Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Tell me the Future
When we asked Vint Cerf, chief evangelist at Google, to guest edit MediaGuardian, we expected him to bring us some luminaries of the web who we don't often get to hear from. His choices transform an often-asked question ("what's the future?"), into an insight into the thinking of innovators and pioneers. It's no coincidence that three of them are founders of some of the biggest web names.
Their specialist fields (from search, to advertising, video streaming to social networking) represent what Cerf believes to be the most exciting areas of development on the web and in the world; notably Steven Huter and Adiel Akplogan, who have pioneered the internet infrastructure in Africa.
Finally, each one has had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on the future of media.
Chris De Wolfe
CEO, co-founder MySpace
In only a few years, social networks have become a staple in the internet landscape as the social networking phenomenon allowed people to "put their lives online". A person's profile became a representation of who they really were in the offline world, and allowed them to transfer their offline world online.
More than ever, social networks are blurring online and offline worlds, evolving into social destinations that are driving the direction of the larger web and affecting industries like advertising, music and politics.
Predicting the future of social networks exclusively misses the larger point - these evolving online social destinations are laying the groundwork for the new social web which we believe is becoming infinitely more personal, more portable, and more collaborative.
First, as we expand these social destinations to all corners of the world, we must always think in terms of the individual. With millions of people using social websites, there's an increasing demand to make everyone's web experience personal. In the same way a home or office is your physical address, we expect your personal, online social profile to become your internet address. When I give out www.myspace.com/chrisdewolfe to friends and colleagues, everyone knows where to find me online.
We expect aspects of all socially-based sites to become increasingly portable. In terms of mobile, we expect to have relationships with every carrier and device-maker in the world and we expect that half of our future traffic will come from non-PC users.
Social activity is happening everywhere and we expect applications and features to be more fluid, based on the online population that want content where they want it, when they want it, and how they want it. Social activity should be portable and we expect the industry will continue to move in that direction.
Lastly, online social destinations work best when creativity and development are collaborative concepts. From personal profiles, to the widget economy, to the OpenSocial standard - the future of the social web will harness the savvy of the masses to produce more relevant and meaningful social experiences, ultimately pushing the larger industry to be more innovative and progressive.
Lowering the barrier to entry for a new generation of developers will lead to a more collaborative and dynamic web and directly affect the tools and feature sets available on socially-based sites. Supporting a more collaborative web creates a more global and participatory internet experience for everyone.
The evolution of social networks is kick-starting a broad global shift for how people, content and culture collide on the web. Right now we're looking at the tip of the iceberg for what the social web will look like in the future. Fundamentally, all social destinations must expand while staying personal, they must engage users while empowering portability, and they must work with up and coming innovators and major web leaders to both collaborate and contribute to the larger web community.
Chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe
Five years is an eternity in technology, but from our vantage point a few things are clear about what the internet and internet advertising will look like in 2012. One, virtually all media will be digital, and digital will enable almost all kinds of advertising. Two, online advertising will depend more than ever on the one element which has always been at the heart of impactful advertising, both analogue and digital: creativity. The explosion of media channels means this is a glorious time to think and act creatively. In art history terms, we are at the dawn of the Renaissance after the Dark Ages.
Just as the Renaissance broke down the distinctions between sacred and profane art forms and between individual and community, so we are seeing a similar exciting blurring today - and this will only intensify. Linear media is fast giving way to liquid media, where you can move seamlessly in and out of different settings. Prescribed time - the 7 o'clock news, the Friday night out at the cinema, etc - is now becoming multitasking time. People are no longer willing to put up with interruptions for a commercial break during their entertainment experience, and so we have to find incredibly creative solutions to interact with them and engage them in genuine and honest ways. This implies a brave new world of engagement and involvement between marketers and consumers and will also mean co-production between marketers and media owners. Scale will be critical: in five years' time, around 2 billion people will be constant internet users and mobile internet computing will be ubiquitous. What a great time to be in the business!
As we increasingly realise the web as a vital social utility and important marketplace we cannot ignore an even bigger potential. The power of the internet is not limited to the PC. Twitter has emerged to create a seamless layer of social connectivity across SMS, IM, and the web. Operating on the simple concept of status, Twitter asks one question: "What are you doing?" Friends, family and colleagues stay connected through short responses.
The potential for this simple form of hybrid communication technology is strong. For example, a person in India may text "Follow Biz" and get online via Twitter over SMS in a matter of seconds. Biz might be updating from the US on a PC. Nevertheless, the updates are exchanged instantly.
Our future holds in store the promise of increased connectivity to a powerful social internet which truly extends to every little spot on our Planet Earth. We're all affected by and defined by each other's actions. What are you doing?
Director of research, Google
Yale librarian Rutherford Rogers said "We're drowning in information and starving for knowledge." The internet is an ocean of information and in the near future we'll speed through it effortlessly and intuitively, like a tuna. No, I don't mean you'll have fins.
If you haven't been searching for [tuna tail vortices] recently, you may not know that a tuna's body creates small vortices in the water that are then channelled by the tuna's tail to create additional power.
This symbiosis of tuna and watery environment forms a more efficient propulsion system than anything designed by human engineers.
In the future, a similar symbiosis of searcher and computational environment will allow us to move faster through the internet than we would have thought possible. We will not just be typing in keywords and getting back a list of 10 web pages.
Instead, our interaction will be more fluid, our computers will accept our requests in many forms, and will scan our environment proactively, looking for ways to provide us with additional power. We will get back web pages, yes, along with existing books and videos, but also custom tables, charts, animations, databases, and summarisations created on-the-fly in response to our specific needs.
Today, nobody says "I need to connect to a megawatt power station" - instead we assume that electricity will be available on demand in almost every room of every building we visit. Edison could see that this would be useful, but could not foresee the range of appliances, from food processors to mp3 players, that this availability would enable. So too will information flow freely to us in the future, and be transformed by as-yet-unforeseen information appliances.
Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities (US)
At the National Endowment for the Humanities, we believe the internet and other information-age tools, such as digital archiving, will help us understand the world more deeply, broadly, and creatively. For humanists just as much for scientists, the ability to mine, analyse, and understand data, simulate complex environments, and combine information from a wide variety of sources, is critical to 21st-century discovery and innovation.
The exciting new tools of the digital age also present unique challenges. With digital technologies, we can comb through information in seconds versus years, and assimilate knowledge from a much broader array of sources for new insights. But the wellbeing of the infrastructure itself demands new time-frames. Information in books can be preserved for centuries before transfer to new "media" is needed. Information on disks, thumb drives, and other digital media has a lifespan measured in years or even months rather than centuries before transfer to the next generation of media is required.
Just as physical infrastructure is a foundation for modern life, digital infrastructure (data storage, computers, networks, etc.) is foundational infrastructure for the information age. Attention to the health and support of this infrastructure is critical to ensuring that born-digital knowledge is preserved and passed on for the benefit of future generations.