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The Future of the Web

We asked technology innovators, luminaries, and users what the Web might be in five to ten years.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Director of the World Wide Web Consortium and inventor of the Web; Cambridge, MA

“I would like to see the Internet reach people in rural areas and help alleviate poverty. I would like to see more people reaching the Web from devices big and small, fixed and mobile. I look forward to more voice technology–in hands-busy scenarios such as driving, and also to increase accessibility (e.g., for people with low vision). The long tail of video on the Web is creating a new market of direct access to independent films and also has the potential to help with literacy issues. I hope for the proliferation of Linked Open Data: the Semantic Web ‘done right.’ I hope that governments will open their data stores to all citizens. A mashup sphere will feast on a wealth of Semantic Web data and herald the next wave of progress and creativity on the Web.”

Vint Cerf
Vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google and co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet; McLean, VA

“There will be higher-speed Internet access by fiber and wireless media. Seventy percent of all mobiles will be Internet enabled in 10 years or less. Gigabit speeds in wired and wireless modes will be more widely available. Many more appliances (home, work, car, on your person) will be online. IPTV will offer radical new consumer-controlled advertising opportunities. IPv6 will be the dominant mode of access and use of the Internet. Multi­touch and voiced interfaces will be very common. Devices will discover each other when they are local and interact in a P2P fashion.”

Richard Stallman
Main developer of the GNU/Linux system and founder of the Free Software Movement; Cambridge, MA

“No one can see the future, because it depends on you. But I see a danger in the Web today: doing your computing on servers running software you can’t change or study, and entrusting your data to U.S. companies required to give it to Big Brother without even a search warrant. Don’t risk this practice!”

Bjarne Stroustrup
Professor at Texas A&M University and designer of the C++ programming language; College Station, TX

“The total end of privacy. Governments, politicians, criminals, and friends will trawl through years of accumulated data (ours and what others collected) with unbelievably sophisticated tools. Obscurity and time passed will no longer be covers.”

Mena Trott
President and cofounder of Six Apart; San Francisco

“With the popularity of blogging and online video and photo sharing, we already know that people want to publish significant portions of their lives online. In 10 years, I can easily see someone putting 75 percent of their day online. But it won’t all be public. The ­majority will be for that person’s eyes only; it will be more a record for that individual.”

Leah Culver
Cofounder of Pownce; San Francisco

“Open standards will always be the future of the Web. Developers should be able to rely on their programs’ running well on multiple platforms. Simple and open API standards such as Microformats, ­OpenSocial, OAuth, and OEmbed will help developers build the next generation of Web applications that we love.”

Jonathan Zittrain
Professor of law and cofounder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and author of The Future of the Internet–and How to Stop It; Cambridge, MA

“The future of the Web may be its past: an abandonment of open standards and services (like the collective hallucination that is our distributed e-mail system) and a return to the gated communities that offered consistency and security–and also lock-in. To avoid this future, application developers must pressure the makers of cool new platforms like Facebook and Google Apps (or the iPhone, for that matter) to abandon their ability to kill any apps at any time for any reason.”

Marc Benioff
Founder and CEO of Salesforce.com; San Francisco

“The future of the Web will all be about developer empowerment. We have seen the Web disrupt and dis­intermediate content and commerce, and now software development is next. Companies such as Salesforce.com, Google, and Amazon are making it possible to create and run powerful business applications in the cloud, and that will change the economics of the software industry forever.”

James Pearce
Vice president of technology at ­dotMobi; Dublin, Ireland

“The mobile Web. In 10 years’ time we will look back at those quaint few years when our online experiences required us to sit at a lonely keyboard and screen. You don’t have to sit by a hi-fi to listen to music in the 21st century. Why should you have to sit at a PC to use the Web?”

Mohit Hira
Director at ­Indiatimes.com; Gurgaon, India

“Web 2.0 and social networking are the latest fads in India, like the rest of the world. But here there is also a quiet–almost underground–movement to incubate new ideas specifically relevant to the Indian user’s needs. From languages to mobile applications, we will see adaptations of existing sites and platforms that will appeal to Indian youth. Cricket, movies, and music are likely to be the three cornerstones on which most of the Web will evolve.”

Erik Hersman
Cofounder of Usha­hidi and author of the blog Whiteafrican.com; Orlando, FL, and Nairobi, Kenya

“The future of the Web in Africa is the mobile phone. SMS and voice will be used to augment existing social networks, empower trade, and increase information sharing. While there will be continued development in the traditional Web space as data networks become more robust, the true explosion will only come on a ubiquitous and affordable device.”

Mohamed Nanabhay
Head of new media at Al Jazeera; Doha, Qatar

“In the Middle East, the Web has allowed a wider spectrum of voices to be heard in a region where the media has traditionally been tightly controlled by governments. I expect this characteristic of the Web–its ability to amplify the voices of those who could not be heard–to become more significant, and the Web’s impact upon society to grow, as Internet and mobile penetration increase and the online ad market matures. There will be an explosion of ­activity on the Web over the next decade, driven by the region’s youth boom.”

Jonathan Abrams
Founder of Socializr and Friendster; San Francisco, CA

“In five to ten years, we will all have chips in our brains. When you look at someone’s face on the street, your Google Brain software will automatically call up every embarrassing photo of them from ancient websites such as Flickr, Facebook, and MySpace; list all mutual friends; and remind you of the person’s annotated bio. As a response to the perceived slowness and verbosity of antiquated services like Twitter, people will send everyone they know nanobursts of information about anything they might do or think before they actually do or think it. Every website, blog, and social-networking profile will include an aggregated feed from every other website, blog, and social-networking service, resulting in an exponential and infinite length of repeated content on every possible site, overloading our brain chips and causing frequent nosebleeds and occasional cerebral hemorrhage.”

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