On the web's 25th birthday – marking a quarter of a century that transformed the world – The Drum spoke to some industry experts to gather their views on how being online has changed lives. With the technological revolution continuing at a rapid pace, we’ve spoken to some more professionals whose lives are dominated by digital to find out what the next 25 years might hold.
Michael Roberts, strategist, Carat
With all eyes on all of us, I hope the future of the web provides a shift in control back toward the average user. You could say that since its inception the web has been the epitome of ‘redefining media’, our Carat brand ethos, by reinventing how we look at the world. But like many 25 year olds, the web is under immense amounts of pressure; some are using the web for great stuff (just take a look at TOMNOD and Space Hive), governments are abusing the power that’s available thanks to large amounts of data and a lack of education on how to manage personal data and others are building platforms that are making it easier for criminal activity to go by unnoticed. With computer programming now on the national curriculum, I believe the future of the web is firmly in the hands of our brightest children. They have such a fantastic opportunity to continue making the web the open and inclusive place it should be. Hopefully, together, we’ll regain a bit more control and help spread the benefits of the web where it’s most needed (around half of the world’s population don’t use the web at all). I’m personally looking forward to feeling a bit more comfortable using siri, connecting my trainers to a smart-city data centre and continuing to challenge my own personal view of the world through discovery of content I’d never otherwise had the chance of seeing. I just hope I’ll know more about me than my iPhone does...
Tom Barnes, strategy director at Digit
One of the fundamental shifts I believe we're going to experience is the redefinition of the web from something we as humans created and defined by the way we used it to a situation where it’s evolution is being driven by the devices in which its integrated. This reassessment of the web goes beyond responsive design and connected devices; it relates to a new dawn and the evolution of the Internet of Things and the resultant democratisation of the internet’s capabilities. David Cameron recently announced at the digital technology trade fair CeBIT in Hannover that he has pledged £45m of funding to support UK research in this field – an opportunity which will now be firmly on the agenda for any future gazing technology company. We've already grown accustomed to 'smart' devices that respond to our behaviour and preferences for internet on-the-go. It has since been taken to the next level and we’re seeing everyday objects integrating the web to act with minimal human input; household central heating systems, televisions and even your fridge. Following Cameron’s announcement and with the UK now working alongside Germany to develop 5G, the speed and capabilities that this will bring will mean the web will be omnipresent and increasingly more visible - in our cars, kitchens and commute to work. It’ll become an extension of our lives; an ever-present, integrated part of the fabric of our existence, driving efficiency, control and closer communication.
Adrian Nicholls, UK head of digital, Geometry Global
How will the internet develop over the 25 years? If we believe 'Her' we'll fall in love with our operating system, which will then ultimately leave us once it has realised humans are limited in their comprehension (sorry for the spoiler, but read it on Wiki and save 2hrs 10mins). Or, we'll be plugged into a mainframe with our collective power and knowledge, receiving updates that will hopefully make for some better good. It could lead to a world of server farms (start buying up empty fields and warehouses now) as data gets beyond control. Big data? There'll be enough to know when you're about take a pee and you'll be served a money-off voucher direct onto your contact lens for the next order of Andrex. Plus, the toilet lid will be automatically up or down, thereby making at least half the population happy. There'll be no more digital industry - it will simply be industry. "Charlie don't surf” - he might not do, but he does code. The list of primary school must-haves for my son is now English, Spanish, Mandarin, C++, .net and PHP. Once he's got that lot, the world's yours my son (apart from the stuff that Google own). In 25 years time, I'll look back at this and find it strange that we had keyboards.
Angus Wood, head of earned media, iProspect
We know the web has changed the economies and societies of the rich, developed world since 1989, but the impact on the lives of the 60 per cent of the world’s population who don’t currently have access will be even more profound by 2039. We have found ways of making information transfer so cheap as to be effectively free – but access to it remains for the relatively wealthy. When the power of the world wide web is applied by people living in poverty – as it undoubtedly will be in the next decades – a whole new set of priorities will come to the fore. Provided the web sticks to its open source roots, as championed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the power of the free exchange of information to expose corruption, share know-how and generate wealth may well prove to be the biggest factor in raising millions, if not billions, out of poverty.
Jide Sobo, head of mobile, MEC UK
The internet will have a two track future. The developed world will embrace the Internet of Things, and by 2039 virtually everything will be connected to the internet. The connected home will be a reality for the majority of people, with smart household appliances not just being controllable remotely, but also learning to adapt to their owners daily routines. Data will be farmed from all these connected devices to enable advertisers to target their ads based on specific usage patterns, and information, from each house. This will be possible because data privacy will have stopped being an issue, as connected services become all pervasive and those that try to maintain any level of privacy are shut out from the latest advances.The developing world will be fully connected, thanks to universal broadband provided by a collaboration between Google and Facebook. Mobile networks will have ceased to exist, as they struggle to adapt to the new world order. Instead, Google and Facebook will provide ad-funded internet access, with targeting based on all of the data they see across the network, which will be a small price to pay for rural Africans who are now able to access education and healthcare. The PC will be dead, but low cost tablet type devices will proliferate.
Peter Veash, CEO, The BIO Agency
The internet has consummately changed the way consumers interact with brands and the way we live our lives. When it comes to the marketing industry, consumers are no longer passive recipients of branded communications; they are far more discerning and seek meaningful experiences that truly connect to their daily lives. This has been spearheaded by the internet which is increasingly empowering today’s consumers. Brands are now having to work harder to understand how customers work and ensure that all communication is personalised and right for the individual. Digitalisation has sped up the development of technology at lightning speed and this year alone we’ve moved from what was the Internet of Things to the Internet of Everything, showing how rapidly connected devices and the internet are revolutionising our lives. It’s a duty for brands to inculcate digital change and in doing so they harness inescapable brand loyalty and open up new revenue streams that suit the lifestyles of the digital consumer who is always ‘on’. New cultures are emerging and in order for them to be sustainable companies must ensure that digital and technology transcend top-down and become institutional.
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