Have you wrapped a gift for your friend the World Wide Web yet? You did remember its birthday, right? This March marks the 27th anniversary of the submission of British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s earliest proposal for what would become the World Wide Web. Of course, it didn't become a reality until months later, so you might be forgiven if you planned to break out the candles in honor of a different Web milestone. Here at Ascedia, however, we have a lot of admiration for good planning, and this anniversary has got us thinking about what people might be planning to do with the internet in another 27 years.
There will surely be a lot of things we can’t possibly imagine (a robot uprising wouldn’t work if the robots gave us any hint it was coming, after all…), but if we look at where technology is today we can predict a few things that seem very likely in the future.
1. THE CONTINUED RISE OF VIRTUAL REALITY
A lot of us associate Virtual Reality with Sci-fi movies or novelty arcade games, but it’s becoming a more serious source of entertainment—and its spread might not be limited to video games, either. Facebook has acquired the VR company Oculus and created a team to explore the potential of social networking and VR. Google has been experimenting with VR as well, and they aren’t just teasing consumers with cutting-edge technology and expensive hardware—if you have a modern smartphone and some cheap, miscellaneous craft supplies like cardboard and plastic lenses, you can assemble a “Google Cardboard” viewer at home and get a taste of VR’s potential. There are already ways to use these headsets to watch 3D YouTube videos among other online activities, so it may be only a matter of time before virtual reality has even more influence on the internet.
2. AN EVEN MORE WORLDWIDE WEB
It sure seems like everyone is online these days, but that’s not entirely true. You might still know some people who don’t own a computer of their own—for example, older generations who stick to the habits they developed before computers were commonplace. On a global scale, consider that there are many places where an internet connection might not be widely accessible—or available at all! As the internet continues to expand and affordable mobile devices serve as personal computers for people who may not have had them before, in 27 years we can expect the World Wide Web to be even more worldwide than it is now.
At the same time, while things may move quickly in the world of technology they don’t always move at the same pace in the world of infrastructure. High speed connections might not be guaranteed everywhere, even in the future. Already some sites are taking this into account in order to cater to users connecting under less than ideal conditions. Facebook, for example, launched Facebook Lite, a version of their app that is optimized for limited data usage and slow networks. They also have “2G Tuesdays” at their offices, where employees can choose to experience an hour with a simulated slow connection to give them a first-hand taste of how people in other circumstances use their product.
3. AN EXPANDED “INTERNET OF THINGS”
Did you know that the first webcam was the “Trojan Room coffee pot” camera at the University of Cambridge that allowed people to check whether coffee was available without having to leave their desks? Just as the internet offers us new and exciting ways to communicate with the people around us, it has potential to further connect us with objects around us as well. While ideas like “smart homes” aren’t fully a reality yet for the average person, a lot of us already have more than just our computers and phones connected to the internet. For example, there are many Ascedians who love their Fitbits, which track fitness goals digitally by monitoring things like heart rate and steps. In the future we can expect to be surrounded by the “Internet of Things.”
The future can be hard to predict in an industry like ours—27 years is an awfully long time in internet years! Still, just as the Web as we know it started with one guy’s proposal, it’s important to remember that the future doesn’t just have to be something that happens to us. As participants in the internet, what we do with it can influence its direction, too. At Ascedia, we know there’s a valuable balance between thinking big and pushing boundaries, and making smart, conservative choices based on the tried and true. Even if we don’t know exactly what the future holds for the internet, we’re doing our part to try and make it into a future we want to see. (We’re still working on our robot uprising contingency plan, though. Better safe than sorry!)