Where Will the Internet Go Over the Next Ten Years?

I recently researched the thoughts and ideas coming out of the think tanks around the world.

Most people within the digital industry tell you that they are already working in “dog years” where seven years of technical advancement happen every year so, over the next ten years, we can look forward to 70 years worth of advancement.

They say it took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million people, TV took 13 years, the Internet took four, Facebook took just two years!

For more interesting facts about the Web and the world, take a look at the amazing short video link titled DO YOU KNOW? at the bottom of the article.

Lets start by scaring us all and just say the WWW is going to get very, very (lets add another!) very powerful and, more interestingly, smart. The “Big Brother” theory is already here but soon it will be joined by a host of siblings that will suggest infinitely smarter skills and knowledge.

Thought leaders in Silicon Valley  are all talking about the Web in 2020 not only being super intelligent, but also being faster than the fastest thing on earth you can imagine right now: nano seconds look slow compared to what we can expect!

These “New (Web) Romantics” are discussing a type of Internet, far more powerful and clever that the current one. One example is that the Web in 2020 will impress us by letting you video link up with all your friends at the same time, who can then choose to watch a video on something that interests you all, put there by a complete stranger on the other side of the world, who can then enter into an online dialogue with all of you: how’s that for social networking?

YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and the host of other social networks and blogs that fall within the world of ‘Web 2.0’ may be beginning to infiltrate the mainstream users but to those whose new romantic vision lets them see the Web in 2020 and beyond, they are just a broken pixel in a much larger picture.

By 2020, the WWSW (World Wide Super Web) will hook up every piece of our digital lives — be it a website, an e-mail, SMS message, TV programme or a simple file on our PC — to every other aspect. It will instantly recognise, for instance, when you are typing an e-mail, what the subject and body copy of the e-mail is all about and then present, inside the screen you are looking at, website facts, information, research and e-books, as well as any documents, photos and videos you have saved or looked at recently, that may be relevant to that topic.

Picture-taking will also become a lot more interesting with instant face recognition technology being introduced by the mobile phone companies: software will instantly name tag and notify them if it recognises anyone within your registered social networks.

Homework is going to get a whole lot easier for the kids of tomorrow, if a broad education is needed at all. If they can just read, type and speak that’s all they may need, if everything you ever needed to know about a subject, place, person or task is presented to you at your fingertips anyway!

It will accomplish this by virtue of the intrinsic ‘intelligence’ in the core architecture of the Internet, they say. In truth, the Web is being reborn and being given much smarter skills.

If Web 2.0 was all about harnessing the collective intelligence of crowds to give information a value — lots of people who bought this book, liked this book, so you might too (amazon.com), people who like Madonna also like this artist (iTunes), lots of people linked to this site, so that makes it the most relevant (Google’s basic Page Rank algorithm) — then Web 3.0 is about giving the internet itself a brain to work all this out for itself rather than it just being linked by the employees of the company choosing their own relevant associations.

Nova Spivack, the founder of Radar Networks, a leading Web 3.0 company, recommends you to think to think about the Web’s development in ten-year cycles.

“We have had the first decade of the web, or Web 1.0,” he says, which was about the development of the basic platform of the Internet and the ability to make huge amounts of information widely accessible, “and we’re nearing the end of the second decade — Web 2.0 — which was all about the user interface” and enabling users to connect with one another.

“Now we’re about to enter the third decade – Web 3.0 — which is about developing the web to be much smarter.”

Web 4.0 will be a finely tuned WWSW incorporating all the latest technical knowledge developed over the past decades, delivering information to you instantly whenever and wherever you are.

Each decade in turn corresponds to an engineering focus on either ‘the front end’ or ‘back end’ of the web. Web 1.0 was a back-end decade, focusing on the web’s basic platform, its link structure and navigation system. Web 2.0 was front end, with a heavy focus on users and usability, clean-looking sites, and people making connections with one another.

In Web 3.0, the emphasis will revert to the back end, with a renewal of the web’s key index – the essential data that is catalogued by search engines like Google. That in turn, Mr Spivack says, will make way for Web 4.0, another ‘front-end decade’, only with more advanced programs.

A prime example of a Web 3.0 development will be the introduction of ‘natural-language search’, which changes the ability of search engines to answer full questions such as “Which Prime Ministers died of disease?” In some cases, the sites that appear in the natural search listings would not reference the original search question, reflecting the fact that the web knows, for instance, that ‘Tony Blair’ was a Prime Minister, and that ‘Foot & Mouth’ is a disease.

“Our search engine reads every page of the web sentence by sentence and returns results by drawing on a general knowledge of language and what specific concepts in the world mean, and their relationship with one another,” said Barney Pell, chief executive of Powerset, which is developing natural-language technology. The firm, based at the prestigious Palo Alto Research Centre, in California, is sometimes talked about as a ‘Google-killer’, should its offering — which is not yet widely available — become popular and not bought by Google anyway!

It’s not just search that will be overhauled in the WWSW of the future. One of the recurrent themes in the presentations at a recent thoughtleader summit was ‘open platforms’: the belief is that a website or any sort of personal device, like a mobile phone, should be able to drag and drop whichever features or applications its user wants, from any developer. Think of the iPhone as an open folder into which an owner could ‘drag and drop’ any Blackberry application — a news podcast, an e-mail service — without Apple having to approve such an action.

Some of the world’s largest technology companies — Nokia, Apple and MySpace — all made presentations acknowledging the benefits of the idea of open platforms, suggesting that the Web will become a place where much more mixing and matching of different services will be permitted.

Running in tandem with this will come more experienced virtual worlds, or what Silicon Valley’s faithful have started referring to as ‘immersive environments’, a much more multi-dimensional environment.

What is interesting is that whilst the whole world appears to be in meltdown financially, there is a feeling that Silicon Valley and the technological developers are still riding a wave of seemingly limitless investor confidence, begging the question, is Silicon Valley living in a bubble, oblivious to the outside world? In the meantime, Google, Apple, Nokia, Microsoft and its partners and its competitors see vast sums of money to be made and new services and software to change people’s lives, radically and everywhere. Both these contradictory aims seem be celebrated with every release of something new on the road to the World Wide Super Web.

Do you know?