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Where Is The Internet Headed?

     
4:30 am on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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This is something that no one individual, group, company or entity can control. There are significant influences and some major players, but the ultimate direction the online universe goes is still a mystery.

Which influence do you think will take the lead? Will it be technology, or marketing/sales or social/community? Who will be the major force in shaping tomorrow's internet: Amazon or Alibaba, Google or Microsoft, Facebook or Instagram, or something we haven't seen yet? (the next big thing.)

Currently, the movement is toward mobile devices with the need for web design to be Mobile Responsive. [webmasterworld.com] Soon Google is expected to switch to the Mobile-First Index [webmasterworld.com] and with more and more servers adopting HTTP/2 [http2.github.io] things are getting faster & faster.

In an effort for better security, protocol has updated to HTTPS [webmasterworld.com] and soon all web pages without it will display browser warnings. Web security will likely continue to be updated as the whack-a-mole ideology remains.

With faster speed & better security, will Virtual Reality based apps find a populus fan base on mobile? Will Progressive Web Apps [webmasterworld.com] get the momentum they need?

Where do you think the internet will be in the next 5 years? 10 years? Beyond?

- - -
5:11 am on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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This is a don't open kind of question as the answers might not be was desired: it leads to commentary on recent and (to my thinking) hideous directions where the tech giants (G and FB in particular) are beginning to censor speech and thought.

As for the MECHANICS of the web, that will always be in flux, usually seeking a "less is more" presentation as regards the coding and backed by further expansion of high-speed delivery and distribution.

As with any industry moving toward maturity the big fish keep getting bigger and pretty soon there will be no little fish of any consequence left. That day is not quite here, but the handwriting is on the wall.
9:34 am on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I predict more opportunities for VR and a range of businesses and services springing up surrounding it. For example, medical education and treatment, especially remotely, or real estate by having walk throughs of properties.

IoT will continue to grow, although i'd like to see more security brought in to avoid opportunities for DDoS attacks.

More people will start to wake up over social media privacy.

Mobile will continue to become stronger as the preferred choice of use as more people get online.
10:46 am on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I agree with tangor - the giants are manipulating the internet in their direction. FB's abortive plan to offer free internet access in India is a sign of what they would like to achieve, and the surveys that found that is some countries more people say they use Facebook than use the internet is a sign of how successful they are.

The other threat are the telecoms companies. They want to control what is available over their networks. They will be at loggerheads with the internet giants, but if either of them win the rest of us lose.
11:15 am on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Mod note: Let's avoid the rage against the machine rhetoric and keep on topic:

Where do you think the internet will be in the next 5 years? 10 years? Beyond?
12:54 pm on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I think that internet censorship is just on the horizon. This is partly to combat things like online recruiting of radical groups. A free internet cannot be used as a destructive tool for society. There are limits, such as when terrorists use the web to plan attacks. A direction has already been set with China's Great Firewall. Russia will go in that direction as well. Privacy, where companies keep their data, government surveillance will all be big issues in the future.

We are only seeing the beginning of bot action. The mechanization of the web has already begun in earnest, with ticket bots and chat bots. The differentiation between human and bot will blur as bot makers consult with psychology majors to make software appear more human.
5:52 pm on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A few thoughts, not in any particular order.

One minor little addendum to HTTPS - the main MitM player being knocked aside are ISPs who have been stripping/inserting ads. This, of course, explains a good bit of Google's/Chrome's efforts to cast all HTTP sites as 'insecure' even when there is nothing particularly important in the connection/stream to secure.

The next major shift is likely to be some version of Elon Musk's 4-thousand-plus low orbit satellite network, if not him, then perhaps Boeing-OneWeb, China, or India. Such a system could severely impact both hard wired and cellular networks.

While they overlap, the Web and the wider Internet are not synonymous. The WWW itself is currently splintered into public, deep, and dark. Plus barriers such as China's 'Great Firewall' mean that networks will likely proliferate with both legal and extralegal connections shifting over time. Various prohibitions will increase the power and value of hackers/crackers and programmers generally. And the penalties for associated misdemeanours.

The techtonic collisions of economic/political/social jurisdictions and corporations will increase in number and severity in battles of C3I (command, control, communication, intelligence) dominance.

SME on the web have increasingly been suffering the WalMart Effect as enterprise sites move into general search results and dominate third party ad spend (for over a decade now). This means that adjustments in offerings, in marketing, and in audience locating are increasingly necessary.

Some intersection of HUD and 3-D portable hologram is likely in the next decade either eliminating or exasperating current multiple device screen display angst. Regardless, in the more near future Progressive Web Apps (now that Apple is onboard with Service Workers in WebKit development [webmasterworld.com]) will change - once again - how sites design for and interact with their visitors.

The ridiculous expansion of networking everything just because and without a single thought to security (Hello IoT!) is already running into systems no longer being made or supported and liability claims up the yingyang. I hope that as the ramifications end up in court and impacting bottom lines privacy and security best practices, minimums will begin to be mandated. Amusing that infrastructure security may actually be driven by consumer protection.

Bots are truly something. It is increasingly difficult and complex to separate the 'best' bots from human visitors. Given that one of my differential (direct ad space) selling points is that my ad/af visitor stats are as close to 100% human as possible and not the typical bot-human blend found elsewhere it is critical that I (and my clients) have confidence in not only my methodology/system but also in it's associated false acceptance rate (FAR) and false rejection rate (FRR). Perfection is receding. Rapidly.
---What is not developing is a practical individual user use case. I can theorise some but none are on any horizon I can view at the moment.

Responsive design is pretty much awash at the moment: everyone is 'doing' it by simply using media queries to flow some one (usually desktop) layout. A few have (re)designed from a mobile first perspective that adds bits as viewports increase in size. A very very few are serving not just content differently but actual different content depending on visitor context. Most of this is very 'OR', i.e. one home page content for first time visitors another for returning. A very little is where I see the future of the web: content as personalised as what is known of the visitors context allows. Where not just the layout but the content itself is fluid. Which brings up all sorts of privacy and security and jurisdiction issues. And a whole new backend and expertise until plug-n-play finds a way. And plays hob with ye olde SE query return methodology.
7:48 pm on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In the next few years, I see Progressive Web Apps [webmasterworld.com] becoming the thing - IF - the major players allow them to be indexable and linkable. Aspects of VR will surely show up in some PWAs.
8:18 pm on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I see Progressive Web Apps [webmasterworld.com] becoming the thing
I tend to agree with this statement.

Mod note: Let's avoid the rage against the machine rhetoric and keep on topic:

It is pretty hard to avoid it when discussing this topic. Because as much as one may want to deny it, the dominance of big players is becoming evermore pronounced. In the past there have been disrupters that have knocked the big guys down and evened the playing field to some extent. But today these disrupters of the past are the now the big players, so they know what to expect and how to crush their competitors. I for one fear for walled garden model of the internet, where you choose your side and pay to play.
8:27 pm on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It is pretty hard to avoid it when discussing this topic.
Agreed, but there's a difference between acknowledging their (the major players) role in shaping the direction of the web (staying on topic) and the endless complaining that infects some threads here at WW.
8:38 pm on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I am pretty good with Chinese, and I see a very deep deficiency for Chinese people as a whole. They just simply cannot access as much information as an English speaker. It is extremely difficult for unilingual Chinese speakers. The general level of English is very low in China. Additional roadblocks include the Great Firewall. The access to information is not evenly distributed depending on language. Hopefully better computer translation will be available in the future. In the mean time the Chinese government is using this to build knowledge walls around their borders, VPN be damned. There are 4.5 times more Chinese than Americans. More work needs to be done to reduce language barriers to knowledge. Then there are the political barriers.

Chinese search engines do not make available everything they index. I know they fully index my site because I track them in my log, but when I search in English or Chinese I cannot find my content.
8:48 pm on Aug 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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TorontoBoy - good topic, but that's a discussion for another thread.

Where do you think the internet will be in the next 5 years? 10 years? Beyond?
12:25 am on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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IMHO, there will be no real internet in the next 10 years. At least, not the way we see it now.

Free websites that rely on ad revenue are dying, fast. Most of us are being replaced with Facebook, which is ironic when you consider that it's just a big message board... but I digress. Some will continue to exist in some way on Twitter or as hobby sites, but nothing like we used to see. The use of ad blockers going up, the value of ads going down, and the increase in corporate competition, means that we just have no way to compete.

Those free sites going away means that there are less options for advertising, and the options that do exist become more expensive. So small e-commerce sites die away, too, leaving only Amazon, Ebay, and a handful of big box stores.

With the growth of mobile, the internet will become less and less social, and more and more of a generic place to find a quick answer or play a game. Small brick and mortar stores will be able to supplement their sales on Amazon or Ebay, but that's about it.

And I say this with a very heavy heart, because I've worked online exclusively since 1995. And I have no clue where to go or what to do after this.
12:29 am on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I see only opportunity for those that are willing to utilize the technology presented and innovate new ideas where there isn't.

If you see only doom & gloom you're in the wrong business.





[fix typo]

[edited by: keyplyr at 1:06 am (utc) on Aug 14, 2017]

5:21 am on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The future of the internet is unknown, no matter how rah rah some might wish. That is the topic as all above have indicated trends currently known and are extrapolating where they might go. For the majority of current web sites (and web masters), there is a certain amount of doom and gloom, and failure to recognize that NOW might be too late in the future (after large investments of time and monies for diminishing returns).

I DO SEE a future on the web for what will eventually fill the same paradigm that VANITY PUBLISHING holds in the print industry. Of course, the cost of playing on a web that is becoming commercialized and controlled by large corporations (ISP, TELCOM, SE, SOCIAL and GOVERNMENT) is likely to be quite expensive.

And the "free to play" tier will be relegated (and regulated) to obscurity.

One of those beware what you ask for you just might get it scenarios is Net Neutrality which will have unintended impacts (but that is a different topic).
2:00 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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And I say this with a very heavy heart, because I've worked online exclusively since 1995. And I have no clue where to go or what to do after this.


That's especially true for early adopters used to the early days, and we've all had to grow up and choose different routes to achieve either a living from what we've developed, or move to other things. For example, I have seen many early SEO businesses drop SEO and become PPC businesses.

The Internet and what you can do with it is not standing still.
For those looking to change and go forward, we can look at some of those aspects where we might see an opportunity. Hopefully, we can get some clues from this thread.
2:01 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@tangor, I do not see who net neutrality is going to have that effect. It might remove free to play, but it will ensure the future of cheap to play.

Going back to the big topic, I see a shift of web apps rather than sites. Its what most of my work is these days, and there are a lot of applications out there. Some that would once have been implemented as desktop software, some that would have run internally are out on the internet, some would not have really been possible without the internet.

I see free sites that rely on ad revenue dying - mine is as good as dead. I do think there are a lot of other ways to make money. If you have something to sell, the web can help you sell it. If you have something that needs doing that involves people not all in one lcoation, the web can help you do it.
2:23 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Not to "rage against the machine" but Elon Musk just came out to say AI is "vastly more risky than North Korea" and needs to be regulated. I personally believe that AI will be the biggest shaping force of the future internet. If in place now and in a learning phase, it's already being destructive to many. We're talking economic disaster for many who once thrived on the web providing great content. Using AI to push ad revenue is an affront to the quality of the web.
If allowed to reign over the web by the wrong hands, it would totally eliminate the "free web" as we knew it. Maybe it's already on course to do so in the very near future....or for some, has already done so. [theguardian.com...]
3:30 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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"If you see only doom & gloom you're in the wrong business."

^ I think this is a much more profound statement than we all realise. Many small businesses are struggling, but not many will admit it. In the Uk, Google, Amazon, eBay, the Chinese are really hurting independent SME (SMB) ecommerce - my specialisation.

It's a case of facing reality. If you're small, you need a super-niche. Local communities and laser focus. This question conflates the tech with the market. Whether it's a PWA or a mobile app, it won't matter unless you have that super-niche or are a progressive hip brand using visual marketing brilliantly. Like Asos and others. Realise it's more than a few people to run the time too. Suggesting cooperatives, but avoiding the mistakes of Etsy.

[digiday.com...]
3:43 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@iamlost - great post.

- low-earth satellites. Most people here, because they spend most of their time in cities, don't realize how much of the globe doesn't have internet or cell service. I live in California and I have to drive 30 minutes to get a cell signal or get to a place where you can get something close to true broadband internet. The low-earth satellites will mean no dead spots and that will mean, for better or worse, internet will penetrate all of our rural and wilderness areas. It will mean lots more real-time tracking, fewer places where people can disconnect.

- VR/AR - that will be limited to downloaded apps for the most part which limits the amount of data and what you can interact with, but if the low-earth satellites or some other upgrades make network connectivity ubiquitous, VR/AR will take off from novelty to service.

- AI will change things both visibly and invisibly on the web. Invisibly, search results will get better and better as, in my opinion, they have consistently since the first Alta Vista launch (with a few low points where the spammers had the upper hand). But AI will essentially kill the last remnants of webspam. It will also mean that more internet experiences will be interactive and we often won't know whether we're interacting with a customer service representative or a bot.

- Decline of the web page. This is longer term, but the web page as the fundamental "unit" of the internet will disappear. Remember that the internet predates the web by about 20 years. Older folks here remember gopher servers and usenet. People still use IRC and FTP, but now the "web page" in some form or another is dominant. As VR/HUD/AR/IoT expands, the web page will become more and more the quaint remnant of the early days of the internet. The stone lettering of the internet age.

- Death of ad-based internet. As a more near-term trend and as several have already mentioned, it will be harder and harder to make money with ads.

-Death of links as a meaningful signal. Engine laughed when I mentioned this a few years ago, but I think that's clearly where we're headed. In another decade, your backlinks mostly won't matter. That's true for any ranking factor. Remember that all ranking factors - from keywords in meta tags to quality backlinks from authoritative sources - have always just been proxy measures that the search engines used because they didn't have ways of understanding intent and quality directly. I believe we're going to see AI on a level that will dramatically devalue backlinks as a proxy signal for quality or relevance.

And yes, in the near term, we'll see more HTTPS, more HTTP2, more IPv6, more HSTS, more PWA and the slow disappearance of sites that are not mobile-friendly, but these are just the daily news headlines, not the big story. And the headlines rarely tell you anything useful about where the world is going.
5:57 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The Internet is simply a network. Let's not confuse it with the data that's transported on the network or the businesses, organizations, and individuals who use it.
8:09 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The Internet is simply a network.


Of course. I think the question could be rephrased as "How will the internet and uses of the internet evolve?" But your point speaks to what I meant by "the decline of the web page" - the web is one thing and the internet is another and more and more of "the internet" (and uses of the internet) will be something other than websites.
9:16 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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But your point speaks to what I meant by "the decline of the web page" - the web is one thing and the internet is another and more and more of "the internet" (and uses of the internet) will be something other than websites.

I don't think Web pages (or sites) are "declining," they're just being supplemented by other things in a world where more people spend more total time online (e.g., by staring at a cell phone while walking their dogs or taking their kids to the playground, which they certainly weren't doing in the pre-iPhone era.) As the expression says, a rising tide lifts all boats--including Web sites, in many cases.

Obviously, some Web sites may be in decline, but often it's just because they're cannibalizing their Web traffic with other types of Internet distribution. IMO, it really doesn't matter if I'm watching Netflix in a Web browser, with a smartphone app, or with a Roku Streaming Stick: No matter what the presentation medium might be, I'm still watching Netflix.

One thing that I've found striking over the last 25 years is how consistent the basic Internet experience has been. Most Internet behavior still involves the written word. Yes, you can watch videos, play games, view maps, etc., but for the most part, the online world is a reader's medium. That's been true since the days of electronic bulletin board systems, GEnie, and USENET. And I think it's fair to say that the Internet and its mass-market predecessors (most notably AOL) have made a huge contribution to literacy over the years.
10:24 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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cannibalizing their Web traffic with other types of Internet distribution

EG makes a point I (finally) agree with. ;) We are led down so many "recommended" paths that eventually lead over a cliff. "Link to everybody", which eventually hurt you. "Use redirects" enough said. "Post to Social Networks" which of you think about it, is a form of duplicate content. It's this kind of "advice" that will likely kill a site. Spoken from experience. Lead with good content and stick with that. Veering in too many directions seems to only confuse the emerging AI.
11:04 pm on Aug 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm surprised no one mentioned another change that may well be on the horizon:
Future regulation or even the break-up of Google.
It is not unthinkable that the EU could force Google to pay a royalty to all websites from which it takes text snippets or images.
This is exactly what was introduced in Spain (for News sites) and provoked the immediate withdrawal of Google News from Spain.

A big clamp-down on Google, might also make FB, Ebay and Amazon tread carefully more too.
1:28 am on Aug 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I don't think Web pages (or sites) are "declining,"


I agree with that. It's all a matter of verb tense. Right now, I think the pages/sites model is still in ascension if anything, penetrating into smaller and smaller niches. What I meant to say is that I do not expect the stability you have witnessed over the last 25 years to persist for another 25 years. I think we're approaching apogee and somewhere in the next 5-10 years, as AR, AI and immersive experiences grow more and more powerful, as natural language capabilities increase, as computer vision improves and so forth, the supercomputer in your pocket will 1) no longer be in your pocket and 2) will mostly use means other than web pages to convey information.

So it's a long view. In the present and the short term I don't disagree with you at all.
2:16 am on Aug 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It is not unthinkable that the EU could force Google to pay a royalty to all websites from which it takes text snippets or images.


Makes sense and why not? Getty images already sends you a legal notice with judgement and bill if one of your WordPress editors accidentally copies and uses one of their pics. They charge about $250 per image. At that rate, if Google used a mere 400M images for their answer box (likely many more) it would bankrupt their estimated annual take of 100B. That doesn't even factor in lifted content snippets.

Furthermore, if Google keeps indexing pirated images (which they still do regularly) wouldn't it be nice to get damages too. That would certainly sink their ship. Yes indeed, for better or worse, legal forces could certainly shape the future web.
2:34 am on Aug 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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While the internet does contain a vast amount of knowledge, it is not complete, and sources are fragmented. Much knowledge comes from individual web sites and web pages. I would hope that these individual sites would not disappear in the future. There is power to self publishing.

That being said, the world still depends on investigative reporting and professional writing skills of newspaper sites, but they are not compensated for their work. In the future how will they survive? A future internet without credible news sources would be a loss for everyone. Many long-lived newspapers have recently gone bankrupt, others have stopped their print edition, and advertising revenue has slowed to a trickle. How can they be funded in a near-term future internet?

P.S. Google and its ecosystem is already banned in China, who does just fine without them.
6:12 am on Aug 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The future of the web will rely on access. There are dark clouds out there regarding acceptable content as tech giants and governments, etc are coming together for a perfect storm as to who has a voice or right to have a web pretense (and make money, too).

This might come sooner than later.

G and YT and FB are already taking action against "content" (what is usually called free speech) with demonetization. Expect more the same. Also expect pushback, lawsuits, etc. until government gets involved. If that happens, the web will change drastically.

Again, one of those beware what you ask for, you just might get it kind of things.
7:04 am on Aug 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There's free WiFi all over the city I live in. A couple months ago I was in San Francisco where much of that city also has free WiFi. Las Vegas is the same.

I can see free online access becoming something most larger cities will try and implement as things go forward. Google has pledged their support (as with San Francisco) and I predict other tech giants will get onboard since it's in their interests to do so.

The new WiFi Standard is making things much faster and with 5g coming soon for mobile (my router already supports it) heavier data streams like video, gaming, VR will be more accessible for all devices.

The internet of things, while currently ridden with security challenges, offers an almost limitless array of possibilities for the future. Refrigerators take inventory and send the list to the mobile phone in your pocket while you're at the market.

Pretty exciting times and getting more so each day.
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