Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Key Insights: Expert Views on Threats to the Internet

Future of the Internet: Vint Cerf

As part of our series of reports marking the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, we canvassed experts and Internet builders about how the Internet would be functioning in 2025. More than 1,400 experts in fields ranging from computer science to marketing to social science share their insights on what threats to the Internet they see on the horizon. We also sought their insights about the potential for new advances. Here is an overview of what we found, and four areas of potential threats that emerged, along with representative comments about each.

Looking at the Web’s next decade

  • A majority of experts hope by 2025 there will be no changes for the worse in ways people get and share online content
  • Experts expect tech innovation will continue to afford more new opportunities for people to connect online
  • Many experts fear the open Internet will be threatened by trends that hamper the way it works
  • Billions more people may gain access to the Web by 2025 thanks to the mobile Internet revolution
  • “The Internet will become far more accessible than it is today”—Vint Cerf

Threat 1) These experts worry that countries will interfere with the net to maintain security and control

  • Some experts see a broad global trend toward regulation of the Internet by regimes that have faced protests
  • Arab Spring was an example of the power of the Internet to organize dissent, but also an example of govt crackdowns
  • “Governments will become more skilled at blocking access to unwelcome sites”—Paul Saffo
  • “We must protect the open architecture of the Net and assure no govt can claim sovereignty over it”—Jeff Jarvis
  • Work on new social media technologies will help respond to “increasing authoritarianism” by nations—Kevin Carson
  • Tech will make “irreversible” a world increasingly global and involved over the next 10 years—Paul Jones

Threat 2) These experts warn that government and corporate surveillance imperils trust

  • If unchecked, many experts fear monitoring of vast amounts of online activity will limit sharing
  • Little reason to expect that serious privacy issues facing Internet content now will change by 2025—Peter Vogel
  • “Dominant content companies may seek ever more rigorous ways to prevent the flow of copyright content”—Kate Crawford
Future of the Internet: Alf Rehn

Threat 3) These experts worry that commercial pressures will endanger the open structure of online life

  • Experts fear increased monetization of Internet activities will hurt ways people receive information in the future
  • Commercial challenges facing the Web: threat to net neutrality, copyright protections and patent law
  • One expert—“Commercialization of the Internet, paradoxically, is the biggest challenge to the growth of the Internet”
  • Too many institutional “players” on Web want to restrict/control what ordinary people can do online—Leah Lievrouw
  • One expert—”I would like to see the Internet come to be regarded as a public utility, as broadcast spectrum was”
  • Sharing (on Web) hindered by “ridiculous” 19th century copyright/patent laws. “Both will die away”—Marcel Bullinga
  • One expert: Access to Internet “will just keep getting better as that is how governments/industry will make money”
  • 70% of US internet users get information using search services on one company. “This needs to change.”—Marc Rotenberg

Threat 4) These experts worry about too much information

  • Experts worry that people’s attempts to cope with information overload will lead to constraints on content flows
  • One expert: Biggest challenge on Web is the problem of “finding interesting and meaningful content when you want it”
  • Prediction: An industry of “personal information trainers” will help people find interesting and useful information
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