Twenty-five years ago, the World Wide Web was a "vague, but exciting" idea proposed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (pictured). Today, the web is as accessible to most as a Big Mac. But what will the next 25 years bring?
That's what the Pew Research Centre's Internet Project hopes to find out in a series of eight reports, revolving around thousands of tech experts' forecast for the future of privacy, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things (IoT), net neutrality, and more. The first report focuses on the state of digital life by 2025.
"The world is moving rapidly towards ubiquitous connectivity that will further change how and where people associate, gather and share information, and consume media," the research center said.
With that in mind, Pew surveyed 2,558 experts, who predicted things like an Internet so easily accessible it will flow through people's lives "like electricity," and the idea that the IoT will expand to artificial intelligence-enhanced, cloud-based information sharing.
"The Internet will shift from the place we find cat videos to a background capability that will be a seamless part of how we live our everyday lives," Joe Touch, director at the University of South Carolina's Information Sciences Institute, said in a statement. "We won't think about 'going online' or 'looking on the Internet' for something—we'll just be online, and just look."
Among these thousands of opinions, most experts agree on certain things, including the proliferation of the IoT, "augmented reality" enhancements, changes to industries like finance, entertainment, publishing, and education, and "intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms."
Homegrown updates won't be the only changes, though. Pew's 15 themes for the digital future encompass a nod toward a global web—one in which political awareness and action will be facilitated, and borders will break down.
"All 7-plus billion humans on this planet will sooner or later be 'connected' to each other and fixed destinations, via the Uber(not Inter)net. That can lead to the diminished power over people's lives within nation-states," Internet pioneer David Hughes said. "When every person on this planet can reach, and communicate two-way, with every other person on this planet, the power of nation-states to control every human inside its geographic boundaries may start to diminish."
Of course, as computer scientist Alan Kay once declared: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
"It is a very good time to start inventing the future," Robert Cannon, an Internet law and policy expert, told Pew.