The expert predictions reported here about the impact of the Internet over the next ten years came in response to one of eight questions asked by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life 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 Imagining the Internet Study the two organizations have conducted together. For this project, we invited more than 12,000 experts and members of the interested public to share their opinions on the likely future of the Internet and 2,551 responded to at least one of the questions in the survey. In all, 1,867 responded to this open-ended question.
The Web-based survey was fielded to three audiences. The first audience was a list of targeted experts identified and accumulated by Pew Research and Elon University during the five previous rounds of this study, as well as those identified across 12 years of studying the Internet realm during its formative years. The second wave of solicitation was targeted to prominent listservs of Internet analysts, including the scholarly Association of Internet Researchers, Internet Rights and Principles, Liberation and Technology, American Political Science Association, Cybertelecom, the Communication and Information Technologies section of the American Sociological Association, and others. The third audience was the mailing list of the Pew Research Center Internet Project, which includes those who closely follow technology trends, data, and who are often builders of parts of the online world. While most people who responded to the survey live in North America, people from across the world were invited to participate.
Respondents gave their answers to the following prompt:
Most significant impacts of the Internet — This is an open-ended question allowing you to make your own prediction about the role of the Internet in people’s lives in 2025 and the impact it will have on social, economic and political processes. Good and/or bad, what do you expect to be the most significant overall impacts of our uses of the Internet on humanity between now and 2025?
Since the data are based on a non-random sample, the results are not projectable to any population other than the individuals expressing their points of view in this sample. The respondents’ remarks reflect their personal positions and are not the positions of their employers; the descriptions of their leadership roles help identify their background and the locus of their expertise. About 84% of respondents identified themselves as being based in North America; the others hail from all corners of the world. When asked about their “primary area of Internet interest,” 19% identified themselves as research scientists; 9% said they were entrepreneurs or business leaders; 10% as authors, editors or journalists; 8% as technology developers or administrators; 8% as advocates or activist users; 7% said they were futurists or consultants; 2% as legislators, politicians or lawyers; 2% as pioneers or originators; and 33% specified their primary area of interest as “other.”
About half of the expert survey respondents elected to remain anonymous. Because people’s level of expertise is an important element of their participation in the conversation, anonymous respondents were given the opportunity to share a description of their Internet expertise or background.
The survey is the sixth Future of the Internet survey conducted by Pew Research and Elon. In the first survey, fielded in late 2004 and published a decade ago in 2005, when respondents were asked about how they saw the influence of the Internet unfolding, the vast majority shared primarily optimistic viewpoints about positive impacts that might emerge. In this survey, most respondents easily identified downsides to a highly networked future, suggesting that analysts are much more experienced with and aware of the threats of connectivity today than they were a decade ago.
Some of the key respondents in this report:
Jari Arkko of Ericsson, chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force; Geoff Arnold, a Cisco principal engineer; Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Fred Baker, Cisco Systems Fellow; danah boyd, a social scientist for Microsoft; Stowe Boyd, lead at GigaOM Research; David Brin, futurist and author; Bob Briscoe, chief researcher for British Telecom; Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google; David Clark, senior scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; David Cohn, director of news for Circa; Glenn Edens, research scientist at PARC and IETF area chair; Bob Frankston, Internet pioneer and technology innovator; Steve Goldstein, longtime National Science Foundation leader; Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher for Microsoft; Jim Hendler, Semantic Web scientist and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Bob Hinden, chair of Check Point Software and chair of the board for the Internet Society; Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center at the City University of New York; Jim Kennedy, senior vice president for strategy for the Associated Press; Mike Liebhold, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future; Dan Lynch, founder of Interop and former director of computing facilities at SRI International; Isaac Mao, chief architect of Sharism Lab; John Markoff, senior writer for the Science section of the New York Times; Ian Peter, pioneer Internet activist and Internet rights advocate; Craig Newmark, founder of Craig’s List; Raymond Plzak, former CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, now a member of the board of ICANN; Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of MIT Technology Review; JP Rangaswami, chief scientist for Salesforce.com; Howard Rheingold, pioneering Internet sociologist and self-employed writer, consultant, and educator; Mike Roberts, Internet pioneer and longtime leader with ICANN; Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center; Paul Saffo, managing director of Discern Analytics and consulting associate professor at Stanford; Doc Searls, director of ProjectVRM at Harvard’s Berkman Center; Tom Standage, digital editor for The Economist; Tapio Varis, chair in global e-learning for UNESCO; Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression for the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Hal Varian, chief economist for Google; and David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center.
A selection of other institutions at which respondents work or have affiliations:
Yahoo; Intel; IBM; Hewlett-Packard; Nokia; Amazon; Netflix; Verizon; PayPal; BBN; Comcast; US Congress; EFF; W3C; The Web Foundation; PIRG: NASA; Association of Internet Researchers; Bloomberg News; World Future Society; ACM; the Aspen Institute; Magid; GigaOm; the Markle Foundation; The Altimeter Group; FactCheck.org; key offices of US and European Union governments; the Internet Engineering Task Force; the Internet Hall of Fame; ARIN; Nominet; Oxford Internet Institute; Princeton, Yale, Brown, Georgetown, Carnegie-Mellon, Duke, Purdue, Florida State and Columbia Universities; the universities of Pennsylvania, California-Berkeley, Southern California, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Kentucky, Maryland, Kansas, Texas-Austin, Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Boston College.
Complete sets of for-credit and anonymous responses to this survey question, can be found here: