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Subject: Re: UKNM: Future of the Internet questionnaire
From: Ray Taylor
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1999 17:41:11 GMT

Phil Gyford <fabiusatwell [dot] com> said:

>I'm currently taking a course in Futures Studies, and I'd like to
>know what you think is going to happen to the Internet over the next
>ten years. It's further ahead than many of us tend to think,
>especially when it comes to the Net, but the results will be

A quick look at Phil's questionnaire suggests to me that any predictions
will be hampered by a backwards-looking view of the future.

10 years is an awful long time when it comes to the development of digital
electronic technologies. In order to predict future possibilities it might
be worth considering current trends such as the trend for semiconductor
devices doubling in power every year (or probably more now) and the fact
that the lead time for new technology developments has a tendency to reduce.
Thus new technology developments are accelerating.

If you look at the factors limiting internet development they are:

1. Penetration of PCs (and/or other internet devices) in the home and
2. Number of telephone lines installed per home

There are of course political and economic forces at play too, but the
easiest to track are phone lines and PCs. For instance, in Finland, where
there are many more telephone lines per household than any other country,
and most families can afford PCs, there is a rapid uptake of internet

I did some extensive market research / analysis for Jupiter Communications
some time back and this pattern of internet development as we predicted it
then certainly looks like being rolled out more or less according to the

Looking forward ten years, we can assume that more and faster telecomms will
be installed in homes and businesses and that more and more devices will
become IP enabled, and this will probably include domestic appliances like
fridges and washing machines, or possibly there will be a kitchen internet
appliance that does the job instead.

Certainly one would expect internet access of some kind to be common for TVs
and other entertainment products. Question is: what will access be used for?

Don't make the mistake of assuming the issue is "The Internet" as we now
know it. The issue is IP-enabled devices and how they will be used and what
services they will be able to access. There may be many different kinds of
services that are independent from each other but all function like the
Internet we know. They are likely to communicate via Internet Protocol (IP)

One such service could be the telephone network. As international bandwidth
becomes more and more of a commodity, it is likely that telephone networks
will be established that send calls via packet-switching based on IP, buying
bandwidth as and when they need it. Maybe these will take over from the
current networks. And with the coming of cable modems and ADSL you could
even set up an international low-cost telephone service based on IP and
packet-switching from your own home.

What will all this mean? Well for one thing we may not even refer to "The
Internet" as we now do, or if we do, it could be something very, very

As for e-commerce, we know that more and more products will be bought and
sold over the Internet, and can assume that launch problems with new sites
like Boo and Jungle will eventually be sorted out (or the sites will go down
the bog and themselves be replaced). So, given that more products will be
more easy to access on price and other comparisons, margins will be squeezed
and therefore many players will no longer be able to compete.

There will therefore probably be fewer, better brands, products and
services, sold at more competitive (internationally) prices.

And, since we are on the subject, 10 years from now the term "robot" will
start to come into general use for things that help in the home. Will they
be internet devices or mechanical slaves that help with some of the chores?
Who knows?

And this is all dependent on us surviving the Y2K disasters, of course.

Ray Taylor

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