The Spin of the Web 2007 – 2018: A Linear Vision

Jan. 17, 2013 | by Filippo Biondi

As is typical for this time of year, the web is buzzing with speculations around the future of the internet. While it is quite difficult to predict what will happen in the near future, let’s consider what would happen if the evolution of the internet was linear and we were already on a clear path; in the middle of a journey, rather than at the beginning of it.

Five years ago the net was a very different place. What if the changes that have occurred so far took their “natural conclusion” five years from now, in 2018? To play at Mystic Meg, we could have some of the following scenarios:

From many devices to a single iThing

Five years ago we surfed the web on our laptops and we made calls on our (dumb) phones. Integration was yet to come and “ubiquitous computing” was an academic concept. Now we are able to do pretty much anything with any device, with smartphones acting like small tablets, laptops progressing toward touch screens and phone calls available on all of them.  If we continue on this path, by 2018 we won’t even have a different word to describe each device. There will only be one plastic foldable iThing, available in different sizes, with one unique light screen to do everything you do now and whatever else is about to come. We’ll still have larger screens at home and smaller pieces on the go, but they’ll both be a basic vehicle for our universal log in.

Goodbye owning, welcome Communist Web

Five years ago we were all waiting for computers with more storage space: “I have 10 Gigs but I want 20”. We wanted to download content and own it inside stuffed folders, the more the better. Today we are happy for devices to have very little memory, enough to keep the applications running but not enough to indulge in content hoarding. First there was Napster, then Spotify came, and now we are beginning to let our own files go, sharing them on the Cloud. If we keep walking this path, by 2018 the iThing mentioned above will be completely blank, a neutral vehicle to our password protected shared world on the Cloud. We could ask for access to screens like we ask for battery chargers today.

The Pay Per Content battle ends

We are in the middle of a war between content producers and search engines. The former are trying to save themselves by cashing in on search engine visibility, the latter are trying to overcome social networks by keeping people on their pages, offering more (partially copy-pasted) content. Then there is the ongoing dispute over tax payments. If we see the battle as half way today, in five years it could be over, with two possible scenarios:

If Content Producers win

Search engines will have to pay a fee to show content on their results pages, PPC will become more expensive and only big companies will be able to afford it. This will probably be the end of small companies’ web advertisement, and other free Google tools, which will probably become monetised.

If Search Engines win

Content will stay free, and many small content producers won’t be able to find other ways to monetise it. The web will cluster around a smaller group of media players who will start competing for primacy.

A new (old) iDentity for Sale

In 2007 we were all talking about Second Life, a virtual alternative reality where you could create your second self; we used nicknames to not reveal much of who we were in real life. Today very few people use nicknames on Facebook and most of us consider the Internet as an additional vehicle in our lives. By 2018 we could have just a single set of login details. This will be linked to our credit card and our passport, and every single piece of information about our life. Every traced footprint will stream into one single life log. We’ll be able to share this with third parties in exchange for free services and other benefits. In other words, we’ll be able to comfortably sell our lives to the best offer.

Some may say it’s quite a gloomy scenario but I personally think some lives are not necessarily that bad when you’re actually living them.

What do you think the internet will be like in 2018? Feel free to add your vision as a comment!

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    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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