Brief session description:
Monday, April 23, 2012 – Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has changed the face of information on the Internet and in the world. When he was invited to give this keynote talk, he was asked to share his insight and predictions for the Internet over the next two decades. Wales launched “Nupedia” in 2000 and created additional “wiki” sites as a supplement, but their growth and popularity quickly overshadowed the original site and Wikipedia was born, built on a community of contributors. Since then, Wikipedia has become the world’s largest encyclopedia and the fifth most popular website in the world. Wales has been awarded numerous honors and titles including being named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2006. Wales has several other projects under way, including Wikia, Inc., cofounded with Angela Beesley in 2004 and Search Wikia, a human-powered search engine.
Details of the session:
The death of Hollywood and the inevitability of the mobile revolution spreading to all corners of the world – but only if we work on it – were predicted today by one of the biggest Internet personalities of our time. In a keynote at the opening session of the Internet Society’s 20th year celebration, Global INET, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales shared two of his predictions for the future of the Internet, one he called “safe” and the other he identified as “speculative.”
Wales said he was reluctant to make any claims about the next steps for the Internet.
“Predicting the future is notoriously difficult,” he said, and then he charged ahead, sharing his insights. The headline maker was his second prognostication, but the one that will have the most impact came first.
Wales predicted the continued growth of massive connectivity as his number-one point. He said that despite some progress made over the past few years the greatest challenges still remain in the developing world, not the developed. There are billions of people who remain without access. “Basically, the easy parts are done,” he said.
Wales used the analogy of a smartphone he himself uses. A friend purchased it for him in Kenya. As many as 350,000 units of this smart phone, an Android-OS phone that costs around $80, have sold in Kenya alone, proving that smartphone capability at a reasonable price is on the horizon. While the “poorest of the poor” are still being missed, there is potential for mass affordability in the near future he said.
In Nigeria, Wales said, the number of people online grew from 1 percent of the populace to 29 percent between 2000 and 2009.
“The kind of growth we all remember from the dot.com days is going on in Nigeria now,” he added.
Wales said people sometimes think about the Internet in developing areas of Africa from a limited-view paradigm – many often cite programs where farmers use their smartphones to track crop prices or track malaria outbreaks, and while this “do-gooder development model” is present, he says, many of these users are actually living their lives online – in social and work circumstances – in much the same way as users in many developed nations: using Google, connecting on Facebook, Tweeting and reading Wikipedia and the local news.
The model however, for languages on the Internet will have to change, Wales said. In the past, it could generally be assumed than anyone using the Internet in places like Kenya or Nigeria or India knew English, but there has been rapid growth in non-English and non-French-language websites.
On Wikipedia for example, there are now 22,089 articles in Afrikaans, 23,482 articles in Swahili and 29,891 articles in Yoruba, one language spoken in Nigeria, a number that has doubled in the last year.
Wales then moved on to his second, more bold prediction: He announced the death of Hollywood as we know it. He used the history of Wikipedia and the capabilities of young Internet users to prove his point.
The technology for Wikipedia all existed six years before its actual founding in 2001. In 1995, Ward Cunningham invented the first wiki.
“I would say Wikipedia is not a technological innovation,” Wales said. “It’s a social innovation.”
Hollywood will be destroyed; nobody will notice
In much the same way, he said, the technology for independent filmmaking and video production already exists in the hands of youth who have “native fluency” in use of the Internet and software.
He said he imagines large-scale collaborative communities to do storytelling and create movies that are Hollywood-quality or better, and these groups will replace the current Hollywood production model in the same way Wikipedia outpaced Encyclopedia Britannica, which only sold 3,000 volumes last year.
“Hollywood will be destroyed and nobody will notice much, outside nostalgia,” Wales said.
“No one will notice when Hollywood dies. Communities of people are going to come together and produce Hollywood- and better-quality films collaboratively. These will be produced much as Wikipedia is produced, at very low cost with just a bit of facilitation from various services online, and it’s going to destroy the business model of Hollywood.”
In fact, Wales called this phenomenon of collaboratively-created entertainment the “freight train” Hollywood doesn’t see coming because it is so focused on piracy.
“The real freght train is mass collaboration, mass creativity, where people will be able to create Hollywood-quality films in small groups, working together,” he said.
Wikipedia famously went offline on January 18, 2012, in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, both proposed in the US Congress. Wales reminded the audience that there is a lot that is going to happen that is very hard to see right now. “I have deliberately stated this in a provocative way to inspire and motivate you,” he said.
“If you really thought, back when I started Wikipedia, about how you can best encourage the growth of a large-scale encyclopedia project online, I can guarantee you what most of the conversation would have been about very strong IP protection, digital rights management, all the kinds of things to prevent people from copying it everywhere. You would have been completely wrongabout that. Wikipedia, of course, quite famously is freely licensed. You can copy it anywhere and do anything you want with it and it’s grown and grown.
“We have to be very careful when we are listening to the complaints of Hollywood about piracy,” he warned, implying that proposing new legislation aimed mostly at protecting the constructs of the pre-digital age is unwise.
“I am more sympathetic than you might expect, but I think we also have to recognize that there’s a very good chance that their entire production model is going to look really antiquated in just a few years, in the same way that we realize that the Britannica production model is really antiquated today.
“The best way to predict the future is to build it, so let’s build it!” he concluded, sharing a quote that many have embraced as they look ahead.
– Reporter: Rachel Southmayd
A selection of Twitter Reports from this ISOC 20th event:
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia @Jimmy_Wales, keynote speaker at #GlobalINET in Geneva #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Wales to discuss #future of the Internet over the next 20 years at #ISOC 20; his April 16 interview on the topic #GlobalINET
@jimmy_wales to speak about “Imagining the Future of the Internet” – sounds a lot like @imagineinternet :)
Wales and Wikipedia were leaders in the “Internet blackout” protest against SOPA: #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Wondering where the word ‘wiki’ came from? Who else but Wikianswers has the answer? @jimmy_wales #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Open leader: here’s @Jimmy_Wales’ simplified Wikipedia user page #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
“Wikipedia is not a technical innovation, it’s a social innovation.” @jimmy_wales #ISOC #GlobalINET
“Imagine a world in which every single person is given the same access to the sum of all the knowledge in the world” @jimmy_wales #ISOC 20
“I have come up with two predictions, 1 safe and 1 speculative.” @jimmy_wales First prediction: massive connectivity. #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
“Massive connectivity” = the number of ppl online keeps growing. First prediction by @jimmy_wales about the future of the Internet. #ISOC 20
Massive connectivity a safe prediction for the future of the Internet. @jimmy_wales #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
@jimmy_wales prediction: massive connectivity. “the easy parts are done” #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Use of internet in Nigeria went from less than one percent to 29 percent in about 10 years. #fascinating #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
From America to Africa people use the Internet for the same reasons: google, facebook, twitter, wiki, etc. @jimmy_wales #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Top sites visited in Nigeria: Google, Facebook, local news. Same kinds of things people everywhere are doing. @jimmy_wales #ISOC 20
“The era when we can assume that everyone speaks English on the internet is no longer there.” @jimmy_wales #GlobalINET #ISOC 20
Predict 2 no one will notice when Hollywood dies Largescale collaborative communities will do storytelling @jimmy_wales #GlobalINET #ISOC 20
Prediction 2: No one will notice when Hollywood dies @jimmy_wales #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Prediction 2 for the Internet: No one will notice when Hollywood dies. @jimmy_wales What? This should be interesting… #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
2nd prediction @jimmy_wales “No one will notice when Hollywood dies.” — Just like no one knew the Internet was born. #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
When @jimmy_wales was a kid, he wasn’t allowed to touch a video camera. Now, kids today have access to HD cameras #ISOC 20
“I came here mainly to brag about my daughter,” @jimmy_wales. Love how any profession, you are still a proud parent. #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
@jimmy_wales predicts that kids today will produce Hollywood-and-better quality films togetehr much cheaper in 10 yrs #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
“Communities of people are going to come together and produce hollywood-scale films collaboratively.” @jimmy_wales #GlobalINET #ISOC 20
@jimmy_wales: making a prediction in a provocative way to inspire and motivate people. #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
“There’s a lot that’s going to happen that’s hard to see right now” @jimmy_wales #GlobalINET #ISOC 20
Wales: We have to be careful reacting to Hollywood complaints about piracy: their production model will be antiquated soon. #ISOC
Closing statement: “The best way to predict the future is to build it.” – @jimmy_wales LET’S DO IT! #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
@Jimmy_Wales just predicted the death of Hollywood due to mass collaboration of individual creators – possibly in next 10 years. #GlobalINET
The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at the Internet Society’s 20th Anniversary Global INET Conference included the following Elon University students, faculty, staff and friends: Jacquie Adams, Dan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Kacie Anderson, Nicole Chadwick, Jeff Flitter, Addie Haney, Brandon Marshall, Brian Meyer, Caitlin O’Donnell, Rachel Southmayd and Rebecca Smith.