 

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If there’s one overriding prediction about the future of the internet it’s this: experts believe that in the next decade the internet will become “an ambient information environment where accessing the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily it will flow through their lives ‘like electricity.’

Not all of the changes in the Pew Report are directly technological; some are political and social. For our purposes, the Digital Life in 2025 report provides an excellent pivot point for discussing how the internet will continue to disrupt the world of business and IT.

Some of the major future transformations we’ll discuss can be summarized as follows:

* Internet information-sharing will be ‘like electricity’

* the Internet as a form of enhanced global connectivity

* Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data

* Augmented reality and wearable devices

* Internet-enabled revolutions in education

* the Internet as a major disruptor in communications networks

 

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In the rest of this series we’ll unpack the implications of these findings to determine what the future of the internet means for business. In the process, we’ll consider how the internet will continue to disrupt IT, the new types of technologies it will spawn, and how business leaders should be planning for these epic transformations. Stay tuned!

 

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