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This page contains only the credited written responses from Internet experts and stakeholders who answered this question in the 2014 Pew Research/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some survey respondents chose to identify themselves; a majority remained anonymous. We share most of the for-credit written answers here. Workplaces are attributed for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. To read the full report, click the image below.

The 2014 Survey: Threats to Net access, innovation

Credited responses by those who answered this survey question

Download the full report graphicInternet experts and highly engaged netizens participated in answering an eight-question survey fielded by Elon University and the Pew Internet Project from late November 2013 through early January 2014.

This survey question asked respondents to share their answer to the following query:

By 2025, will there be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online compared with the way globally networked people can operate online today? Describe what you believe are the most serious threats to the most effective accessing and sharing of content on the Internet. What steps are necessary to block changes that would limit people's optimal future capabilities in using the Internet?  

Among the key themes emerging from more than 1,400 respondents' answers were: While the majority of respondents said they hope to see few changes for the worse in regard to knowledge sharing online in the future, they expressed many concerns about likely hindrances. Some predicted that actions by nation-states to maintain security and political control will lead to more blocking, filtering, segmentation, and balkanization of the Internet. Some said trust will evaporate in the wake of revelations about government and corporate surveillance and likely greater surveillance efforts in the future. The ever-expanding sea of information online and the resulting need for information filters is an accelerating problem and some respondents said algorithm-based knowledge acquisition has major drawbacks. A primary concern of many survey participants is the fact that commercial incentives and pressures affecting everything from Internet architecture to the flow of information are endangering the open structure of online life. Among the problems arising from this are: Concerns over the possible demise of the principles expressed by 'Net neutrality,' and the redefinition of the Net "in TV terms." Negative influences of copyright protection schemes and patent law. And governments' and corporations' focus mostly on near-term gains, missing opportunities to advance the best digital future.

To read full official survey analysis, please click here:
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/imagining/surveys/2014_survey/
2025_Internet_Looming_Threats.xhtml

To read anonymous responses to the report, please click here:
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/imagining/surveys/2014_survey/
2025_Internet_Looming_Threats_anon.xhtml

Following is a large sample including a majority of the full-length responses from survey participants who chose to take credit for their remarks in the survey; some are the longer versions of expert responses that are contained in the official survey report. More than half of respondents chose not to take credit for their elaboration on the question (anonymous responses are published on a separate page). They were asked: "Will there be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online compared with the way globally networked people can operate online today? Describe what you believe are the most serious threats? What steps are necessary to block changes that would limit people's optimal future capabilities in using the Internet?"

David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, responded, “There is, Lord willing, considerable momentum toward open-access publishing of scholarly works, as well as for open or cheap posting of non-scholarly work. In a scaled environment, being heard drowns out being paid. Or so it seems. The future challenge: The Internet gets pwned and packaged as a set of content and we treat it like cable TV. The future opportunity: Free culture becomes ever more lively, and people are enjoying content that they recognize was created by people like them.”

Paul Saffo, managing director at Discern Analytics and consulting associate professor at Stanford University, said, “The pressures to balkanize the global Internet will continue and create new uncertainties. Governments will become more skilled at blocking access to unwelcome sites.”

Leigh Estabrook, dean and professor emerita at the University of Illinois, said, “The biggest threats right now are: 1) the FCC policies on Net neutrality in the US; 2) the ways in which ISP content providers are policing users and use; and 3) the policies of the World Trade Organization globally.”

Christopher Wilkinson, a retired European Union official, board member for EURid.eu, and Internet Society leader predicted, “Online access will continue to grow and prosper. The copyright industry is conducting a failed rear-guard action to cover the fact that they have been unable to offer products that are compatible with shared content—see the collapse of the ACTA proposal. TPP and TIPA will no doubt follow. Naturally, the question as to what the opportunities or challenges to realizing the best future for the Internet is unanswerable. Currently, the main issues are: 1) network neutrality, which promotes innovation and 2) surveillance, which—as a minimum—chills communications and at the maximum, facilitates industrial espionage, it does not have very much to do with security.”

Robert Cannon, Internet law and policy expert, observed, “As we have moved into the information era, we have seen the repeat of the same pattern during information revolutions. This pattern was seen during the introduction of telegraph, telephone, and radio services. There is the initial utopian introduction that greats the technology with claims of world peace. There is an era of competition where multiple small firms rise up and take advantage of the new market and innovation. And then there is an era of consolidation as the winners from the competitive era move to secure their position in the market and eliminate competitors. In the information era, we have moved into the era of consolidation. There are few and few owners of major media outlets online; and end-users are concentrating their traffic on fewer and fewer sites. And yet, what makes the information era different is that the means of the "long tail" content creator to rise up and create content still exists. Unlike other cycles where the era of consolidation also raised barriers to entry, in the modern information era, the barriers to entry still remain low. But this can change as conduit becomes entangled with content or service. As networks move forward, and away from end-to-end design, they can eliminate the possibilities of innovation by eliminating what is possible on the network, and curbing innovation. They can, in effect, raise the barriers of entry. This is the core concern of the network neutrality debate. Will the Internet of the future look like the radio market or the telegraph market after consolidation, with few players controlling content—or will it continue to look like the never ending market place of ideas. A robust network neutrality policy ensures that innovation and voices from the fringe can still rise up and be a part of the dialog.”

Thomas Haigh, an information technology historian and associate professor of information studies at the University of Wisconsin, responded, “Globally, probably the demonstrated success of China and other nations in retaining control while opening up to the Internet. Within the US, probably the lack of competition in broadband, particularly wireless, and the threats to network neutrality and unlimited use plans. Increased regulation and vigorous anti-trust enforcement would help. I don't believe that the Internet has an inherent potential that can be blocked or harnessed. It is socially constructed, and we will never really know what it could be if the world was different. It is what we make of it.”

Elizabeth Albrycht, a senior lecturer in marketing and communications at the Paris School of Business, responded, “A serious threat that exists is the end of Net neutrality—where large companies own and control what goes over the Net. But it is easy enough today to set up dark nets, and this will likely prevent any true hegemony forming. The barriers to online sharing are going to decrease, particularly around intellectual property. Right now the knowledge of the 20th century is essentially barred from use online, which is scandalous. Revisions in IP law must occur, and if they don't, people will essentially take this into their own hands and share at will. They are already doing so. In the future everyone will eventually be connected. Nothing will stop this. The challenges revolve not around technology, but people's use of it. People change slowly. Teaching new skills is important.”

Wafa Ben Hassine, an Internet law student and human rights advocate, wrote, "Network neutrality is crucial in ensuring equal and fair access to the Internet. ISPs must be stopped from trying to charge users for usage of certain websites or services.”

Janet Salmons, PhD and Independent researcher and writer with Vision2Lead Inc., responded, “My optimistic view is that the smart privacy policies will allow us to be more clear about what we share with whom. I support the concept of Net neutrality, to allow everyday use and small/emerging businesses, nonprofits, etc., equal access to bandwidth.”

Andrew Gardner, the director of an online-education support community said, "The most serious threat is the movement against Net neutrality and government-sponsored censorship. Also, we need to prioritize digital citizenship, productive online civil interaction, and social emotional learning in K-12 education, otherwise the social divisions appearing online will increase.”

PJ Rey, a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Maryland, wrote, “It is very possible we will see the principle of Net neutrality undermined. In a political paradigm where money equals political speech, so much hinges on how much ISPs and content providers are willing and able to spend on defending their competing interests. Unfortunately, the interests of everyday users count for very little. Also, new developments in communications technology almost inevitably create new forms of stratification. People will continue to seek the benefits in cultural capital from the use of new, exclusive social networking platforms, leaving others on the margins.”

Josh Calder, a futurist with the Foresight Alliance, responded, “It seems likely that steps will be taken to avoid barriers like an end to Net neutrality and the further erection of ‘walled gardens,’ and to keep the dangers of cybercrime sufficiently in check so that accessing content will not be significantly hindered. Splintering based on corporate control of content and pipelines appears to be the greatest danger, at least in the developed world.”

Barbara Simons, a highly decorated retired IBM computer scientist, former president of the ACM, and current board chair for Verified Voting, wrote, “Already countries are putting up walls to prevent their citizens from accessing websites that the leadership does not want them to see. I fear this will only increase. We have seen how the Internet has allowed people to communicate about political grievances, for example with the many demonstrations that have occurred with the Arab Spring. This might continue, or it could be stifled by countries that want to control their citizens.”

David Allen, an academic and advocate engaged with the development of global Internet governance, observed, “Balkanization is already well underway. Totalitarian states particularly are driven to ring themselves about. Unfortunately, the supposed beacons of democracy in the West have all too often also proven they too can violate the basic norms. The only serious prospect for better outcomes is a truly democratic global regime, for global Internet governance. See, for instance, the meeting coming up next year in Brazil. Of course that is only one small step—the future is more than uncertain.”

Mike Roberts, Internet pioneer and longtime leader with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the Internet Society, responded, “You are basically asking if the war between content providers and content consumers will get worse from the standpoint of the consumer. I don't think so. The role of content provider intermediaries is in terminal decline, a fate suffered in other industries earlier. In some Adam and Eve model of authorship, every author is seamlessly connected to and compensated by every consumer. Being crude about it, this is a transaction environment and needs lots of proxies exercised—quality control, accurate marketing and distribution, preservation and curatorship, and so on. The net has been and will continue to affect all the proxy holders. In general, the intermediaries have been harvesting too much economic reward through market control mechanisms. Those will go away and consumers will benefit—slowly. God knows what will happen to the poor authors. John Perry Barlow says ‘information wants to be free,’ which pursued to the ultimate, pauperizes the authors and diminishes society thereby. There has been recent active discussion of this question on the ICANN former director list. The current geopolitical changes affecting Internet governance have raised some first principles questions. E.g., what should the future of human society be and what should ICANN and other Internet developers/providers/oversight bodies do to contribute to that future. One very short answer to that very long question goes as follows: 1) the 'network' effect of expanding Internet access is very desirable and should be aggressively promoted; 2) the range of potentially valuable applications on the net is virtually unlimited, and economic incentives should be provided for investment in such applications; 3) continued Internet openness is essential; protecting the net from pathological exploitation of its openness should receive a high priority; 4) nation-state abuse of the Net already is in evidence and steps should be taken to limit such state behavior.”

Paul Jones, a professor at the University of North Carolina and founder of ibiblio.org, responded, “Historic trends are that as a communications medium matures, the control trumps the innovation. This time it will be different. Not without a struggle. Over the next ten years we will be even more increasingly global and involved. Tech will assist this move in a way that is irreversible. It won't be a bloodless revolution, sadly, but it will be a revolution nonetheless. The threats include: A 1984 society of snitches and torture, already abetted by our own heroic companies. An overextension of rights management in which licenses trump expressed or understood rights. Access to all will be difficult to realize at a global level. Fear channeled through national, religious, or other institutions will cause resistance to realization of new ways of encountering the world. The division of society into Morlocks and Elois is a continuing danger. The opportunities: Better access to health and hygiene and nutrition improves all lives and economies. The realization of the limits of resources brings better awareness of our relationships with others and with the planet. Increased mobility increases our better understanding of the world we are constantly creating. And—dare I say it—increased leisure and sociability become new economic challenges and opportunities.”

Peter McCann, a senior staff engineer in the telecommunications industry, responded, "New rights-management regimes that balance priorities between users and content owners will be created.”

Mikey O'Connor, one of two elected representatives to the GNSO Council, representing the ISP and connectivity provider constituency at ICANN, wrote, Failures of policy and leadership are already undermining the ability to retain a single, open, accessible Internet. It is almost impossible to imagine a scenario where there is the same low level blocking of content or access that there is today. There is simply no contest between the forces of ‘open’ and the forces that will implement selective blocking. Among the forces: 1) Governments—Of course, for all the usual reasons. The proponents for ‘open’ in Internet governance fora have had their legs cut out from under them by the recent Snowden revelations. Expect considerable movement on this front. 2) Corporations, ISPs and network operators—They will get a taste for blocking if there is a widespread failure caused by name-collisions as new gTLDs roll out (click here for an introduction—http://www.haven2.com/index.php/archives/name-collision-research). If this scenario plays out, the capability to selectively block content will be much more widespread—and it will be used. 3) Individuals: They will simply be the victims. Fewer and fewer tools will be available for open, unrestricted, private conversation with anybody in the world as the forces of surveillance get a handle on things, and the capacity for mind-control matures. People will need to learn how to get off the Internet. We will need to learn how to selectively remove ourselves from the snare that we've tripped. Many people will not, and the consequences for them will be severe. But some will discover effective strategies to limit the attack-surface they expose to the Internet, and in that way retain their freedom. Maybe they will be able to convince enough others to do the same to sustain life on the planet that is free of mind control by Google and the others. But I'm pessimistic.”

Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, observed, “Today, people in some countries are hindered from accessing online information, but smaller mobile devices have made it more difficult to censor. I am guardedly optimistic that information providers and consumers will continue to elude government censorship. Information does seem to want to be free, and technology has made that easier on balance. I do not see a potent threat looming, and the commercial interest in disseminating information should not be underestimated. People could be worn out by spam and other malware, or turned off by excessive targeted advertising and marketing. To help people realize their fullest potential, an industry of ‘personal information trainers’—by analogy to personal trainers for fitness—will form to help people find and access information that is interesting and useful for them. Reference librarians played this role when we went to the information repository called a library. As the volume of information continues to grow exponentially, personal information trainers will help us with the much more daunting task of creating a virtual dashboard to access the information of value to us, much of which we did not know was out there.”

Marcel Bullinga, technology futures speaker, trend watcher, and futurist, said, “Sharing is hindered by ridiculous 19th century laws about copyright and patent. Both will die away. That will spur innovation into the extreme. That is the real singularity.”

John Wilbanks, chief commons officer for Sage Bionetworks, wrote, I'd prefer to answer this as both yes and no. I think that the power of the activated individual to get and share content will be extreme—that free software tools and encryption will be sufficiently powerful to do damn near anything. But I also think the vast majority of the population will access the network infrastructure through connected devices and applications that restrict sharing of content to propagate the culture of content control.”

Zach Braiker, CEO at refine+focus a strategy, consulting, and social marketing firm, responded, Fundamentally, too many people will relay on a channel they do not own to share their content with friends and family. These channels could change rules frequently and may become more sophisticated than those using them. Laws governing sharing of content and owing content may not be accessible to average people trying to share. The uncertainty and fear this inspires may thwart growth, or could give rise to new services that assist people with these challenges. I envision extremely accessible metrics being provided to guide consumers indicating whether they should share their content, its impact and any legal or social concerns. Consumers will become more informed than ever about where to share because tools will help guide their choice. Even a simple idea like checking into a restaurant could be informed by analytics which offer consumers feedback like: If you had a negative experience, share it on X channel at Y time; conversely, if you had a positive experience, share it on X channel at Y time.”

Pamela Rutledge, PhD and director of the Media Psychology Research Center, responded, "The biggest threats are 1) governments’ attempts to regulate in response to technophobia and 2) lack of recognition by government and society that media literacy and digital citizenship—the ability to access, search and evaluate information, produce and distribute content, understand ethical and interpersonal boundaries in a digital environment—is key to using the Internet's capabilities, not a computer in the classroom. As the physical digital divide shrinks due to expanding access and mobile devices, the functional digital divide grows. The skills of media literacy and digital citizenship will be increasingly essential to realize the potential of the Internet and participate in the social, educational, economic and political benefits of society. We have great potential and freedom because of the Internet, but only if we also accept the responsibility of teaching people the skills they need to use it well.”

Tim Bray, an active participant in the IETF and technology industry veteran, wrote, “People in reasonably free markets, operating in reasonably free societies, typically get what they want. It seems that the desire for low-friction access to everything imaginable has been well proven, and I can’t imagine that changing. A policy background that promotes privacy and security on the Internet is the essential first step. The major obstacles to progress at this moment are the patent trolls, the intellectual-property behemoth copyright-abusers, and the customer-abusive telephone-company leviathans.”

Linda Rogers, the founder of Music Island in Second Life and grant writer for Arts for Children and Youth in Toronto, wrote, “People are not worried enough. Governments and copyright organizations are fighting hard to restrict the flow of information and content. While I don't believe they will ultimately be successful in pulling the plug on connectivity, they will likely have made it harder for the average citizen, unless there is increased fight-back. So far, I don't see that happening. People's fear of spying by governments may stop them from using the Internet for political and social organizing. Norms seem to be changing from an assumption of anonymity as the norm—for Internet forums, email, social media. Remember the alphabet soup Compuserve usernames? Now, Facebook and Google demand real names and real faces, or else you can lose your account. The clash of the cultures was clear this past year as Google+ met the culture of YouTube. In that case, anonymity won—for now. But will it in the future? People are increasingly afraid of speaking their mind on Twitter and Facebook.”

Andrew Bridges, a partner and Internet law litigator and policy analyst at Fenwick & West LLP, wrote, "Governments and powerful incumbent-business groups will seek to limit the power of individuals that arises from new technologies and communications platforms because they fear that power as a threat to established interests. Strong demand for a globally open Internet, for freedom of speech, for freedom of online association and assembly, for genuine innovation-promoting policies, for protection of whistleblowers and critics, and for vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws, is vital. Harmonization of the principles of the US First Amendment around the globe would help realize the fullest potential of the Internet and, indeed, of the collective knowledge and wisdom of the inhabited world. The most significant challenges are the increasing efforts by certain business, political, and government sectors to isolate individuals, to fragment groups, to repress speech and publications, to stifle innovation, and to treat as property all knowledge and information.”

John Mitchell, a self-employed lawyer who focuses on antitrust, copyright, trade associations, and free speech, wrote, "The key is to protect ‘the Internet’ as a neutral means of communication, as well as prevent its corporate and governmental capture and balkanization into a number of interconnected intranets. Every person on the planet should be free to communicate with every other person on the planet at any time, from/to anywhere, about anything.”

Bill Woodcock, executive director for the Packet Clearing House, responded, “It will continue to get easier and easier to share information. What may get harder, in relative terms, is to share information in ways that you, yourself, the producer of the information, control. Just as there are people who don't know how to communicate using actual email, and want to post on people's Facebook pages instead, there will be people in the future who won't know how to deal with servers that individuals control on their own behalf because those won't be part of a walled garden. The biggest and most important challenges we face are the impediments to people ‘doing for themselves.’ I don't care about ‘rights’ that are simply to be someone's customer. I want the right to compete, the right to replace any service, no matter how large or important or well-connected the company that provides it is, with a better, more innovative, startup service. That means fewer monopolies, fewer lobbyists, fewer licenses, and fewer bribes. As the economy continues to slide downward, all of these abuses are getting worse, rather than better. There are only a few places in the world, maybe northern Europe, for example, where things seem to be getting better over time.”

Lyman Chapin, co-founder and principal of Interisle Consulting Group, observed,
“Popular access to information is the biggest threat to the maintenance of political tyranny, and governments of every stripe will therefore continue to search for economic, technical, and administrative mechanisms of Internet content and access control. They will undoubtedly succeed within limited temporal and spatial domains, but they cannot succeed on any large scale because the Internet is, by definition, a voluntary agreement that cannot be ‘governed,’ regardless of how stringently any of the pieces from which it can be assembled is regulated.”

John Wooten, CEO and founder of ConsultED, predicted, “The inherent layers of security mechanisms will degrade user experience and ease of access to the majority connected within an Internet of Everything; top-tier advancements in secure, compliant access will be primarily available to only those persons and devices that can afford their premium of cost.”

Kevin Carson, a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society and contributor to the P2P Foundation blog, wrote, “There's a lot of work underway now in developing open-source, interoperable, and encrypted versions of social media, in response to the increasing authoritarianism and state collaboration of existing walled-garden media.”

Lillie Coney, a legislative director specializing in technology policy in the US House of Representatives, predicted, “If radio is any indication, it will become harder not easier to share information. The one glimmer of hope is that people are finding needs only the Internet fills—needs not being met by government or any other corporation or entity. The Arab Spring gave some indication of how people will react to having the Internet taken away. It has made use less patient with slow change and more willing to experiment with new applications or technologies. Devices are getting dumber and more portable, so reliance on access to ‘on ramps’ that are ubiquitous will grow. The need for individuals to be able to block or control access to their personal devices will also become a consumer-driven necessity. The Internet is already reshaping how people retain knowledge—memory is not being used like it once was to retain facts. The power of the Internet to remember is growing in importance, so the ability to keep the Internet honest about the past and the present will require the establishment of trusted institutions to make sure that certain sources of information are kept at the highest level of authoritative and academic rigor. It may also mean that regional repositories of original books and documents are always available to confirm or support primary research.”

Peter S. Vogel, Internet law expert at Gardere Wynne Sewell, responded, “Privacy issues are the most serious threat to accessing and sharing Internet content in 2014, and there is little reason to expect that to change by 2025, particularly given the cyber terror threats confronting Internet users and world-wide businesses. In the future, more available high speed Internet access around the world will help people realize the fullest potential of the Internet. Millions of people live in remote, less-populated areas of the world, but if these people had technology available to use the Internet, the overall benefit to the world population would be greater. Notwithstanding cultural, religious, and social differences, the Internet is a vehicle that could benefit all peoples.”

Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz. founders of the online community Awakening Technology, based in Portland, Oregon, wrote, “In a 1958 speech, the late Edward R. Murrow said, ‘This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and, perhaps, decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance, and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.’ The Internet was commercialized in 1995, opening the floodgates to e-commerce, advertising, scams, identity theft and similar crimes, pay-for-play applications, pornography, and much more. According to Wikipedia, some 80 to 85% of all the email on the Internet is spam; and, Incapsula says that in 2013, less than 40% of Internet activity was conducted by humans. Some 30% of Internet bandwidth goes to pornography, and, according to the Huffington Post in 2013, porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. All of this makes it more difficult for people to get and share content online, and without social policy and technology changes, it's likely to get worse by 2025. Unless people rise up nonviolently to take charge of their local systems and demand public technology and governance oversight and universal, affordable access to the Internet as a whole, humankind will remain captive to the likes of corporations, spammers, hackers, and online criminals. What would it take to re-envision our use of the Internet by 2025 to fulfill the dreams of its early creators and pioneers? Television provides a cautionary tale.”

David Solomonoff, president of the New York Chapter of the Internet Society, observed, “The older media and technology companies that are suing everyone and trying to lock everything down legally are not making friends, new technical innovations, or interesting, new content. Open-source technologies and creative reuse to create new content evolve more quickly and are a lot about community building. Decentralized, encrypted file sharing is already making copyright enforcement more and more difficult. The main issue is how to compensate content creators and technical innovators without as much intermediation. This is happening, but it may not be happening fast enough. Opportunities that will help people realize the fullest potential of the Internet by 2025 include open-source technologies, people feeling confident that privacy and security issues are being addressed effectively, and ubiquitous and reliable bandwidth. A challenge that may stop people from realizing the fullest potential of the Internet by 2025 is the balkanization of the Internet so that people can't be certain of connecting to the same resource anywhere at any time would be a problem and political repression or commercial interests restricting free expression, creating a chilling effect.”

James Penrod, former CIO at Pepperdine University, the University of Maryland at Baltimore, California State University at Los Angeles, and the University of Memphis, said, “I do not see threats that are likely to not be overcome. There are too many factors requiring increased interactive abilities and too many technological advances.”

Stuart Chittenden, founder of the conversation consultancy Squishtalks, recommended, “Read Eli Pariser's The Filter Bubble, which captures many of my concerns. The Internet is a controlled environment, where the product online is the data about the people that are using it. Governments want to gather and control that information to and about its citizenry, companies want to exploit it and direct us secretly for profit, and military/espionage entities want to snoop.”

Barry Chudakov, principal at Sertain Research, observed, “As everyone becomes connected to get and share content online, the need for security protocols rises exponentially. At present, it appears that people want fewer hindrances to get and share online content, but the result of this, as Bruce Schneier writes, is that the Internet becomes a ‘surveillance state.’ To limit people's optimal future capabilities in using the Internet pits contradictory intentions against each other: the desire to access and share, versus the desire to track and verify. I believe humanity's essential social nature is stronger; we will opt for communication and sharing and find reasonable, secure ways to verify online identities. But behind this collective desire are powerful corporate and government forces that want to control access and online experience. From restrictive proprietary platform ‘walled gardens,’ like Facebook, to government censorship and rogue cyber-attacks, we will face regular threats from those who want to stifle innovation and seek to disrupt or balkanize the Web. These threats will rise and fall like tides and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Our biggest challenge will be vigilance—seeing what is happening as it occurs and responding with intelligent and meaningful counter-measures. The most serious threat to accessing and sharing content on the Internet is the notion that this should happen without conflict and tension; keeping the tension alive is healthy. Most of the draconian measures to limit freedom on the Internet happen because some party wants to control the conversation and stifle dissent or controversy. We are better served to embrace conflict and disagreement, knowing that any attempt to stifle them is counter-productive to a free and open Internet.”

Clifford Lynch, executive director for the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) and adjunct professor at the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley, responded, “While most of the technology stupidity—i.e., Digital Rights Management technologies—seems to be on the way out, the mixture of horrible copyright laws, seemingly endless copyright term extension, and the continuing rise of monitoring information consumption in great detail, both by states and commercial entities, will all continue to be problems that will complicate and discourage the use and sharing of content online. I do believe that we will see consumers really engaging with issues about long-term ‘ownership’ of valuable and extensive collections of content—i.e., music, e-books, etc.—that they think they have acquired over the next decade. Imagine—and I am not predicting this—that Amazon just decided to discontinue the Kindle without a migration path for content. A final, nasty development is the creation of new national censorship firewalls (such as has happened in the UK recently). Also note here some very encouraging and fascinating offsetting trends in the creation of works of art and scholarship, both as individual and as collective activities, outside of the traditional commercial channels and structures, making them broadly available in many cases. We'll see much more of this, and it's one of the great opportunities that the Internet creates.”

Marcus Cake, a network society content architect and strategist with WisdomNetworks.im, wrote, “There will be continued resistance from the status quo people and organizations that have derived power and profit from centralised structures. The people in influential positions may be unwilling to innovate, unable to recognise the possibilities, or unwilling to relinquish positions of influence. History suggests that collapse, crisis, or revolution is required before change. A second challenge is governments’ responses to legislate the ‘Information Age’ to preserve employment, influence, sovereignty, or other areas they see as a concern. Hierarchies were a necessity in the last economic development stage. We needed them to scale up in all communities to organise people to achieve outcomes for economy/society and mobilise capital to invest in channels and infrastructure. The hierarchy was necessary. It was not our natural state to seek dominance. We remain under the false assumption that hierarchies are the only way to organise. We tolerate the failures of hierarchies. With the advent of the Internet, we can now organise a different way: a shift from telecommunications—information distributed by proprietary channels between hierarchies—to telewisdom—exchange of wisdom between individuals. This is a return to hunters and gatherers—small groups pursuing very specific outcomes and, probably, a leader. Mega hierarchies (in any community) are at the end of their useful life. Every aspect of society and the dominant hierarchy within each of them now demonstrates that it is more concerned by hierarchies’ survival or process, rather than satisfying broader community objectives. This is true of financial markets, government, education, and all the major communities. The influence of a few has had a detrimental effect on community stability and achieving community outcomes. Hierarchies will resist the shift from the Information Age to the Network Society. The next stage of development will crowd-create the Network Society, with distributed contribution and distributed structures. Leadership will be dynamic, rather than entrenched. Transparency will ensure the ‘leader’ always focuses on community outcomes (or is simply replaced in real-time). We will move to distributed leadership and distributed structures within community. People will only need the networks to realize their person potential and to contribute to the potential of society. People have been trained to link things into books and share them by Facebook. Wisdom Networks do the same thing for every other part of society. They simply need to be deployed and made available. People will know what to do with them. Wisdom Networks are just a more comprehensive telephone call between people.”

Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project, working for open access to research, predicted, “There will be significant changes for the worse, as well as for the better. The question is how they net out. Copyright law may be worse for sharing than it is today. Many trade associations and corporations are lobbying for precisely that outcome, vastly outspending those lobbying for users and consumers. On the other side, it's unlikely that copyright law will stop allowing rights holders to waive some or all of their rights. As copyright becomes more onerous for users, more creative people will choose some form of open licensing in order to enlarge their audience.”

Joel Halpern, a distinguished engineer at Ericsson, responded, “While there are pressures to constrain information sharing (from governments and from traditional content sources), the trend towards making information more widely and easily reached, consumed, modified, and redistributed is likely to continue. It will not look like a current wiki, nor the current comment and photo sharing sites, but content sharing in many senses will be more widespread. The biggest challenge I see is likely to be the problem of finding interesting and meaningful content when you want it. While this is particularly important when you are looking for scientific or medical information, it is equally applicable when looking for restaurants, music, or other things, which are matters of taste. While big-data analysis has the promise of helping this, there are many limitations and risks (including mismatched incentives) with those tools.”

Cathy Davidson, co-director of the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge at Duke University and co-founder and principal administrator of the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition, wrote, “The current state is not sustainable. If data can be easily accessed by governments and by hackers, the response will likely be more walls, including by other countries—i.e., Brazil. We have to transform education to help people see what the Internet is and does—kindergarten to lifelong. It's happened so fast that it is invisible. If invisible, we cannot take full advantage of a full potential. We need a massive campaign to make people aware that their devices are opportunities and responsibilities.”

Doc Searls, director of ProjectVRM at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, responded with this essay-length answer:

"John Perry Barlow once said, 'I didn’t start hearing about ‘content’ until the container business felt threatened.' I’m with him on that. 'Content' is the wrong focus here. It’s just business jive for stuff that floats subscription and advertising revenue online. Sharing knowledge matters much more.

"The most serious threat to sharing knowledge—and doing the rest of what the Internet is good for—is a conceptual one: thinking of the Internet as a service we get from phone and cable companies, or worse, as a way to move 'content' moving around.

"And if we think the Net is just another 'medium,' we’re missing its real value as a simple and cost-free way to connect everybody and everything. This is what we meant in The Cluetrain Manifesto when we said, 'Markets are conversations.' Conversations are also not media; they are the main way humans connect with each other and share knowledge. The Internet extends that ability to a degree without precedent in human history. There is no telling how profound a change—hopefully for the better—this will brings to our species and the world we live in.

"What steps are necessary to block changes that would limit people’s optimal future capabilities in using the Internet? We need to understand the Internet as what it really is: a way to connect anyone and anything to anyone and anything else, with little, if any, regard for the means between the ends.

"What Paul Baran described as a 'distributed' network in 1964, and he and other geeks built out, is a heterarchy, not a hierarchy. It was not designed for billing or for managing scarcities. Instead, it was designed to connect anything to anything, and to put all the smarts in the nodes of the network, rather than in intermediaries. Its design obeys protocols, which are manners among machines and software. Those manners are NEA: Nobody owns them, Everybody can use them, and Anybody can improve them. Linux and other free and open software code bases are also like that, which is why they provide ideal building material for the Net and what runs on it.

"But intermediaries called ISPs—mostly phone and cable companies—bill us for access to the Net, and those monthly bills define the Net for us in the absence of a more compelling definition. For providing that definition, geeks have done an awful job. So have academics and regulators.

"Nobody has yet made clear that the Internet is a rising tide that lifts all boats, producing many trillions of dollars in positive economic externalities—and that it can do so because it has no interest in making money for its owner.

"The Net didn’t grow over the dead bodies of phone and cable companies, but instead, over their live ones. Those companies are just lucky that the Net used their pipes. But they have also been very smart about protecting their old businesses while turning their new one—Internet access—into something they can bill in the manner of their old businesses. Hence 'plans' for monthly chunks of mobile data for which the first cost is approximately zero. Operating costs are real. Ones and zeros are way different, and in many—perhaps most—cases have no real first costs.

"In the United States, cable and phone companies are also lobbying hard at the federal, state, and local levels to push through laws that prevent citizens from using local governments and other entities—i.e., local nonprofits and utilities—to offer what carriers can’t or won’t: fully capable Internet service. These laws are sold to legislators as ways to keep government from competing with business but, in fact, only protect incumbent monopolies.

"What the carriers actually want—badly—is to move television to the Net and to define the Net in TV terms: as a place you go to buy content, as you do today with cable. For this, they’ll run two-sided markets: on the supply side, doing deals with 'content providers,' such as Hollywood and big publishers, and on the demand side, by intermediating the sale of that content. This, by far, is the most serious threat to sharing information on the Net, because it undermines and sidelines the Net’s heterogeneous and distributed system for supporting everybody and everything, and it biases the whole thing to favor a few vertically-integrated “content” industries.

"The good news is that there are a few exceptions to the rule of cable/telephony duopoly, such as Chattanooga, Kansas City, and Wilson, North Carolina, which are attracting businesses and citizens, old and new, to the shores of the real Internet: the one with virtually unlimited speeds in all directions and few, if any, restrictions on what anybody can do with the bandwidth. There, we will see the Internet’s tide lift all boats, and not just those of telephony and television.

"The end state we will reach is what Bob Frankston calls 'ambient connectivity.' We might have to wait until after 2025, but we will get it."

Bryan Alexander, education technology consultant and senior fellow at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, predicted, “In 2025, intellectual property will continue to cramp content creation, sharing, and consumption. National governments in intense security mode will block all kinds of movement. Uneven technological deployment breaks up audiences. Further, economic stress may lead us into conservativism rather than openness. The opportunities that lie ahead include younger generations not wedded to 20th-century experience, and rendered skeptical by the global recession. Another opportunity includes the commoditization of technologies that make it easier to make stuff.”

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), observed, “There is an enormous problem with how people obtain information today, and my hope is that it will improve dramatically in the years ahead. Currently, approximately 70% of Internet users in the United States, and 90% in Europe, obtain information by going through the search services of one company. This needs to change. There should be many information sources, more distributed, and with less concentration of control. So, I am hoping for positive change. We need many more small and mid-size firms that are stable and enduring. The current model is to find an innovation with monetizing potential, incorporate, demonstrate proof of concept, sell to an Internet giant, and then walk away. This will not end well.”

Glenn Edens, a director of research in networking, security, and distributed systems at PARC, said, “Theft of intellectual property is a key negative factor that hinders progress. Pay walls and ill-conceived business models, or content that simply tries to repurpose past work for the new world, is another significant problem; for example, cable and television needs to change, but vested interests will make this take forever—and, in fact, it is taking forever. Network operators’ desire to monetize their assets to the detriment of progress represents the biggest potential problem. Enabling content creators to easily and directly reach audiences, better search tools, better promotion mechanisms and curation tools—continuing to dismantle the ‘middle men’ is key.”

SethFinkelstein, a programmer, consultant and EFF Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier Award winner, said, “Way back in 1996, when the Internet was just starting to come into general use, I literally talked myself hoarse at a conference trying to make people aware of censorware issues. Now, that's well-trod ground, with everything from widespread network censorware, to the iconic Great Firewall Of China. That's the cultural and political side. The business side is copyright. Though the general copyright conflict was well known from the start, the money involved in recent years has simply been staggering; the lawsuit against YouTube involved billion-dollar damage claims. And that's just one battle of the copyright war. A point I've tried to make over the years is that censorware is about control. People cannot be allowed privacy and anonymity if they are to be continually monitored by authorities to make sure they aren't reading forbidden content (this applies whether that prohibition is sexual, political, or commercial). One of the strangest unintended consequences of the Snowden NSA revelations might be boosting the use of encryption and privacy-protective servers, which make such controls much more difficult. There's nothing that restricts protection from NSA spying to only protection from NSA spying—i.e., all other spying is hindered. It's similar to how the strong cryptographic protection necessary for Internet financial transactions eventually trumped all the law-enforcement arguments for limiting the public use of cryptography. That is, law-enforcement wanted weak protections so that communications could be easily monitored, but this meant financial data could also be easily stolen. Having the legal ability to protect financial data from theft in transit eventually protected all communications. Similarly, hardening communications against NSA snooping also protects against all other snooping. The opportunities and challenges that lie ahead are linked. Speaking only about the developed Western world, since I don't have experience with the innovations in developing nations, Internet speed and adoption is being heavily driven by entertainment. First, it was music, and now, [it is] video. Netflix and YouTube are supposedly responsible for an amazing percentage of total bandwidth. The opportunities are everything swimming along in the wake of those whales (or sharks). The challenges are preventing the Internet from turning into just a corporate entertainment-delivery system. It's a bit frightening to consider that, perhaps, an open Internet only continues to exist because some enormous corporations dealing in content are fighting with other enormous corporations dealing in bandwidth—the former being afraid the latter will use any constriction to, as Microsoft once infamously sought to do to Netscape, ‘cut off their air supply’ (this fight is called ‘Net neutrality’).”

Leah Lievrouw, a professor of information studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, wrote, “There are too many institutional players interested in restricting, controlling, and directing ‘ordinary’ people's ability to make, access, and share knowledge and creative works online—intellectual property rights holders, law enforcement and security agencies, religious and cultural censors, political movements and parties, etc. For a long time, I've felt that the utopianism, libertarianism, and sheer technological skill of both professional and amateur programmers and engineers would remain the strongest counterbalance to these restrictive institutional pressures, but I'm increasingly unsure, as the technologists themselves, as well as their skills, are being increasingly restricted, marginalized, and even criminalized. Nonetheless, recent turns toward engagement with technologies and creative works that emphasize openness (open-source software, peer production, open publishing, DIY and maker movements, technology education focused on the transformative potential of tinkering, inventing, and problem-solving) could push technology—and users—in the right direction.”

Aaron Balick, a psychotherapist and author of The Psychodynamics of Social Networking, responded, “The Internet was built for sharing, and it will continue to be the locus of the sharing of digital material. There is the enduring problem of copyright—music, films, etc.—and this will need to be dealt with. But, more and more, I think this will be dealt with my acknowledging the massive (some might say unstoppable) motivation to share freely online. In order to retain copyright, changes in the nature of how organisations utilise the Internet will have to make changes in reference to its architecture. In short, I expect things to change on this front, but in ways that are responsive to the sharing culture of the Internet.”

Ed Lyell, a college professor of business and economics and early Internet policy consultant dating back to ARPANET, responded, “Providing people with multiple sources of information in a more information abundant world should be helpful. Too many people today get much of their information from biased and self-serving sources (think Fox News). Having more information with better access skills and critical thinking skills should permit more people to find something more like truth by searching and sorting among competing information flows. Of course, this could go negative if people, or companies and governments, create self-serving silos and channels to limit individual access to multiple information sources. The biggest challenge to more positive Internet use is in creating better intellectual and questioning skills, starting in school and beyond. Lazy people can opt to just entertain themselves and permit others to dumb them down and exploit them. We need a far more robust formal education system at all levels. Yet, in America, our schools more often hinder new ways of learning, rather than utilizing and expanding them.”

Tim Mallory, an information science professional wrote, “Stargazer that I am, I hope things will improve. The most serious threat is capitalism—more and more of the universe gets ‘monetized.’ This will, of course, lead to a large and thriving black market and not-for-profit society.”

Casey Rae, interim executive director for the Future of Music Coalition, observed, “Different nation-states respond to the growth of the Internet in different ways. Some countries may intuit new markets, while simultaneously limiting access to its citizens due to fear of losing a monopoly on information—i.e., China, Russia. Others may seek to control the flow of information for religious or cultural reasons—i.e., Iran, etc. And, developed nations like the United States may seek to restrict access to content that runs afoul of domestic copyright laws through international treaties and quid pro quo arrangements with trade partners. This may not result in a true balkanization of the Internet, but it certainly means a different experience in various territories.”

Marina Gorbis, executive director at the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit research organization, responded, “The amount of open information online has been growing exponentially. The younger generations are growing up in an environment in which they see themselves as a part of a larger whole; they see others as a part of their extended brain. They can pose a question online and someone will have an answer; they can collaborate easily with others; and, they can find online resources to learn almost anything. Content is increasingly becoming a commodity. Contributing to various online platforms—i.e., Wikipedia, WikiHow, Twitter, Facebook, and many others—is just a normal, everyday practice.” 

Raymond Plzak, former CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, and current member of the Board of Directors of ICANN, wrote, “The inconsistent protection of privacy, whether private information is voluntarily provided or not, as well as the inconsistent protection against exploitation, will continue to be the bane of connected environment. The inability of local, regional, national, and international private and public sector entities, as well as their attendant societies, to cooperate to produce a universal accepted privacy and anti-exploitation environment will increase the likelihood of the limiting of connected activities.”

David Clark, a senior research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, noted, “The framing of the question carries a Western bias in that it implies that unregulated access to information is a good thing. Nations that do not express this point of view are already effective in regulating access to information and building an Internet that is more consistent with their norms of information sharing. Those who respect the ‘open’ Internet do not respect these actions, but they are going to happen. On the other hand, even in those countries, the Internet has been a force for more open exchange of views, so there are two sides to the trajectory of the Internet. But with US support for regulation of access as a part of the protection of commercial rights-holders, the trend is clearly for greater regulation worldwide. People (and nations) may differ as to the definition of the Internet’s ‘fullest potential.’ Right now, the cost of access and incomplete coverage are the major barriers that limit the potential of the Internet. Commercialization of the experience may come to bound or limit the expectation that many people have of what the Internet is for.”

Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, responded, "There are two levels of hindrance I foresee, but I expect both will not happen. The first is technological, but I believe more people will have greater access to the Internet or online equivalent in 2025—i.e., more and better broadband access. Second, [I foresee what] would be hindrances from governments. While there will be a period of greater governmental hindrance between now and 2025, I believe this will be resolved in the opposite direction by 2025—that is, greater access, even in countries that currently restrict access.”

Fred Baker, Internet pioneer, longtime leader in the IETF and Cisco Systems Fellow, responded, “The most important threats to widespread access are national firewalls, such as deployed by China, various middle-eastern countries, and others. In regard to information sharing, every three to five years the industry develops some new application that creates and distributes content. Examples have included the World Wide Web, voice and video on IP, peer-to-peer file sharing, and map/reduce applications. Older applications don't go away; they adapt in various ways. But, it is unusual for them to literally stop being used. I expect that, between now and 2025, we will go through three to four similar generations of content and content-delivery applications.”

Jim Leonick, a director of new product development for mobile and digital for Ipsos Interactive Services, predicted, “Content will be easier to access, share and find; [this content] will be more personalized and relevant, but the illegal aspects of sharing and downloading will be more secure, which will be the catalyst for change in people wanting to sell their personal data, to pay for the things they cannot today and choose to pirate.”

Dennis McCann, a director of computer training in Illinois, formerly a senior technical consultant at Cisco and IBM, noted, “The Internet community, which has labored in the shadows of the network providers, needs to erupt with technical solutions and engage more widely in advocacy. The policy discussions today with and about service provision are mostly with last generation’s telcos. This for a network-neutral service! If we aren't ready to make the courts take ownership of the Net and its implications, then a free Internet is history, since the service providers have no interest in the free flow of information. One hopeful sign, though, is the Internet of Things, which is poised to overwhelm provider capacity and to usher in a new era, leapfrogging today's service-delivery model as the Internet always has, and creating demand for more open service with the dollars involved driving the change.

Thorlaug Agustsdottir, public relations manager for the Icelandic Pirate Party, wrote, “Copyright issues will drive governments into putting limits onto people's freedom online. This will result in free subnets, as well as in a growing political movement, generating organizations like the Pirate Party to tackle the issues of the 21st century in a way which conventional politics can't and won't.”

Karen Miller, an information science professional, predicted, “There's going to be so much noise and junk cluttering the Internet that you won't be able find the good stuff without spending way too much time, or paying someone to find it for you. Information is only going to get more expensive. Plus, finding the right information (when there is already so much out there) is going to get harder. You'll have to pay to get to it. I know there's this belief that everything on the Internet is free, but that is absolutely not true. All the best stuff you have to pay for. If it's free, it's probably free for a reason. Compare Lynda.com to You Tube videos, for an example. Don't get me wrong—there is a lot of good information available if you look for it, but can you tell which is the best? Which YouTube video was made by someone who wants to sell you something, and which was made by an expert? Plus, there's a lot of manipulation going on out there with data. People aren't afraid to twist numbers to say something they want said, or for shock value. There's also a lot of laziness: no fact checking, as well as the use of opinion as fact—people like news reporters and librarians who are taught why we value all points of view and report facts, rather than interpret them, for you are being told they aren't needed anymore.”

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, wrote, “People are going to get what they want, and they want to share content.”

Michael Starks, an information science professional, wrote, “If society continues to value devices and connectivity (containers and plumbing) over content, the growth in access to more content will do little to improve the lives of individuals or societies. It will continue to become easier for people around the world to exchange ever-greater amounts of content. Bandwidth, Cloud storage, and even storage on personal devices, will all continue to grow and become less expensive—in some countries, faster than in others, though the overall trend will apply everywhere. The challenge will be in separating the wheat from the chaff. Will people who can create, edit, judge, find, and curate content for others become valued for those skills? If so—and if that value is reflected in the salaries those people receive—then highly networked populations will have greater access to better content, as well as to more content.”

David Burstein, CEO at Run for America and author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World, wrote, “The Internet has fundamentally shifted the way that people interact with leaders in power. Governments have not yet found ways to control what their citizens do on the Internet, but if history is any indication, some will inevitably find ways to do so. But, on the whole, individuals’ ability to share content and access information will be even better by 2025. We will also see North Korea and Cuba fully open to the Internet by this point.”

Matthew Henry, a CIO in higher education, predicted, “Privacy and hacking will continue to be threats to useful sharing of content on a global cloud. Continued redefinition of the standards and cooperation of firms that enable sharing is critical.”

John Saguto, an executive decision support analyst for geospatial information systems for large-scale disaster response, noted, “Attempts to block only encourage innovation. The threats to block will be defeated; they will try, and they will fail. If you truly think there is anything on the Internet you can secure, you are deceived. Perhaps you have forgotten how underground communications evolved during wartime efforts. Cyphers and crypto-technology will evolve, as part of a constantly changing method of securing ‘adverse’ communications. My worst-case worry for the future is electromagnetic-pulse attacks, in which all electronics are impacted.”

Clark Sept, co-founder and principal of Business Place Strategies, Inc., wrote, “Online content access and sharing will be even better and easier by way of personal digital rights access. Sharing freely will be recognized as having greater long-term economic value than strictly limited controls over ‘intellectual property.’”

Jerome McDonough, an associate professor at the University of Illinois, responded, “The greatest threat to effective access and sharing of content on the Internet today is the combination of digital rights management technologies with a legal infrastructure—for example, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—which outlaws their circumvention, even for legal purposes. This creates serious obstacles for fair use today, as well as for preservation to insure access for tomorrow. There are some hopeful signs that companies are beginning to realize that DRM actually does nothing to enhance sales and may actually hurt—see Apple's decision to make DRM-free tracks available in iTunes—and, as people increasingly suffer the problems of being unable to access content that they thought they ‘owned,’ we will probably see greater pressure on federal legislators to rebalance intellectual property law in a way more beneficial to content consumers, though I suspect it will take another twelve years for that process to even begin to gain traction.”

Randy Kluver, an associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University, responded, “Of course, there is tremendous potential for harm. But, there is a strong and robust movement to keep information flowing. I expect that the Asian Internet community—Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc.—to continue to innovate in terms of solutions and applications that keep information fairly open. Right now, a few major corporations are controlling vast amounts of data—i.e., Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.—but they are facing a number of very hungry and aggressive competitors globally. There are interesting apps that are emerging from these areas, such as Live, that might indeed threaten the lock many of the Western companies currently have.”

Luis Hestres, a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant at American University School of Communication, responded, “The most visible threats are governments that seek to censor what their citizens can access and share online. A less visible but serious threat is the accelerating trend of privatized Internet governance. The technological architectures of corporate online intermediaries are increasingly all that govern what sort of content users can post online. These technological and policy arrangements often reflect the interests of corporations that do not necessarily align with the best interests of a vibrant online public sphere. Necessary steps to address this trend include raising awareness amongst the public and stakeholders, such as advocacy groups, direct appeals to corporations, the application of corporate social responsibility principles, and regulation/legislation.”

Garland McCoy, president and founder of the Technology Education Institute, said, “There is an Internet land rush on right now—a rush to bring real affordable broadband access to the next billion citizens. Google and others are doing a great job on this and should do more. The race is to provide the next billion global citizens with an ‘open garden’ experience before tech companies get their crack at the next billion and put them in ‘walled fortresses’ with the blessing of their countries’ leaders. (In more-developed countries today, sharing and access are better than ever.) You can go to Circuit City and for less than $100 get a 2-terrabyte hard drive, on which you can put everything Disney has ever made and then take that hard drive anywhere in the world you want to go.”

Steve Carter, a vice president at eHarmony, observed, “Global pressure to erode barriers will always trump regional efforts to build them, over time; however, we need to figure out better ways to promote a positive hacker ethic.”

Stowe Boyd, lead researcher for GigaOM Research, said, “Things will move so quickly that even repressive governments will have trouble keeping up. The continued economic mess of the post-normal will be accelerated by the ephemeralization of work and the mounting costs of countering global warming, and governments will have too much to deal with to effectively slow the Internet's oozing into every corner of every part of the economy; the cost pressure will be too great to slow anything. The stalling of the telephone and cable monopolies on high-speed broadband and cellular will lead to fast defection to services offered by Amazon and Google—and a few others—who will buy up or build around the telecommunications companies.”

Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, responded, “While surveillance is the most often-discussed threat these days, censorship still poses a major threat to communications worldwide. More than one-third of those who access the Internet are accessing a censored version of it, and that number continues to grow. We need to continue the development of circumvention tools, as well as ensure that those tools provide security.”

Koen Leurs, a postdoctoral researcher at the London School of Economics, responded, "With their increasing surveillance and monetization, governments and large corporations will increasingly heighten the thresholds for people to share their personal content.”

Ian O'Byrne, an assistant professor at the University of New Haven, wrote, “There will be hindrances. The next billion people online will be from non-native English speaking countries. Couple that with the fact that countries globally are fearful of working with US businesses thanks to the recent spying events, and the end result will be a chilling effect on online discourse. There’s also the fact that we see a splintering of privatization of online spaces. In effect, the Internet will ultimately be accessible in much the same way that you need a driver's license, or a passport to visit other countries. If I want to visit or speak with a friend from overseas, I will need the appropriate papers. I do not think we will ever be able to reach the fullest potential of the Internet. To me, it is akin to the subway: Some people will use it for great things. They'll use it daily to get to work and create great lives. Others will paint beautiful graffiti or play music in the corners. Some people will be criminals, or the naked guy sitting on the car that everyone avoids.”

Gary Kreps, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University, wrote, “Access to information will get easier in the future as we design more usable and powerful information technologies and systems. We will have broader access to information and the ability to reach and communicate with others in many different ways in the future. People will become increasingly sophisticated users of information technologies. They will learn how to communicate more effectively using technology. They will also develop the capacity to comprehend and utilize increasing amounts of information in the future. This will be a form of cultural adaptation.”

Niels Ole Finnemann, a professor and director of Netlab, DigHumLab Denmark, wrote, “A major issue is automatized translation. Depending on the quality, automatized translation will be the most significant game changer visible today. Another important area is health services. As the Internet penetrates all spheres in society, it also enters into a huge variety of usages, each of which has its own set of potentials, which may be unfolded continuously or disruptive, though never 'fully.’”

Larry Press, a writer, consultant, blogger and part-time professor, said, “Things will improve due to better ICT technology and increased openness of data by governments. Repressive regimes will still have an incentive to control communication, but the dictator's dilemma—the tradeoff between controlling political and cultural information, as well as debate and the benefits of open communication—will still be in effect, and the pull of economic productivity and improved health and education will fuel a drift toward openness. Repressive regimes have also learned that they can use an open Internet as a surveillance and propaganda tool.”

Jim Warren, longtime online freedom and privacy advocate and editor publisher of microcomputer periodicals, predicted, "While there will certainly be some changes in access and sharing that will be for the worse, there will likely be greater changes for the better—especially in nations and cultures that have previously been choked by censorship, information suppression and imposed or incidental ignorance, provincialism, etc.”

Jon Lebkowsky, Web developer at Consumer's Union, responded, "Here's something I just blogged: ‘As the Internet has become the pervasive platform for media and commerce, it has ceased to be the 'network of networks' of the 1990s. As so many of us predicted, the Internet has been transformed into something more like the cable networks. Content and technology are increasingly locked down behind pay walls and other barriers. Even social media have become more professional, less do-it-yourself. Anyone can still participate, but few will capture attention or persistent mindshare, as the Internet version of mass media has emerged, more conversational and less top-down than the 20th century version, but nothing like the transitional blogosphere. As small publishers moved from desktop publishing to the Web, 2013 saw bloggers moving onto managed platforms like Facebook and Tumblr. We now have a media environment that includes a relatively small number of high-profile content sources, and smaller clusters of online conversation and sharing. Shirkification proceeds, referring to Clay Shirky’s predictions that just such a thing would happen. The question is, how will cream rise to the top? How will new voices emerge and capture attention? Or they be excluded by stricter gateways and media dominance by a limited few. The promise of the Internet was that it could bring a vibrant mix of new perspectives and a cheerfully unmanageable confluence of cultures, but we lose that, if network culture is dominated by a top-down mass media paradigm.’ Core technologies will continue to become more sophisticated and complex, so it'll be harder to build competitive new platforms, and, what Bruce Sterling calls the ‘stacks’ are providing infrastructure for content sharing, publishing, and distribution. There is potential success for content and front-end providers that are effective in leveraging established infrastructures.”

Ian Peter, pioneer Internet activist and Internet rights advocate, wrote, “I suspect there will only be an increase in the ways we commonly share content online.”

Valerie Bock, technical services lead for Q2 Learning, LLC, wrote, “This genie is out of the bottle. There will be some private enclosure, but everyone who has had a taste of the power of social media will continue to demand for themselves the power to share their content with the world (or subsets thereof)—and that demand will continue to spread virally, as people seek affordances they see their associates enjoying. Bandwidth and hardware costs will continue to fall, improving access for low-income individuals, and competition among providers of commercial content will keep those prices low.”

Bob Briscoe, chief researcher in networking and infrastructure for British Telecom, wrote, “I think this question is about information goods and the possibility that information ownership will be more tightly enforced to protect information workers' livelihoods. Information industries will extract their margins more from indirect business models and less from attempting to make direct returns on each copy of information used. This belief stems from the inherent inability to prevent information copying. Therefore, information workers will tend to work within large corporations that can operate these more subtle business models, that are not as amenable to lone information workers. The most serious threats to effective sharing of content on the Internet are the social media companies—Facebook, but also Google, Apple, etc. In this case, the term 'content' means the low-grade social information contributed by members. Whereas there is some justification in considering the output of an information worker as a private good, the trend towards ownership of this low-grade social information (social media) is far more profoundly scary. Facilities like Facebook could be implemented in a federated way across the Internet without those companies having exclusive system rights to all the information. The idea that we may become a more connected intelligence has positive connotations if we are federated but horrendous negative connotations if it is mediated through a few hyper-giant social media facilities that will own the exclusive system access to the world's collective thoughts. Consider what motives a company like Facebook would have for massively extending access to the Internet to ‘the other 3 billion’ non-connected individuals in the developing world. Facebook could offer the Faustian bargain, in which it subsidises access but makes access at the low (Internet) level conditional on logging in to a Facebook account at the high (application/social) level. This may sound like a conspiracy theorist talking, but I believe this is precisely what Facebook is doing via Internet.org.”

Alex Halavais, an associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at Arizona State University, predicted, “There continues to be a divergence between regulatory attempts to strengthen IP and social and cultural acceptance of sharing such materials. When there is a battle between legal structure and cultural acceptance, the culture wins. It may end up being like speed limits in the United States—an uneasy tension but communally accepted lawlessness. Or, it may be that industry and regulators push hard enough to face a backlash. The ability to program is a core literacy now. There was a time well before the Internet when this was becoming an accepted fact. The public education system in the United States is failing us in many ways, and one of them is not putting the tools to create—including an ability to program—in the hands of our youth as early as possible. Not every kid has to grow up to be an applications programmer, but the degree to which society as a whole embraces tinkering with the Internet will determine how beneficial it is for the society as a whole.”

Sean Mead, senior director of strategy and analytics for Interbrand, responded, “Content providers will require access through a layer of the Internet that only accepts verified IDs.”

Warren Yoder, executive director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, said, “Current public policy is a major threat to those who create and engage online. Those responsible for national security have seized the initiative to structure the field by legitimizing their categorical definitions. The privacy and creativity advocates are far behind. But, the arc of history bends toward justice. I do believe the advocates will gain the upper hand in constructing information justice as the issue becomes clearer to all. It will be a fractious time. There will be major losses. On the whole, however, I do expect to move toward global information justice.”

Frank Feather, a business futurist, CEO, and trend tracker based in Ontario, Canada, wrote, “On the contrary, all things will be much easier, with far few barriers than now.”

Nick Wreden, a professor of social business at University Technology Malaysia, based in Kuala Lumpur, said, “Look for instant-on, mini-Internets. These will be able to be set up and taken down within minutes. It will be like the spy movies in World War II. People in the know changed their broadcast channels according to a pre-determined schedule to escape snoopers and evade blockages.”

Bill St. Arnaud, a self-employed green Internet consultant, wrote, "The most serious threat to accessing and sharing content on the Internet in North America and in Europe will be the music and film copyright Gestapo, and their partners in crime, the broadband oligopoly. Countries who live in the post-copyright era, like China and Korea, will reap the benefits of being free from DMCA and other such nonsense. Unfortunately, the powers that be are so entrenched I see very little probability of anything changing by 2025, even if China and other countries race ahead with compelling content and sharing. The two biggest challenges that are stopping people to fully realize the benefit of the Internet are our third-world broadband and copyright cartels.”

Agustin Rossi, a PhD candidate at the European University Institute (EUI), Florence, Italy, wrote, “We should articulate an effective right to erasure.”

Andrew Chen, associate professor of computer science at Minnesota State University Moorhead (MN), responded, “People already have too many options for accessing and sharing content. The only hindrance is copyright laws, but copyright expires and Creative Commons is on the rise. Human nature is fully reflected in the Internet. This ‘bonus question’ is identical to asking, ‘Are humans fundamentally good, or fundamentally evil?’ Your viewpoint will affect the answer far more than any facts. Humans have their own natural hindrances to achieving their fullest potential, and those apply, whether as individuals in pre-Internet days or to humanity as a whole, during Internet times.”

danah boyd, a research scientist for Microsoft, responded, “Because of governance issues—and the international implications of the NSA reveals—data sharing will get geographically fragmented in challenging ways. The next few years are going to be about control.”

Adrian Schofield, manager of applied research for the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering, wrote, “Censorship has only ever been a short-term impediment to accessing information. As more people have reliable, affordable access to the Internet, so the sharing of ideas, innovations, and information will increase exponentially.”

Alf Rehn, chair of management and organization at Abo Akademi University, Finland, wrote, “The main threat to sharing is the sharers themselves. Call it the ‘meme-ocalypse.’”

Avery Holton, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, responded, “Bridges are being formed across information and technology gaps. Access to information in a networked environment stands to improve relations. There will be more international accessibility and more accessibility with the socioeconomically disadvantaged. That opens up conversations and ideas across a wide diversity of people.”

Francois-Dominique Armingaud, a retired computer engineer for IBM, now teaching security at universities, wrote, “We will have better control of personal information, including information published on social networks, who accesses it, users being warned every time someone accesses it (who, when, why), and consolidation. We can probably expect our homes’ network-attached storage (NAS) devices to become more and more our personal secretaries, as well as to coordinate with many other NAS-secretaries according to privacy zones—close family and intimate friends, interest groups, commercial offers, etc. Google has clearly already understood that with Google Agenda and the new Gmail. Future opportunities will be that we can ‘fluidify’ information to free us from tedious information housekeeping (hopefully!). Future challenges will be the authentication of people and information.”

Aziz Douai, a professor of new media at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Canada, responded, “New technologies and innovations will enhance people's access to online content.”

Isaac Mao, chief architect of Sharism Lab, wrote, “#Sharism rocks. After everyone started to taste the benefits of sharing, and how to share better and more safely, they will not move backward to non-sharing. New applications will be share-friendly as well.”

Jeremy Epstein, a senior computer scientist at SRI International, responded, “There will be ups and downs—some forms of content will be easier to share than ever. But the extension of copyright terms back into the near-infinite past will reduce what can be shared. Increasing power of patent trolls will slow progress and put more energy into working around solutions, instead of moving forward.”

Celia Pearce, an associate professor of digital media at the Georgia Institute of Technology, wrote, “I don't really have a ‘yes’/’no’ answer to this. There will be hindrances in some places. China is already horrible in this regard; Chinese people can't tweet or post to Facebook. Oppressive regimes will continue to tighten control; however, the Internet is inherently chaotic and uncontrollable. It was designed to be decentralized, and no matter how much corporations have tried to control it, the grassroots side of things continues to grow, sometimes to a fault. Cyberbullying and hate speech earlier represent the downside of the unfettered Internet. But there will always be a side of the Internet that is about user content creation, even while the mainstream tries to hinder it. We are going to have to rethink our copyright laws. Currently, they strongly favor corporations, but the Internet is constantly negating that. We are going to have to face the fact that the industrial era of copyright law is over, and we need a major overhaul of our approach to intellectual property. Things like Copyleft and Creative Commons are a good start. In the future, tools and crowdfunding are probably the two biggest contributors to people (and by people, I mean individuals, not corporations, which in my opinion, in spite of the Supreme Court ruling, do not qualify as ‘people’) being able to use the Internet to its full potential. The challenges or hindrances will be corporate and government control, and—more importantly—the growing merger of the two. At this point, it is very clear that corporations own the US government. As long as this persists, we are going to have a problem. We have less and less regulation to protect the people and more and more laws that favor corporations. It is ironic that the government is poking around in our business with NSA spying and such, allegedly to ‘protect’ us, while at the same time, completely failing to protect us from the biggest domestic threat to democracy: the overthrow of the government by big corporations. To me, this is the biggest threat to freedom in America in general, and on the Internet in particular.”

Kate Crawford, a professor and research scientist, responded, “The increased Balkanisation of the Internet is a possible outcome of the Snowden revelations, as people seek to develop systems that are less accessible by the NSA/GCHQ, etc. Meanwhile, the dominant content companies may seek ever-more rigorous ways to prevent the flow of copyright content within and across borders.”

Mark Nall, a program manager for NASA, responded, "The drivers for hindering access to online content are political, security-based, and legal. Over the next decade, there will probably be little change in the strength of these, with the possible exception of security, which may increase. In the future, low-cost devices, cheap broadband, and minimum content regulation are necessary for realizing the fullest potential.”

Olivier Crepin-Leblond, managing director of Global Information Highway Ltd. in London, UK, predicted, “Political leaders will see a threat in the ease with which people will be able to share content online. Today's system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is likely to be related with a ‘guilty until checked to be innocent’ system. There will be a real kickback against this at some point in the future. In the worst-case scenario, some countries will fall into a dictatorial regime, when their government politicians will realise the power they have to control information online—power corrupts. But, dictators cannot evolve for long in today's connected world. The ease of use of small, cheap electronic goods to constitute ad-hoc parallel networks to smuggle data will make it difficult for these regimes to hold on to power for long. The real concern is that the struggle for freedom of information is likely to intensify, and that struggle might get increasingly ugly. Keeping the Internet governed in a multi-stakeholder fashion will ensure the right balance of power to let the Internet thrive as it has thus far. It is a complex, brand new way of running things, but it will make sure that no single stakeholder abuses the system to the detriment of other stakeholders.”

Mark Johns, a professor of media studies at a liberal arts college in the United States, said, “As digital divides are created, there may be classes of society increasingly locked out, but those with the ability to pay for access will have enhanced possibilities for doing so. The difference will be the increasing dominance of the digital world by corporate powers demanding payment.”

David P. Collier-Brown, a system programmer and author, said, “I am a published author, and sharing online sells my printed books. I also preferentially put printed books that I've used for reference online, knowing that—I have a superior index in the form of searching—I'm not just buying a pig in a poke. Printed books can be read in the bathtub, or with gloves on, on a cold day. I buy new novels by people who put their backlist online, and have therefore attracted my readership. The people pushing DRM schemes will fail on the Internet, just as they previously failed on the Apple II (funny disk formats), CP/M (disks, dongles), and PCs (license managers). The biggest risk for the future is a lack of an effective business model for very small payments. My wallet, tapped against a visible sensor, should authorize payments of anything as cheap as a subway ride. Anything larger should require a card-swipe and a signature on a pad. Nothing should use a personal identification number.”

Fred Hapgood, a self-employed science and technology writer, responded, “Perhaps privacy issues will impose constraints on current practices, but I see no sign of that so far.”

Oscar Gandy, an emeritus professor at the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania, wrote, “It is difficult for me to imagine how access to information would worsen, even if we move toward paying more in micro-payments or benefit shares for information. I would expect those transactions to move farther and farther from our awareness, for instance, with monthly payments bundled, rather than any sort of per/transaction negotiation. Although I spend much of my time trying to identify the costs and consequences of transparency/surveillance, I understand how assistance from trusted agents—infomediaries—facilitates search/acquisition of information. Regulatory limits on the uses of transaction-generated-information (TGI), that might even include fines and temporary exclusion from the marketplace, might serve to reduce the amount of cognizable harm to individuals, groups, and institutions that rely on the Web for information and interaction. The challenge, of course, lies in our ability to identify those harms with sufficient clarity, so that regulation would be effective without needlessly limiting the functionality of the network.”

Henning Schulzrinne, a technology developer and professor at Columbia University, observed, “If there is a perception that politically or socially controversial content will have possible negative consequences for the author, sharing may well be limited to cute cat pictures and other content that seem unlikely to cause job, college admissions, or other repercussions.”

Justin Reich, a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said, “The main obstacle to sharing is corporations growing and realizing of the advantages of walled gardens as revenue sources—mostly following Apple's model. Ultimately, though, companies like Dropbox are going to figure out ways of created interoperability of documents and data, even when companies try to keep everything on their own servers.”

Dave Burstein, editor of Fast Net News, responded, “Governments worldwide are looking for more power over the Net, especially within their own countries. Britain, for example, has just determined that ISPs block sites the government considers ‘terrorist’ or otherwise dangerous. This will grow. There will usually be ways to circumvent the obstruction, but most people won't bother. Reaching most of the 5 billion people not currently connected is the highest priority. Fighting to bring the cost down for the poorest will be one of the biggest challenges.”

Vint Cerf, Google vice president and chief Internet evangelist, predicted, “Social norms will change to deal with potential harms in online social interactions. People will have to recognize that their actions have social consequences. Online access will be the norm, with most material arriving online before it makes it to print (if it ever gets there). Video will continue to be valuable, but only if production quality improves. The Internet will become far more accessible than it is today—governments and corporations are finally figuring out how important adaptability is. AI and natural language processing may well make the Internet far more useful than it is today.”

Sonigitu Asibong Ekpe, a consultant with the AgeCare Foundation, a nonprofit organization, wrote, “Poor Internet access is one issue, but true freedom of online content is another story in itself. Privatization will create greater competition, and in turn, allow for a higher level of knowledge sharing and job opportunities. Pending international legislation has threatened to inhibit the availability of online information. Global governance structures and institutions will help people realize the fullest potential of the Internet.”

K.G. Schneider, a university librarian, wrote, “If we're talking about all people, we have a huge and growing divide for technology around the planet. If wearable computing, self-driving cars, and ubiquitous, always-on technology increases the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, or further obscures the presence of this gulf (as I believe it is doing already), then we will be all the less for it.”

Miguel Alcaine, International Telecommunication Union area representative for Central America, responded, “The Internet ecosystem will evolve, technically, politically, and socially, as to allow people to share all the content online they want to share. Although there will be national borders being drawn in the cyberspace, interoperability and connectivity will be crucial for all countries around the world. The challenges lie in the balance between sovereignty, connectivity, and interoperability: between intellectual property and common use, between anonymity, privacy, and security.”

Bob Frankston, Internet pioneer and technology innovator, responded, “Today's online ‘access’ is hobbled by a funding model based on an owner taking a vig and denying us the ability to communicate unless we pay a carrier We must get rid of the concept of telecommunications and understand that the Internet is a fundamentally different paradigm. See more on my opinion at http://rmf.vc/IEEERefactoringCE.”

Hal Varian, chief economist for Google, wrote, “I am generally optimistic about transactions cost of information sharing. The biggest change will be the blurring between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ content creation. Full-length videos will be developed by small teams using low cost technology, that end up as commercial successes that capture worldwide attention. Organizations and technologies like YouTube, blogging, Kickstarter, and so on, will continue to grow and develop, while the professional content creators will struggle to keep up. The rise of the amateur is certainly going to continue. The technological challenge will involve finding the content you want to consume. But we are well on our way to solving this problem. I think that the intellectual property and business model issues facing content creators will be mostly resolved by 2025. This will enable global access to information, and all the attendant benefits. The biggest problem will be education. People will need to acquire various cognitive skills to use the Internet to its fullest potential. Of course, the Internet will become a major channel for education and training, but the motivation and guidance for a rounded educational experience will still require a human presence.”

Mike Cushman, an independent researcher, wrote, “Anxieties about secure transfer and storage will only increase.”

Carlos Castillo, a scientist working at a national research lab in the Middle East, responded, “By then, technologies [used] to enhance anonymity and security online will be more developed and more widespread.”

Jay Cross, chief scientist at Internet Time Group, wrote, “The trend is toward more openness—not less.”

Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, wrote, “Government poses the greatest threat to the net's freedoms. (Though I might not sound like it, I should say that I am a Democrat, not a Libertarian.) Many governments, including Western regimes, threaten to control some part of Internet communication. Obviously, China, Iran, and other authoritarian states wish to control speech there. But Canada and Australia have threatened to filter all Internet content to get to child porn. Once one government is given the means and authority to filter communication, information, and content for one reason, then any government can do so for any reason. So, we must protect the open architecture of the Net and assure that no government can claim sovereignty over it. At the same time, of course, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, through their NSA and GCHQ, have trampled the public's trust in the security and privacy of Net communications, bringing still untold damage to the Cloud economy, as well as opening the door for other governments—including tyrannies—to claim their right to govern the Net. I don't know which force—censorship or spying—will lead to greater degradation of Net freedoms. Both come from government. Nonetheless, I still hold hope that technologists and hackers can stay one step ahead of slow government and rob them of their stakes claimed in the Net. Thus, I also hope that technologists—programmers, mathematicians, statisticians, etc.—will begin robust discussion of the ethics that govern their own power and how they will use it for public good. [The best realization of the fullest potential of the Internet] isn't a technology question, but instead, a human question: When given the opportunity, will we realize the benefits of sharing more information, gathering more knowledge, and making more connections among ourselves? So far, we have.”

John Anderson, director of broadcast journalism at Brooklyn College, wrote, “A lot of this depends on the laws and regulations that govern sharing. Things like the provisions included in the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement are steps in the wrong direction. But, I think that the technologies and platforms for sharing will continue to evolve in innovative directions, and laws and regulations are typically reactive in this regard. The largest challenge is making access ubiquitous, affordable, and robust enough to handle all of these new tools and applications we're inventing for the Internet. Until it's treated as a utility, not a commodity, I fear we may never reach the Internet's fullest potential.”

Linda Neuhauser, clinical professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California-Berkeley, responded, “As more people become ‘producers’ of content on the Internet, it becomes more difficult to ‘control’ that content—as has been predicted for many years. The ‘threat’ is having opportunist producers who wish to influence others with non-evidence-based information. The answer may be that people seem to be capable of sifting through the good and the bad on the Internet. I predict that the mass of people and information afforded by the Internet will lead to important health discoveries that will enable people to learn how to manage rare, as well as common, health problems.”

Katie Derthick, a PhD candidate in human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington, responded, “We are operating under the same, most serious threat that has always existed: the guys in power wanting it all for themselves. A more technologically literate and educated government is obviously necessary. A difficulty with innovation and the Internet is the black box—kids growing up tinkering with the Internet will be able to create incredible services, but these innovations will take place on top of the underlying infrastructure, which is hidden, using a computer with an operating system whose design is also hidden. Learning to write code is important and wonderful and promising, though more like being able to detail a car than invent new engines. The challenge is the opacity of technology and its underlying infrastructure, and how many degrees removed from these the canvas for creation is.”

Author and futurist David Brin wrote, “We will link more capably. Our future will depend upon whether we find ways to augment our abilities to solve problems. Intelligence must improve.”

Jerry Michalski, founder of REX, the Relationship Economy eXpedition, wrote, “I'm going to be an idealist here and suggest that someone leads a charge to tear down the stupid, overweening intellectual property regime in place now and then replace it with something much more shareable—an ever-improving version of the Commons. Media companies, content providers, some inventors, and others will try to stop this trend, but the forces behind sharing will win. I expect we will begin to figure out how to reward creative people for sharing their creations freely. This will create a vortex of innovation that powers society out of difficult spots and into a commons-based economy. Consumer capitalism will tumble. In its place we'll figure out how to share the value we create, while improving the many Commons that we depend on. There are plenty of threats in the way of this outcome, yet I am optimistic that we will sort out how to mind the Commons, much as we used to a few thousand years ago.”

Ousmane Musatesa, an academic and self-described citizen of the world, wrote, “Getting and sharing contents needs a climate of trust. It is important to ensure users’ ability to visit contents according their needs and to allow them to be free to express their views and create relevant content.”

John E. Savage, chair in computer science at Brown University, and a fellow of the IEEE and the ACM, wrote, “To provide a rapid response to queries, large Internet providers move their data close to the consumer. They use content distribution networks or Clouds located close to consumers. Smaller providers, such as local stores or banks, are usually accessed by clients who live nearby. Thus, in both cases, data is moved to or is located near customers. As a consequence, accessing and sharing content online should improve over time. Access to broadband for all citizens of the globe will have a positive impact on national economies globally.”

Jim Hendler, a professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, wrote, “There will be many changes, but I don't think they will be hindrances—if anything, it is privacy that will have to give way to openness, not the other way around. The biggest changes will be the coming online of the millions of people in Africa, as well as the as yet underserved in Asia and India. Repressive governments will be working hard to stop the spread of information. As today, there will be both good and bad news continually in that area, but over time, more integration, access, and sharing will be a driving force.”

Liam Pomfret, a PhD student in online consumer privacy at the University of Queensland, Australia, responded, “I am concerned that measures like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which takes a maximalist view on copyright and intellectual property issues, will act as a significant barrier to the creation, accessing, and sharing of content. I am pessimistic that any significant moves will be made towards business models more in tune with the modern digital reality, and that organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will continue to invest significant time, effort, and money in lobbying governments around the world, while consumer advocacy groups and academics continue to go unheard.”

Thad Hall, an associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, said, “Repressive regimes will repress, and open ones will not. The biggest problem with information and realizing the potential of the Internet is that there will continue to be a divide between the haves and have-nots when it comes to access to information and in the use of the Internet for political purposes. Moreover, there will be more polarization as people get information from their ideologically preferred sources.”

Mattia Crespi, president of Qbit Technologies LLC, responded, “There is a need for a new operating system for personal data—a new form of entity management system. This will also manage the way content is shared across networks. A new tool for managing personal data across networks, including medical information and any other personal record. Accessibility and connectivity to new forms of services and models will be essentially segmented by cost. In a world where everything is a service, people will have to adapt to new ways of managing their time and habits.”

Stephen Abram, a self-employed consultant with Lighthouse Consulting Inc. and CEO of the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries, wrote, ”The real challenge is building an information-fluent (not merely literate) population. This fluency divide is already showing in the manipulation of truth and facts, as evidenced by Fox News and their cohort. Critical thinking needs to be more widely spread as the gatekeepers no longer control access and offer interpretation for their own reasons. There will be a bigger gulf between fee-based and free content. The ad model is not infinitely grow-able, and the number of players in that model will shrink. That said, content is important and the nature of traditional content—video, text, sound—will mutate in the extreme by 2025, with the ability to explore, experience, and connect moving to unimagined levels. Read-only fiction won't shrink in raw numbers, but it will lose market share, as it's joined by many more optional experiences.”

Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson, a Washington law firm, wrote, “Data and content will be cheaper to share in 2025. That trend is already locked in.”

David Sarokin, president and researcher at xooxleanswers.com, wrote, “One of the biggest obstacles, currently, is a very unwieldy copyright system that hinders information sharing without providing substantial benefits to the original creators of written works and other content. I hope the frustrations in this area will lead to constructive international dialogues that can strike a better balance between the conflicting goals of access, protection, and simplicity.”

Jari Arkko, Internet expert for Ericsson and chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force, wrote, “We will move to an easier world; however, excessive surveillance, data gathering, and privacy violations can endanger the will of the world's citizens to employ global innovations.”

Susan Etlinger, a technology industry analyst with the Altimeter Group, responded, "With regard to content, the biggest technical challenge will continue to be filter failure; algorithms today simply cannot keep up with the number and type of signals that provisionally predict what a person will want at a certain point in time. There are so many barriers: multiple devices, offline attribution, and of course, simple human changeability. We will continue to see a push and pull with regard to privacy. People will continue to adapt, but their expectations for control and relevance will also increase. And, all this needs to be honed to an even finer point for teenagers and children, since teenagers have access to the most popular social networks. What will help us realize the fullest potential of the Internet? Becoming better students of human emotion, desire, and behavior.”

Rajnesh Singh, regional director in the Asia-Pacific region for the Internet Society, wrote, “There are two things that immediately come to mind when I think of the future of content. The amount of content generated every day is mind-boggling and will continue to increase exponentially as more come online and are able to interact better online using tools and applications. The first issue is how do we navigate this content? Even search engines today are struggling to identify relevant content (leaving aside for the moment the fact that search results can also be ‘gamed,’ to some extent). There is some great content out there, but finding it can be painful—or impossible—if you don't know where to look. And, as more content appears, this issue will also impact the possible monetization opportunities of content creators. The second issue is one of obsolescence—as content creation tools and applications have evolved, so have the format they are made available and saved in. Will users in 2050 be able to view and interact with content that was created in 1999? Or will they need to view the content by way of photographic images, captured not unlike microfiches, and thus, not be able to use the content ‘natively?’ Hurdles to the most positive future include censorship, access cost, access to devices, and interoperability.”

Evan Michelson, a researcher exploring the societal and policy implications of emerging technologies, predicted, “The notion of ‘renting’ content will change drastically. Videos will be created and destroyed quickly. Finding better ways to ‘forget’ will be an area of innovation.”

Andrew K. Przybylski, University of Oxford Internet Institute research fellow, wrote, "I am optimistic that people will adapt to the opportunities to (over) share and that they will learn new habits and skills to balance the upsides of sharing with the pronounced pitfalls.”

Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, wrote, “This will definitely get better, not worse!”

Geoff Livingston, author, and president of Tenacity5 Media, said, “People are finding more and more ways to communicate today, not less. These will tend to be more private, but businesses are now committed. Unfettered access to the Internet and its communications tools will be the norm. Escaping the Internet will be the difficult part of life.”

Marc Prensky, director of the Global Future Education Foundation and Institute, responded, “I see things getting better. As attitudes change, much of what appear today as ‘threats’ will be seen differently and more positively. We have to make it a common goal in the world for us all to learn how to become—in addition to good, competent, and effective human beings—symbiotic with our technology and effective nodes on the collective world network. Although there will be fits, starts, and setbacks, humanity will rise to a new level by doing this.”

Larry Gell, founder and director of the International Agency for Economic Development (IAED), and weekly United Nations TV producer, noted, “This is a yes, no, or maybe answer. The ultimate goal is all people, all over the globe, connected and sharing the same information. That could bring major changes. The problem is that the governments need to control your information and how you are educated. Their philosophy is based on a ‘need to know basis.’ We (the government) need to know. But, you, the people, do not need to know. The big opportunities will come in education and cultural understanding. Americans could start thinking like the corporation (after all, a corporation is a person) and follow their motto, ‘Think globally, and go globally,’ instead of telling the people to, ‘Think globally, and act locally.’ ‘Locally’ because the corporations are going to cause a lot of problems for their unemployed ex-workers, and even the cities in which they live, maybe even for the country that can no longer tax them, or their executives, or the past workers any more. There is a new world order. Globalization is here to stay. Welcome? How well you change and adapt equals your future success. Good luck!”

Michael Glassman, an associate professor at Ohio State University, predicted, “Our abilities to connect with each other will only get better. Data will be more networked and open. Open Resource communities will begin developing organically around projects and problems. As people learn to build dynamic, sharing, problem-solving communities on the Internet, people will use it more and more for problem solving. Because these communities will be more organic and self contained (focused on the problems), they will be more based on social capital and less based on cultural capital and predetermined gate keeping.”

Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants, wrote, “As social technologies mature, so will the policies of organizations and government to govern appropriate use. There will always be abuses, but they will be relatively small compared to the positive use that these technologies will enable. New, trusted filters will emerge to help lend trust to the massive amounts of data flowing.”

Kevin Jones, founder of SOCAP, responded, “Copyright length will be shortened. The value of mash-ups will be recognized. Annotation of digital books that are absent digital rights management will be transformative for collective education, and annotation of those books will augment the learning process in new, creative, and important ways.”

Dean Thrasher, founder of Infovark, Inc., said, “Unfortunately, many of the innovations and improvements planned for the Internet in the near future will have the side effect of allowing governments and powerful institutions more control over the traffic on the Internet. Whether these changes are relatively mild, like collecting taxes on online commerce or communications, or severe, as in censorship or outright bans, there will be more opportunity for others to control what happens on the Internet, and when.”

Dave Kissoondoyal, CEO for KMP Global Ltd., and Internet consultant, responded, “By 2025, people will be more conscious on individual privacy rights, and access to and sharing of private data will be more under the strict control of the individual. Private data that is easily accessible on the Internet will have restricted access. By 2025, technology would have provided private network on the Internet for each individual. The fullest potential of the Internet would have been reached, making the Internet the private Nets of each individual.”

William Schrader, the co-founder and CEO of PSINet Inc., the first commercial ISP, wrote, “Nothing can stop people from sharing information they choose to share. Looking at a worst-case scenario, a country may attempt to eliminate the Internet from its internal communication fabric, or at least fully monitor it. If this were to occur, two things would happen. If eliminated, this weak country's economy would immediately worsen, starting with the retail industry and ending with its financial industry. The second inevitable thing is that people would still communicate over whatever communications fabric was available (cell towers and telephone wires), since that is how the Internet was invented. Internet workers do not need telephone company permission to operate their data transmission systems. Also in the worst-case scenario, the weak country that abolished the Internet would make data transmission ‘illegal,’ in which case the Internet gurus would find a method to communicate, which was hidden inside a voice transmission and unrecognizable. Nothing can stop people from communicating over the Internet. That said, privacy is now gone, due to organized government spying everywhere. This can be countered with high levels of encryption by communication between both parties; however, since governments always have more resources to devote to decrypting these transmissions, they will break any code eventually. Real methods of privacy would be a profound improvement over what we have today. PGP is not strong enough to withstand the government's prying eyes/ears. Bad guys (who the government are trying to catch) are more prevalent on the Internet than on the streets. Identity theft prevention and detection tools will be well received and will never go out of favor. The challenge I see is being overloaded by too much information and insufficient knowledge or distillation. Worse than that is too much distillation by others, who want to manipulate the outcome of people's thinking (such as, some say, certain elements of what the press does now and what every politician has done every day for hundreds of years).”

George Lessard, information curator, and communications and media specialist at MediaMentor.ca, predicted, “There will be an even greater dichotomy between public and privileged than that which exists today. Governments and corporations are striving to hide more and more information because they understand the power of knowledge and information and have absolutely no desire to relinquish or share their control of that power. There will be leaks, leaks, and more leaks. These are both the biggest challenges and biggest potential of the Internet.”

Brian Butler, a professor at the University of Maryland, noted, “Although the Internet has been called the Wild West, it has, for the most part, long been the Wild West in a Bugs Bunny, cartoonish fashion. As the technology and logic of the Internet propagates, the true implications of that for individuals, organizations, and society—US and global—will begin to emerge. Cyberpunk is a bit pessimistic, but it is important to remember that behind most sites, pages, and accounts, there are people, who don't have the luxury of being stateless. The most important thing that is necessary for people to realize the fullest potential of the Internet is to develop the belief and ability to use it to change the world in which they live. If individuals do not do this, then they are only slightly active consumers.”

Nishant Shah, a visiting professor at The Centre for Digital Cultures at Leuphana University in Germany, wrote, “Media regulation, especially because of its economic value systems, has always been integral to information societies. I am not sure that there are going to be serious threats to accessing and sharing of content on the Internet. Instead, we will have to form new modes of understanding value, economy, currency, and sharing, as well as realise that a lot of our current practices are illegal or criminalised only because they draw their meanings and references from a technology paradigm that is substantially different.”

Joe Touch, director of the Information Sciences Institute's Postel Center at the University of Southern California, said, “Information flow tends to increase, and people tend to find ways to continue to increase it. That started with the printing press, then newspapers, radio, TV, and now, the Internet. The bigger concern is the difficulty in validating Internet information. For a long time, I've felt that ‘the Internet is the zero-sum of knowledge’—for any statement on the Internet, its exact opposite is also available. It can be difficult to sift fact from fiction as more ‘information’ becomes available. One opportunity is in vetting the so-called information on the Internet. I think the difference between average user blogs and edited, managed sites, such as WebMD, will become more important to the average user. The challenge is, as noted above, sifting the chaff from the wheat when everyone is their own editor.”

John Markoff, senior writer for the Science section of the New York Times, responded, “I really believe that Charlie Stross nailed it in his short story Accelerando. Heck, if corporations are people, then why not AIs? That will so transform the landscape of IP that it will be impossible to think about it in terms of our current legal system. I think John Barnes got it right in his book, Mother of Storms, which described the intersection of anonymity, privacy, computer networks, and pornography. If you are a parent, it will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on-end.”

Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker, and host of the AOL series The Future Starts Here, and founder of The Webby Awards, wrote, “By 2025, every human on the planet will be online. The collision of ideas through the sharing network will lead to explosive innovation and creativity. We are just at the precipice of collaborative tools today. By 2025, we should have around 8.1 billion people online. Just imagine all those billions of people and ideas sharing and collaborating. Please do not let me get hit by a bus. I want to live to experience this period, which people will later call ‘The Age of Collaboration.’”

Daniel Miller, a professor at University College in London, observed, “The main limitations at present are national, such as the Great Chinese Firewall, and there are some grounds for thinking that these may decline. Secondly, there may be more control over the abuse of online data by US surveillance following Snowden, so I see more reasons for people feeling comfortable expanding usage than contracting. There will be periodic crises of harm that result in temporary concerns and limitations, but the overall trajectory is towards greater sharing. By far the most important change between now and 2025 will come in the major global populations such as South Asia, China, and Brazil. Most people today still have issues of poverty, including limited access and lack of affordability. The United States and Europe tend to assume the rest of the world is closer to their levels than is the case. But recent years have seen extraordinary spread of smart phones and other technologies, and there is good reason to think that while this is certainly not the case today, by 2025, the bulk of the global population will have the kind of access that we take for granted. As far as I am concerned, spreading the benefits of these technologies to the global population, as well as overcoming social inequalities, is the single best way to realize the potential of the Internet. These social developments are more important at this point than technical developments.”

VytautasButrimas, chief advisor to a major government's ministry, with 23 years of experience in ICT and defense policy, predicted, “Content will likely be more available but more and more at a price. Governments concerned with staying in power may also tend to limit the availability and use of content that may threaten a government’s existence—for example, revelations about corruption before an election. The issue of trust is key. Is it safe to use the Internet in terms of privacy and security? The less trust there is on the Internet, the slower it will develop.”

Robert E. McGrath, an Internet pioneer, and software engineer, who participated in developing the World Wide Web and advanced interfaces, predicted, “There will be many different networks with different rules. Many of the networks will exist for the purpose of restricting access to content and/or restricting the ability to publish content. The primary opportunity is that the Internet is cheap, available, and easy to use; children have access and the ability to use it. They will do whatever they want with it. The primary challenge is that the concentration of resources in large companies inhibits sharing and sucks money out of the network (see Jaron Lanier and others’ writing on this topic).”

David Orban, the CEO of Dotsub, wrote, “The emergence and persistence of peer-to-peer application layers will continue to strengthen the sharing of content. Copyright friendly solutions will allow content creators to leverage the passion of their followers, regardless of the disruption that this brings to content distributors. Dialog-based operating systems leveraging wireless communications globally are going to greatly enhance the opportunities of billions of people who, today, are less than fully connected and equipped to take advantage of the Internet. Entrenched interests, especially in the financial sector, are going to keep lobbying globally for protective legislation, which will slow down the deployment of innovative solutions for allocating resources based on skill, as well as demonstrated capability to execute and sustain initiative.”

Gary McGraw, CTO for Cigital, Inc., known as a father of software security, said, “Sharing will only get easier and easier. We will continue to trade off privacy for ease of use. We will experience real democracy and meritocracy.”

Laurel Papworth, a social media educator, responded, “The algorithms that Facebook and Google employ may remove the content from ‘normal’ humans (organic content) from the news stream and give precedence to paid-for/bought media. This will challenge those looking to raise finances through peer-to-peer banks, selling hand made items through peer-to-peer fashion sites, and promoting self-published books online, thereby reversing the democratisation of media/channels that is currently occurring. An activated vocal community can force changes through the platforms they use, ensuring services remain accountable to the users. A passive, inactive community will find that their lives are managed by artificial bots controlling Internet of Things and forcing external marketing and thoughts into their life streams. The future will probably will be a mix of both.”

Karen Riggs, a professor of media arts at Ohio University, responded, “Hindrances will occur and proliferate; however, the power of connectivity will increase exponentially as the Internet's networks are made more sophisticated. There are mammoth threats to privacy and face-to-face communication, but these do not negate the importance of increasing means and scope of human communication and relationships through the tools that the Internet will continue to build. One significant result will be the transformation (already begun) of the concept and practices around creativity, which we will see in increasingly profound forms of user-generated content.”

Rui Correia, the founding director of Netday Namibia, a nonprofit supporting information and communications technologies for education and development, repsponded, “I argue that Internet access will only get better over time, and that usability will largely be driven by communication and information harvesting demands. Commercial access—still requiring conventional economic status, i.e., bank accounts and/or credit ratings—will not be much more advanced than it is now, unless new Internet-based economies, like Bitcoin and M-Pesa, evolve with clear mandates and trustworthiness. Ubiquitous and genuinely affordable Internet access will drive change. I hope for an unambiguous commitment to free, benchmarked bandwidth in the education sector.”

Liza Potts, an assistant professor and senior researcher for writing in digital environments at Michigan State University, explained, “We are only now coming into a golden age for social media, as more people come online and learn how to use these tools. That said, we have got to figure out better tools and technologies to enhance communication across these systems. Trolls, misinformation, and shoddy experiences abound. We need to work towards educating and training a new generation of knowledge workers to create better experiences through these communication tools. The challenge is privacy, privacy, and privacy. Until we, as a society, can solve for this basic human need, we will never reach our full potential online. People need to feel secure in what they do. At the moment, that security is a huge absence for us.”

Jesse Stay, founder of Stay N' Alive Productions, predicted, “Data will be broader and more globally available because users will feel more comfortable sharing in an environment where they have full control of their privacy and the way their information is distributed.”

Jamie LaRue, a writer, speaker, and consultant on library, technology, and public sector issues, responded, “It is likely that we will see differentiation in the levels of service. At the high end, you will get bandwidth and speed, freedom from advertisements, and freedom from data mining, all at a premium price. At the lower end, the Internet will be utterly ubiquitous, probably falling into the same kind of metered use that we see today in phone service. The potential for relentless commercial marketing will certainly be abused. The only response that can assure ‘people's optimal future’ is the presence of a strong, savvy, values-based public sector, establishing some fundamental level of service as a civic right. The likeliest barriers are poverty and ignorance. Yet, there's tremendous potential in the idea of a true, digital ‘people's university’ through the library or national infrastructure. That is, there should be deep, accessible courseware covering everything from a high quality, self-paced national curriculum of knowledge, to in-depth and citizen-centered introductions to technology, issues, and civic engagement—think the convergence of local library, local school (kindergarten through community college), and local news.

Cristian Berrío Zapata, a doctoral student in information science at the Universidade Estadual Paulista, responded, “The main problem will not be access, but instead, the quality of access: bandwith. And of course, [other factors include the] capacity to buy appliances and infrastructure, as well as paying for an education that lets you use them in a competitive way. Educated people with resources to pay for access and services will keep having opportunities but will be more and more a minority.”

Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, developing innovative digital journalism, wrote, “Some government, particularly dictatorships, will censor or limit access. I do believe people will tire of everything online all the time. Just as journalism nowadays encompasses events, knowledge activities will encompass some face-to-face time, or at least more experiential learning.”

Vanda Scartezini, a partner in Polo Consultores Associados, based in Brazil, wrote, “I believe that, after a growth of paranoia in the next couple years, resulting in self restrictions on Internet use, or worse, governmental restrictions, due the growth of insecurity, we will see a natural reaction against such behaviour and a growth of sharing information, as well as a preoccupation on sharing correct information from the users side. The generation born with the Internet will be adults with children at 2025 and will lead the movement to reduce difficulties and act with more responsibility in sharing information, since they know the two sides of the Internet world—the creative one and the obscure side of restriction at the time. This generation will be responsible for the free development of the Internet and its improvements.”

Russell Bailey, director of the library at Providence College, noted, “The need, desire, and demand for access inexorably pushes content controllers to provide greater, more usable, more individualized, and less proprietary access to data, information, and knowledge. The increasing momentum of need, desire and demand is probably unstoppable, irrespective of efforts. The opportunities will be found in the ubiquity of robust wireless access and, perhaps, wireless power. There will continue to be scaled divides—i.e., the haves, sort-of-haves, and have-nots.”

Karl Fogel, a partner with Open Tech Strategies, and president of QuestionCopyright.org, observed, “Copyright law and enforcement is going in an opposite direction from what most people want.”

Tom Folkes, an Internet professional, predicted, “We will have bots/per-citrons—a combination of persons and citrons—that will watch the Web for us, filtering content. This will enable us to move forward at a very rapid pace. Technology moves forward in very thin increments. The rate at which we communicate these changes becomes paramount.”

S. Craig Watkins, a professor and author based at the University of Texas-Austin, responded, “The technologies that we use will be designed to make getting and sharing information—i.e., Google Glass and other wearables—which could make this virtually effortless. The challenge will be how we develop the norms, practices, and literacies to transform these platforms into content gathering and sharing experiences that lead to smarter, healthier, better life changes and living conditions.”

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois-Springfield, wrote, “I am optimistic that online sharing—a founding principle of the Internet from the very early days—will continue to thrive online. It is very difficult, indeed, to take away freedoms that have been in place for decades. The advent of new services and technologies will promote further sharing. We can see the relatively recent updates by Twitter and the great success of Instagram as examples of the motivation to share more and more online. The more connected we world-citizens become, the more sharing will take place.”

Brian Newby, an election commissioner in Kansas, wrote, “I do not see much difference by 2025 at this stage, although I could see content, over time, becoming cheaper. Newspapers will be forced to have free content online.”

Fredric Litto, a professor emeritus at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, noted, “It is impossible to see anything on the horizon at the present time, which could turn into an obstacle of serious proportions. If and when it appears, there will be means to combat it. Just as the book was a source for a giant step forward for human learning, and radio and television made their contributions to opening access to global human knowledge, the Internet and the Web will take even further the expansion of full access to information, knowledge, and wisdom—extending and deepening that access—and, in consequence, the world will slowly become a more rational and secure place in which to live. Naturally, there will be occasional setbacks, but they will be minor in relation to the greater whole of advances in good thinking and even better acting/performing.”

Pamela Wright, chief innovation officer for the US National Archives, responded, “The cost to digitize and systematically capture standardized metadata has been a major hurdle to overcome for cultural institutions in their efforts to provide more online access to their holdings. Copyright issues also complicate access and online sharing. I am concerned that the personalization of information provided online will lead to people not being informed by the Internet so much as being comforted by links tailored for them. Our Google results are already customized for us. When will we get entirely opposing sets of facts that we each perceive as the truth? Uncomfortable facts will simply not show up in our news feed. How politicians will use this in the future is concerning. When cultural institutions, such as the National Archives, have digitized their records, new worlds will be open to researchers. As a nation, we will know more about our history than was ever possible in past generations. With large sets of data available for analysis, new light will be shed on our collective past. Researchers and the public will be able to contribute to their government in new ways. New tools, such as mobile apps, will encourage public participation in government that was simply not possible before. For example, researchers in the National Archives reading rooms would be able to share their knowledge, as well as digital copies of the records they are researching with the National Archives' catalog. This is a specific example of what it will mean in the future for government to be of, by, and for the people. New technology will allow anyone in the public to participate in our democracy more easily than was possible in previous generations.”

Jose Cordeiro, director of the Venezuela node of The Millennium Project, said, “I believe that, on average, most changes will be for the better.”

Monica Guzman, a respondent who did not share identifying details, wrote, “We will think back on the years between 2000 and 2015 as a golden age of content. News sites were free, original content from new voices was serendipitously discovered, and social networks were chiefly for people, not brands and marketers. Some of this is cynicism, but not all; social media was a catch-me-if-you-can revolution, and now, in many ways, old industries and infrastructures have caught it. They have been reshaped by them, no doubt, and for the better, but still, we will miss the Wild-Wild social Web West of this period. That said, online access is set to become more accessible and effective, not less. There are more people to bring in, more voices to hear, and more surprises in store.”

Marc Brenman, a faculty member at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, predicted, “There will be both worse and better developments, and everything in between. There will be less privacy, and fastest, more voluminous sharing, including of the trivial. Solid encryption and a stepping back of government would be useful. There is a need for an app to check the veracity of the material on the Internet.”

Jeanne Brittingham, an opinion research consultant working with environmental management systems, responded, “By whose standards will the changes be limiting or threatening? Who would block changes, and for what reasons? What are the ‘optimal future capabilities’ of ‘people?’ This survey's approach to anticipating technological change posits no concomitant political or economic effects. The definition of ‘serious’ will change as technology changes the culture.”

Carlos Manjarrez, director of the office of planning, research, and evaluation at the US Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, DC, noted, “Giving people tools to share content has proven to be an incredibly efficient way to gather personal data from millions of users. There is a strong market incentive for technology innovators to continue developing tools that make it even easier to share text, sounds, and images in a networked and spatially dynamic manner.”

Janie Pickett, a teacher and information science professional, predicted, “The trend to make information available will continue to shape connectivity globally. The commercial interests that power that trend should continue to make much available online.”

Bud Levin, a futurist and professor of psychology in Virginia, wrote, “There will be the usual efforts of nation states and corporations to block access; however, those methods will inevitably leak.”

Dale Richart, a marketing and advertising client liaison, said, “Security and privacy are the primary risk. Open and free governments are the best protection.”

Tom Roe, the senior account manager for large staffing organization, and the owner of a mobile technology start-up, responded, “More information will be available, but it will be less secure.”

Dave Rusin, a digital serial entrepreneur, and former digital global corporate executive, predicted, “Aspects of content access, filtering, etc., will be culturally driven and should be respected. The more control a government or culture places upon the access to the Internet, the higher risk of falling behind economically. The more control or culture placed onto the Internet to an extreme level, the higher likelihood of moral decay and collapse of any given society or nation state. By 2050, no one is going to want to be a politician, as we know the system today. Why? Because everything will be wide open to see, hear, retrieve, and analyze—we may, by 2050, have the advent of the honest politician.”

Nathan Rodriguez, a PhD student at the University of Kansas, wrote, “One of the bigger challenges might be the preservation of some ideal that resembles Net neutrality. We have already seen how algorithms in search engines adjust results based on previous searches and how this can begin to create what some might call an echo chamber. As the drive toward personalization continues, this fragmentation poses a substantial threat to our (utopian) notion of the Internet as a free marketplace of ideas and circulation of content.”

Patricia Swann, an associate professor of public relations and journalism at Utica College in New York, responded, “I see more collaboration globally on projects and research—more rapid development of inventions through wikis and other Cloud computing. Cybersecurity will continue to be a major problem, as will copyright.”

Anita Salem, a design research consultant, noted, “The biggest threats are government control of information systems, corporations given the rights of people, a weakened fifth estate, and a poorly educated public. All of these will lead to a population distracted from their problems by the latest technology and unable to discriminate and think independently. “

Ian Lamont, founder of i30 Media, a publisher of technology, business, and health guides, predicted, “More data will be available, including data not currently indexed or open—i.e., government files, ancestry information, legal documents and case information.”

Buroshiva Dasgupta, the Kolkata Professor of Communication at the International Management Institute, wrote, “It is 2025, and I am not afraid. My rivals will try to damage my reputation. They will hack my account. But, I have put on the right filters. The delete utility will operate instantly. I can safely stand by my own statement—no one can add or subtract to it. I only need the patience to tolerate those moments of deviation.”

Peter R. Jacoby, a college professor, wrote, “History tells us the answer, which is ‘yes,’ there will be hindrances.”

Kevin Ryan, a corporate communications and marketing professional, noted, “Marketing and government want access for everyone. The more people there are online, the more opportunities to sell.”

Patty Ash, a retired research analyst and senior editor, responded, “The beast has been unleashed.”

Linda Young, a freelance write, wrote, “I expect the cost of Internet service in the United States to continue to increase until more people can't afford it. In our nation, the Internet is a for-profit service. Other nations already have cheaper, faster Internet access because they view it as a critical infrastructure instead of as a way for private companies to get rich.”

Gonzalo Bacigalupe, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, responded, “Social technologies, the sharing of information, will change as privacy features also advance. We will see this period as an exception, rather than the norm. The threat is the trust that people will share information that matters. A lot of what it is shared does not necessarily matter, or is just one segment of the IRL (in real life) experience. For example, the tendency to share the positive events in Facebook or to highlight extremist views in other outlets.”

Breanne Thomlison, founder and president of BTx2 Communications, a marketing and strategies firm, wrote, “The Internet needs to be an open source in order to progress. I think corporations, policy makers, and the public must agree on guidelines to ensure the Internet remains an open, shareable experience—which I think is happening.”

Giuseppe Pennisi, an employee of the Economic and Social Council of the Republic of Italy, wrote, “The main issue in access and sharing in the future is expanding broadband.”

Andrew D. Pritchard, a lawyer, PhD candidate, and instructor in media-and-society issues at North Dakota State University, wrote, “Content producers and distributors have every incentive to make their content as shareable as possible. No marketing blitz is as effective as one friend's recommendation. Especially given the fragmentation of the new media environment, the absence of a central content ‘marketplace,’ from which everyone gets media products, content producers seem likely to continue the current trend of making content easily replicable—or at least linkable—across delivery sites and technology formats. I expect the greatest obstacle to enhance online sharing to come from censorship by national governments. The music industry and news organizations have shown that copyright laws have limited effectiveness in preventing undesired content sharing, but governments that strictly regulate media technologies as such—rather than particular content—will continue to pose a barrier.”

Brittany Smith, a respondent who did not share a professional background, observed, “Because of cyber security and massive cyber attacks, we will have to be more cautious about how we share information and what information we share online.”

Beth Bush, a senior vice president for a major healthcare professional association, wrote, “People will continue to relate with other people through technology.”

Glen Farrelly, a self-employed digital media researcher and consultant, responded, “Although there will always be people willing to share content for free—and the academic movement of open publishing will continue—less content, overall, will be freely available due to the long-term unsustainability of relying exclusively on advertising. I think we will also see less people creating and sharing free content (beyond social networking and lifestreaming) as the novelty of such forms of publishing dries up and as people become frustrated at the lack of compensation for their efforts.”

Norman Weekes, a volunteer for a nonprofit, predicted, “Access to information will be greater, but access regarding how to create—program—and control that information will continue to be concentrated in the hands of the digerati.”

Walter Minkel, an information science professional, “This is hard to say because so much depends on politics. Will laws that tighten copyright, or prevent scientists from sharing information in an era when all info becomes proprietary, appear? If the right-wing politicians in any country gain power, we will certainly see laws that tighten copyright and extend the dominance of proprietary information, to the benefit of the One Percent. Everything critical will be for sale instead of free, but maybe not; I hope I'm wrong.”

Trudy W. Schuett, chair of the Regional Council on Aging for Western Arizona, said, “This issue can really go either way. If governments can stay out of it, recognizing that, in general, politicians have little or no understanding of technology, and attempts to extend their local powers to something that is intrinsically not local at all, is neither practical nor beneficial, then hindrances could be minimal; however, I don't have much hope that this will happen.”

Gloria Franco, of the New York University School of Medicine, wrote, “I am finding that I am sharing fewer items, as I worry more about the privacy of myself and my family. I am not so eager to share as much in any way, shape, or form.”

Will Stuivenga, an information science professional in the state of Washington, predicted, “The pervasive influence of the Internet is an unstoppable force that cannot be derailed in any significant manner, short of an entire breakdown of modern civilization. I predict the opposite of what this question implies, that the ways in which people get and share content online will only continue to improve and reach higher levels of bandwidth, as well as that universal access and ease of use will continue to evolve in positive ways that enable more and more people to participate at ever-increasing levels and ways.”

Tim Mallory, an information science professional said, “Stargazer that I am, I hope things will improve. The most serious threat is capitalism—more and more of the universe gets ‘monetized.’ This will, of course, lead to a large and thriving black market and not-for-profit society.”

Tina Glengary, the director of strategy at Instrument, wrote, “Fear is the most serious threat. People will be afraid of what might happen with content when it gets shared. Still, people will always find a way to make information free.”

Karen Landis, user-experience team lead for Belk.com (a department store), predicted, “Tracking by governments will scare people, but there will be networks that are untraceable. Maybe they will be built on outdated infrastructure and unused pipes (like a darknet). There will be a real need for this as society limits freedom and privacy erodes.”

Bob Harootyan, manager of research for a national nonprofit organization, predicted, “Access will not be worse or more difficult. Companies are driven by the competitive need to improve access and ease of use, so that is the likely direction. The most serious threats to access and sharing are countries that highly control Internet use, content, websites, etc. China is the best example. There are no steps to block such controls without interfering with a country's sovereignty. But repressive countries will be increasingly less able to control either access to or distribution of audio-video content in future years because the 'reach' of these technologies will become less controlled geographically (think Radio Free Europe). And, the populations in the repressive countries will increasingly demand—or find ways to get—open access.”

Vickie Kline, an associate professor at York College, wrote, “Realistically, I cannot see DRM and licenses shifting to the benefit of the individual, or to the public good. I wish I could believe otherwise.”

Sam Moreland, a mechanical engineer, predicted, “Sharing content will only get easier.”

Meg Houston Maker, a writer, editorial strategist, and private consultant, noted, “The most significant barriers to access and sharing are regulatory structures and totalitarian or high-power nations that seek to limit or constrain speech.”

Mike Caprio, a software engineer for a consulting firm, responded, “The ongoing threats to the public domain, free culture, and the sharing of information, will get worse as the big media complex continues to wield the US government as its private enforcement arm to bully the rest of the world into treaties and agreements that harm everyone. It will likely be necessary for people to start building their own private networks to share information with each other to escape the threat of being targeted by litigious, multi-national media conglomerates.”

Richard Rothenberg, a professor at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, said, “The biggest social threat is increasing disparity. The ability to store and share will increase dramatically, but only for some.”

David Golumbia, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, wrote, “There will be benefits and drawbacks, as always.”

Jim Jansen, an associate professor at Penn State, noted, “People are smart, and people will decide what to share or not.”

Lisa Dangutis, webmaster for The Sunshine Environment Link, responded, “There will be more access to sharing all over the world. The blockades will be human rights laws in certain countries that will not want people to have access to the information Cloud. Nongovernmental organizations and human rights organizations for technology will need to step up to help lobby for people's rights in these countries to help the Cloud grow and to help with deeper fundamental issues that are happening in the world.”

John G. McNutt, a professor at the University of Delaware, said, “We will need to learn new skills.”

Noah Grand, a PhD candidate studying newsworthiness in online and traditional media, responded, “In most theories of democracy, the sharing of ideas and information is a critical step for citizens to make informed decisions about their government. Unfortunately, a growing number of Americans are not interested in this ideal. The most politically active people share political stories as a way to show their outrage and reinforce their identity. Partisan websites often focus on vilifying the other side, instead of promoting their own ideas, in large part because this is what the audience wants. Less politically active Americans, turned off by the vitriol, pay less attention to politics or construct negative impressions of candidates on both sides. Various social networking technologies give people the opportunity to share who they are, and, when it comes to politics, the results are pretty ugly. American history suggests this level of ugliness is not unprecedented. What is new is the ease for people to share their feelings and try to close themselves off from ideas they do not like. Actual closed ideological networks are still rare (for now), but the preference to be around people with similar ideas could have major negative implications for democratic practice. Obviously, this American dilemma must seem absurd to people in many parts of the world, where governments impose restrictions on their citizens. A wide range of policy decisions could be additional barriers in various parts of the world. But, even if more restrictive regimes give more autonomy to their citizens, the people may not want the kind of deliberative democracy that many scholars idolize.”

Piotr Konieczny, an assistant professor at Hanyang University, wrote, “If the copyright lobby wins, securing more copyright term extensions and Digital Rights Management systems, our culture will be destroyed.” 

To read full official survey analysis, please click here:
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/imagining/surveys/2014_survey/
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To read anonymous responses to the report, please click here:
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/imagining/surveys/2014_survey/
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