The future of the Internet could be closer than you think

by Dave Hannon

September 16, 2010

By Dave Hannon

If I described today’s Internet to someone in, say, 1970, they would probably have had trouble grasping the actual concept, never mind accepting the breadth of its acceptance in all areas of life. (Remember the looks Marty McFly got in Back to the Future when he told people in the 1950s that his family had two television sets? Well when that movie was released in 1985, most of us still had not heard of the Internet, to put things into perspective)

But enough nostalgia. That was yesterday. What I’m more fascinated by is what the Internet of TOMORROW will look like. Which direction will users take it? How will it affect the way we live our lives and do our jobs? For most of us, that’s very difficult to predict but fun to think about. Along those lines, I wanted to share a couple sources I found recently that might give us a sneak peek into what the online world of tomorrow will look like.

Through the Internet Architecture Awards program, the National Science Foundation awards grants to four major projects that will investigate new network architectures for the Internet. And while none of these suggestions are all that far-fetched, they do provide some “what if” scenarios. Perhaps the most far-out project here is the Named Data Networking architecture, which basically says the client-server model “does not incorporate adequate mechanisms to support secure content-oriented functionality, regardless of the specific physical location where the content resides. The proposed Named Data Networking (NDN) architecture moves the communication paradigm from today's focus on ‘where’, i.e., addresses, servers, and hosts, to ‘what’, i.e., the content that users and applications care about.” 

The MobilityFirst project “proposes an architecture centered on mobility as the norm, rather than the exception.” Given the rapid adoption of mobile computing and the as-yet-untapped billions of users in Asia and Africa, a mobile-led architecture certainly seems possible. In the proposed NEBULA architecture “cloud computing data centers are the primary repositories of data and the primary locus of computation.” It’s basically a bet that cloud computing is more than a trend and will in fact change the way data is stored and retrieved.

Pretty heady stuff. Another great sneak-peek at what’s next for the Internet comes every year in the form of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers awards. While not quite as cutting-edge (most of these are well established firms), its track record on predicting what web sites or technologies have legs is pretty good. Past winners include Google, Twitter, BusinessObjects and StreamBase, a Sybase partner. The 2011 class of winners was just released so take a look and see what you think is the pick of the litter.    

But in terms of what applications and gadgets we can expect to see dominating the Internet in 10 years, according to at least one source, just try ing to guess is a waste of time. According to this survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the majority of experts surveyed feel that so far the dominating Internet gadgets and applications have basically come out of the blue and will continue to do so. So, I hope you like surprises.


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