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The Future of the Internet In a survey, technology experts and scholars evaluate where the network is headed in the next ten years January 9, 2005 Susannah Fox, Associate Director Janna Quitney Anderson,
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The Future of the Internet In a survey, technology experts and scholars evaluate where the network is headed in the next ten years January 9, 2005 Susannah Fox, Associate Director Janna Quitney Anderson, Elon University Lee Rainie, Director PEW INTERNET & AMERICAN LIFE PROJECT 1615 L STREET, NW SUITE 700 WASHINGTON, D.C Summary of Findings A broad-ranging survey of technology leaders, scholars, industry officials, and interested members of the public finds that most experts expect attacks on the network infrastructure in the coming decade. Some argue that serious assaults on the internet infrastructure will become a regular part of life. In September 2004, the Pew Internet Project sent an invitation to a list of respected technology experts and social analysts, asking them to complete a 24-question survey about the future of the internet. We also asked the initial group of experts to forward the invitation to colleagues and friends who might provide interesting perspectives. Some 1,286 people responded to the online survey between September 20 and November 1, About half are internet pioneers and were online before Roughly a third of the experts are affiliated with an academic institution and another third work for a company or consulting firm. The rest are divided between non-profit organizations, publications, and the government. This survey finds there is a strong across-the-board consensus that the internet will become so important to users in the coming decade that the network itself will become an inviting target for attack. By a nearly 3-1 margin, the experts in this survey expressed worry about the vulnerability of the internet and the likelihood of an attack on the underlying infrastructure within the next ten years. Some 66% agreed with the following prediction: At least one devastating attack will occur in the next 10 years on the networked information infrastructure or the country s power grid. As one expert wrote, A simple scan of the growing number and growing sophistication of the viral critters already populating our networks is ample evidence of the capacity and motivation to disrupt. Eleven percent disagreed with the prediction and 7% challenged it, including some who argued that they did not expect any attack to be serious enough to involve loss of life or a very long outage. The internet will be more deeply integrated in our physical environments and high-speed connections will proliferate with mixed results. There was little disagreement among experts that broadband adoption will grow and that broadband speeds will improve. Nor was there much doubt that vastly more people and objects would be linked online in the next decade. Experts envision benefits ranging from This Pew Internet & American Life Project report is based on the findings of an online sample of 1,286 internet experts, recruited via notices sent to an initial sample of pre-identified experts as well as a snowball sample of their colleagues in the period between September 20 and November 1, Since the data are based on a non-random sample, a margin of error cannot be computed, and the results are not projectable to any population other than those experts who completed the survey. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 1615 L Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC Summary of Findings the ease and convenience of accessing information to changed workplace arrangements and relationships. At the same time, a majority of experts agreed that the level of surveillance by governments and businesses will grow. A full table of predictions and experts reactions is on page vi of this report. Some of the highlights: 59% of these experts agreed with a prediction that more government and business surveillance will occur as computing devices proliferate and become embedded in appliances, cars, phones, and even clothes. 57% of them agreed that virtual classes will become more widespread in formal education and that students might at least occasionally be grouped with others who share their interests and skills, rather than by age. 56% of them agreed that as telecommuting and home-schooling expand, the boundary between work and leisure will diminish and family dynamics will change because of that. 50% of them believe that anonymous, free, music file-sharing on peer-to-peer networks will still be easy to perform a decade from now. At the same time, there were notable disagreements among experts about whether internet use would foment a rise in religious and political extremist groups, whether internet use would usher in more participation in civic organizations, whether the widespread adoption of technology in the health system would ameliorate the most knotty problems in the system such as rising costs and medical errors, and whether internet use would help people expand their social networks. Finally, the experts were relatively unconvinced about two suggested impacts of the internet related to democratic politics and processes: Just 32% of these experts agreed that people would use the internet to support their political biases and filter out information that disagrees with their views. Half the respondents disagreed with or disputed that prediction. Only 32% agreed with a prediction that online voting would be secure and widespread by Half of the respondents disagreed or disputed that idea. In the emerging era of the blog, experts believe the internet will bring yet more dramatic change to the news and publishing worlds. They predict the least amount of change to religion. Asked to rate the amount of change that is likely in a variety of institutions in the next decade, the internet experts predicted the most radical change in news and publishing organizations and the least amount of change in religious institutions. They also predicted large-scale change to educational institutions, workplaces, and health care institutions. They believe that families and communities will experience change, but not as much as other social arrangements. Future of the Internet - ii - Pew Internet & American Life Project Summary of Findings Here are examples of experts reflections: Connections across media, entertainment, advertising, and commerce will become stronger with future margins going to a new breed of digital media titans Wellbranded innovators such as Google and Starbucks have a chance to build all-new new distribution models tied to ad revenue and retail sales. Health care is approximately 10 years behind other endeavors in being transformed, and will experience its boom in the next 10 years. Government will be forced to become increasingly transparent, accessible over the Net, and almost impenetrable if you're not on the Net. Digitization and the Internet make for a potent brew... TiVo kills the commercial television format. Napster, Kazaa, and ipod kill the album format. In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes in their own reality show. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. The Net will wear away institutions that have forgotten how to sound human and how to engage in conversation The always-on internet, combined with computers talking to computers, will be a more profound transformation of society than what we've seen so far. The next decade should see the development of a more thoughtful internet. We've had the blood rush to the head, we've had the hangover from that blood rush; this next decade is the rethink. The dissemination of information will increasingly become the dissemination of drivel. As more and more data is posted on the internet, there will be increasingly less information. (A full table of their assessment of institutional change is on page v of this report.) Experts are both in awe and in frustration about the state of the internet. They celebrate search technology, peer-to-peer networks, and blogs; they bemoan institutions that have been slow to change. We asked the experts to tell us what dimensions of online life in the past decade have caught them by surprise. Similarly, we asked about the changes they thought would occur in the last decade, but have not really materialized. Their narrative answers could be summarized this way: Pleasant surprises: These experts are in awe of the development of the Web and the explosion of information sources on top of the basic internet backbone. They also said they were amazed at the improvements in online search technology, the spread of peer-to-peer networks, and the rise of blogs. Unpleasant surprises: The experts are startled that educational institutions have changed so little, despite widespread expectation a decade ago that schools would be quick to embrace change. They are unhappy that gaps exist in internet access for many groups those with low income, those with lower levels of educational Future of the Internet - iii - Pew Internet & American Life Project Summary of Findings attainment, and those in rural areas. And they still think there is a long way to go before political institutions will benefit from the internet. These survey results and written commentary from experts add to a growing database of predictions and analysis from trendsetters about the impact of the internet. At the invitation of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Elon University assistant professor Janna Quitney Anderson formed a research class in the spring semester of 2003 to search for comments and predictions about the internet during the time when the World Wide Web and browsers emerged, between 1990 and The idea was to replicate the fascinating work of Ithiel de Sola Pool in his 1983 book Forecasting the Telephone: A Retrospective Technology Assessment. Elon students looked in government documents, technology newsletters, conference proceedings, trade newsletters and the business press. Eventually, more than 1,000 people were logged in the predictions database and more than 4,000 predictions were amassed. The fruits of that work are available at: and they are also the basis for a forthcoming book by Anderson called Imagining the Internet. The material from this survey is being added to the database. We hope the database will provide a resource for researchers and students to assess the evolution of the internet. Further, we invite readers of this report to enter their own predictions at that site. The Future of the Internet: Summary of Findings at a Glance A broad-ranging survey of technology leaders, scholars, industry officials, and interested members of the public finds that most experts expect attacks on the network infrastructure in the coming decade. Some argue that serious assaults on the internet infrastructure will become a regular part of life. The internet will be more deeply integrated in our physical environments and high-speed connections will proliferate with mixed results. In the emerging era of the blog, experts believe the internet will bring yet more dramatic change to the news and publishing worlds. They predict the least amount of change to religion. Experts are both in awe and in frustration about the state of the internet. They celebrate search technology, peer-to-peer networks, and blogs; they bemoan institutions that have been slow to change. These survey results and written commentary from experts add to a growing database of predictions and analysis from trendsetters about the impact of the internet. Source: Fox, Susannah, Janna Quitney Anderson, and Lee Rainie. The Future of the Internet. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 9, Future of the Internet - iv - Pew Internet & American Life Project Summary of Findings Levels of change that internet use will bring in the next decade Respondents were asked the following: On a scale of 1-10 with 1 representing no change and 10 representing radical change, please indicate how much change you think the internet will bring to the following institutions or activities in the next decade. The results are represented as the percentage of experts and interested members of the public who predicted change that each point on the scale 1 News organizations and publishing DID NOT RESP MEAN * * 1% 1% 3% 5% 12% 20% 23% 33% 2% Education * * Workplaces * * Medicine and health care * Politics and government * Music, literature, drama, film and the arts * International relations Military Families * Neighborhoods and communities Religion Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Experts survey, Sept. 20-Nov. 1, Results are based on a non-random sample of 1,286 internet users recruited via . Since the data are based on a non-random sample, a margin of error cannot be computed. Future of the Internet - v - Pew Internet & American Life Project How respondents assessed predictions about the impact of Summary the internet of in Findings the next decade Challenged Did not Agree Disagree the prediction respond Network infrastructure: At least one devastating attack will occur in the next 10 years on the networked information infrastructure or the country s power grid. Embedded networks: As computing devices become embedded in everything from clothes to appliances to cars to phones, these networked devices will allow greater surveillance by governments and businesses. By 2014, there will be increasing numbers of arrests based on this kind of surveillance by democratic governments as well as by authoritarian regimes. Formal education: Enabled by information technologies, the pace of learning in the next decade will increasingly be set by student choices. In ten years, most students will spend at least part of their school days in virtual classes, grouped online with others who share their interests, mastery, and skills. Families: By 2014, as telework and home-schooling expand, the boundaries between work and leisure will diminish significantly. This will sharply alter everyday family dynamics. Creativity: Pervasive high-speed information networks will usher in an age of creativity in which people use the internet to collaborate with others and take advantage of digital libraries to make more music, art, and literature. A large body of independently-produced creative works will be freely circulated online and will command widespread attention from the public. Personal entertainment: By 2014, all media, including audio, video, print, and voice, will stream in and out of the home or office via the internet. Computers that coordinate and control video games, audio, and video will become the centerpiece of the living room and will link to networked devices around the household, replacing the television's central place in the home. 66% 11% 7% 16% 59% 15% 8% 17% 57% 18% 9% 17% 56% 17% 9% 18% 54% 18% 9% 20% 53% 18% 10% 19% Internet connections: By 2014, 90% of all Americans will go online from home via high-speed networks that are dramatically faster than today s high-speed networks. 52% 20% 8% 20% Digital products: In 2014, it will still be the case that the vast majority of internet users will easily be able to copy and distribute digital products freely through anonymous peer-to-peer networks. Extreme communities: Groups of zealots in politics, in religion, and in groups advocating violence will solidify, and their numbers will increase by 2014 as tight personal networks flourish online. Civic engagement: Civic involvement will increase substantially in the next 10 years, thanks to ever-growing use of the internet. That would include membership in groups of all kinds, including professional, social, sports, political and religious organizations and perhaps even bowling leagues. Health system change: In 10 years, the increasing use of online medical resources will yield substantial improvement in many of the pervasive problems now facing healthcare including rising healthcare costs, poor customer service, the high prevalence of medical mistakes, malpractice concerns, and lack of access to medical care for many Americans. Social networks: By 2014 use of the internet will increase the size of people s social networks far beyond what has traditionally been the case. This will enhance trust in society, as people have a wider range of sources from which to discover and verify information about job opportunities, personal services, common interests, and products. Politics: By 2014, most people will use the internet in a way that filters out information that challenges their viewpoints on political and social issues. This will further polarize political discourse and make it difficult or impossible to develop meaningful consensus on public problems. Democratic processes: By 2014, network security concerns will be solved and more than half of American votes will be cast online, resulting in increased voter turnout. 50% 23% 10% 17% 48% 22% 11% 19% 42% 29% 13% 17% 39% 30% 11% 19% 39% 20% 27% 15% 32% 37% 13% 18% 32% 35% 15% 18% Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Experts Survey, Sept. 20-Nov. 1, Results are based on a non-random sample of 1,286 internet users recruited via . Since the data are based on a non-random sample, a margin of error cannot be computed. Future of the Internet - vi - Pew Internet & American Life Project Contents Summary of Findings Acknowledgements Why Predictions Matter Part 1. Introduction Part 2. Institutions Part 3. Social networks Part 4. Network infrastructure Part 5. Digital products Part 6. Civic engagement Part 7. Embedded networks Part 8. Formal education Part 9. Democratic processes Part 10. Families Part 11. Extreme communities Part 12. Politics Part 13. Health system change Part 14. Personal entertainment Part 15. Creativity Future of the Internet - vii - Pew Internet & American Life Project Part 16. Internet connections Part 17. Looking back, looking forward Part 18. Reflections Methodology Future of the Internet - viii - Pew Internet & American Life Project Acknowledgements Pew Internet & American Life Project: The Pew Internet Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that explores the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life. The Project aims to be an authoritative source for timely information on the Internet's growth and societal impact. Support for the project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center. The project's Web site: Princeton Survey Research Associates: PSRA conducted the survey that is covered in this report. It is an independent research company specializing in social and policy work. The firm designs, conducts, and analyzes surveys worldwide. Its expertise also includes qualitative research and content analysis. With offices in Princeton, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., PSRA serves the needs of clients around the nation and the world. The firm can be reached at 911 Commons Way, Princeton, NJ 08540, by telephone at , by fax at , or by at Elon University School of Communications: Elon University has teamed with the Pew Internet Project to complete a number of research studies, including the building of the Predictions Database and an ethnographic study of a small town, One Neighborhood, One Week on the Internet, both under the direction of Janna Quitney Anderson. For contact regarding the Predictions Database send to The university s Web site is: Future of the Internet - ix - Pew Internet & American Life Project Why Predictions Matter Imagining the internet Janna Quitney Anderson has written a book, Imagining the Internet, from the material in the Elon-Pew Internet Project predictions material focused on the period. It will be published in July 2005 by Rowman & Littlefield. The following excerpt explores the value of predicting the future: Previous world-altering communications technologies including the printing press (1453), radio (1896), and television (1927) caused commentators, researchers, entrepreneurs, and politicians of those times to predict what might come to pass due to changes wrought by such new devices. Their aim i
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