Future Of The Internet Worrisome For Some Web Experts
July 3, 2014

Future Of The Internet Worrisome For Some Web Experts

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The open Internet could be challenged by nation-states that look to maintain security and political control, and in the next decade this could lead to more blocking, filtering, segmentation and even balkanization of the Internet. Trust could evaporate in the wake of revelations about government and corporate surveillance with fears of even greater surveillance in the future.

These are two of the more worrisome concerns for the future of the Internet, according to a new study conducted by Pew Internet, which canvassed Internet experts about the future of the web. More than 1,400 Internet experts responded to questions on issues about accessing and sharing content online. The majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet study said that they had hopes that by 2025 there would not be significant changes for the worse or hindrances to the way in which people get and share content online.

Additionally, the respondents in this study offered the opinion that technology innovation will continue and moreover could continue to afford new opportunities for people to connect. However, as noted there remains the threat that nation-states could present challenges via crackdowns, while surveillance will also be a growing concern.

"Governments worldwide are looking for more power over the Net, especially within their own countries," said Dave Burstein, editor of Fast Net News. "Britain, for example, has just determined that ISPs block sites the government considers 'terrorist' or otherwise dangerous. This will grow. There will usually be ways to circumvent the obstruction but most people won't bother."

The respondents also noted that Arab Spring remains an example of how the Internet could be used to organize political dissent while it also prompted crackdowns by the government.

In addition to government control, the other worrisome trends included the increasing commercial pressures affecting Internet architecture to the flow of information, which could in fact endanger the open structure of online life; and that efforts to fit the TMI (too much information) program there might be overcompensation that actually thwarts content sharing.

"Sharing is hindered by ridiculous 19th century laws about copyright and patent," added Marcel Bullinga, technology futures speaker, trend watcher, and futurist. "Both will die away. That will spur innovation into the extreme. That is the real singularity."

Mobile devices could also change the way information is controlled, said Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft Research.

"Today, people in some countries are hindered from accessing online information, but smaller mobile devices have made it more difficult to censor," said Grudin. "I am guardedly optimistic that information providers and consumers will continue to elude government censorship. Information does seem to want to be free, and technology has made that easier on balance. I do not see a potent threat looming, and the commercial interest in disseminating information should not be underestimated."

This study was conducted by the Pew Research Center Internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center in an online canvassing conducted between November 25, 2013 and January 13, 2014. This is the sixth Internet study the two organizations have conducted together since 2004, and in this project more than 12,000 experts and members of the interested public were invited to share their opinions on the likely future of the Internet.