Pew Surveys Tackle Internet's Future, Online Politics' Present

By Greenwood, Bill | Information Today, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Pew Surveys Tackle Internet's Future, Online Politics' Present


Greenwood, Bill, Information Today


Two reports from the Pew Internet & American Life Project provide insights about consumers' online usage: The first report sketches out a vision of the internet's future, and the other examines online voter engagement after the 2008 presidential election.

"The Future of the Internet III," written by Janna Quitney Anderson and Lee Rainie, features predictions from internet experts and other stakeholders about technological, social, and legal progress by the year 2020. Meanwhile, the "Post-Election Voter Engagement" report, by Aaron Smith, found that most Obama supporters remain engaged and expect the president to continue reaching out to the public during the start of his term.

A Snapshot of 2020

According to the internet report, 77% of the internet experts surveyed say mobile phones will become "the primary Internet communications platform for a majority of people across the world." They say these devices will have significantly more computing power by 2020 and will be offered worldwide under a set of universal standards.

"By 2020, the network providers of 'telephony' will have been disintermediated," according to Susan Crawford, founder of OneWebDay and a board member at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. In the report, Crawford says,"We'll have standard network connections around the world. ... Billions of people will have joined the Internet who don't speak English. They won't think of these things as 'phones' either--these devices will be simply lenses on the online world."

While 78% of all participants who were surveyed say they do not think there will be a "next-gen" internet, they say the current internet infrastructure will remain in use, though it will be continuously modified and updated.

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In the report, Adam Peake, an executive research fellow and telecommunications policy analyst at the Center for Global Communications, says, "The control-oriented telco (ITU) next-generation network will not fully evolve, the importance of openness and enabling innovation from the edges will prevail; i.e. Internet will essentially retain the key characteristics we enjoy today, mainly because there's more money to be made."

On the social and legal side, 60% of all survey respondents say laws governing intellectual property and copyright will remain unsettled in 2020, with "cracking" technology, or software that can be used to remove copy protection, staying ahead of measures to protect such property. They also say regulators will not be able to come to a global agreement regarding these laws.

"You cannot stop a tide with a spoon," according to Giulio Prisco, chief executive of Metafuturing Second Life and a former member of CERN who was quoted in the report."Cracking technology will always be several steps ahead of DRM and content will be redistributed on anonymous networks."

More than half of the expert respondents also agree that there will be less of a distinction between personal and professional time by 2020. While many of these individuals say they are looking forward to a "hyperconnected future with more freedom, flexibility, and life enhancements," others are worried that such developments will negatively impact family and social life. …

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