Elon University

The 2004 Survey: Looking back – The fastest impacts of the internet

Responses in reaction to the following question were assembled from a select group of 1,286 Internet stakeholders in the fall 2004 Pew Internet & American Life Predictions Survey. Some respondents chose to answer to this question; some did not. Some chose to identify themselves with their answer; some did not. We share some – not all – of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below are attributed here only for the purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies’, universities’ or government agencies’ policies or positions. Some answers have been edited in order to share more respondents’ replies. Below is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following question.

What impacts have been felt more quickly than you expected?

Mobile internet, both on cellphones and wifi. GPS and other services in cars. Online search capabilities, i.e., Googlization. Net-centric warfare, i.e., uses by the military on the ground. Pervasive impact of email and instant messaging in our daily routines. Political organizing and coordinating by internet. – Charlie Firestone, The Aspen Institute, (this organization works to promote non-partisan inquiry)

Free services. Ten years ago I would never have predicted that Yahoo would give away all the stuff it does. All those features were business models, once upon a time. – Fred Hapgood, Output Ltd.

The rise of P2P networks exploded more quickly than I expected. – Andy Opel, Florida State University

Online gambling. – Simson Garfinkel, MIT/Sandstorm Enterprises

Acceleration of market forces. – Douglas Rushkoff, author/New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program

News media. – Peter M. Shane, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University

I never would have expected that such a high percentage of people would be utterly dependent upon the internet for such a large proportion of their daily communication activities. If you took it away, we would be shell-shocked. But ten years ago, we didn’t even have it! – Gary Bachula, Internet2

Extent and magnitude of adoption. Rise of new industries and businesses. Computing becoming a household word and concept. – Peter Denning, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., columnist for Communications of the ACM

Work at home via attachments. Widespread networking via email and IM, for both community and work. – Barry Wellman, University of Toronto

Consolidation and advertising growth. – Mike Kelly, America Online

E-commerce – who would have predicted that Amazon would be the first successful e-tailer? Online auctions. Travel services. All deployed faster than I would have guessed, driven in large measure by consumer willingness to use credit cards online. Online dating services have been kind of a surprise to me, as well. – J. Scott Marcus, Federal Communications Commission

Music sharing. Hope in politics. Customer-to-customer conversation subverting marketing. – David Weinberger, Evident Marketing Inc.

Globalization of internet access and use. – Bill Eager, internet expert

The assumption, by the wired intelligentsia, that they can find out pretty much anything on Google. – Dan Froomkin, washingtonpost.com/niemanwatchdog.com

Political impacts, primarily due to blogging, have happened more quickly and more intensely than I expected. The prospect of everyone with a computer and an internet connection becoming a publisher has been swifter and more pervasive than I expected. The adoption of internet technologies by government agencies has been quicker than I anticipated. The slow death of newspapers has not been as slow as I had hoped. – Lois C. Ambash, Metaforix Inc.

The ubiquity of the Internet in daily life – from making travel reservations to looking up movie times. The dependence on the Internet to do virtually every activity was unforeseen by me. – Ted Eytan, MD, Group Health Cooperative

The emergence of digital media channels, and the use of the Internet as an entertainment medium. – Brenda Hodgson, Hill & Knowlton

Adoption of online commerce by businesses has happened more quickly than I had imagined. – Gary Kreps, George Mason University

Its impact on information exchange; I did not expect so much information (from the mundane to the highly technical) to be online and so freely accessible. – David Tewksbury, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

The embedding of the Net into the very fabric of life, at least for those who are connected, has been more dramatic than I’d expected so fast. – Dan Gillmor, technology columnist, San Jose Mercury News, author of “We, The Media”

I never expected it to have the kind of penetration it does now. By 1994, I was already predicting that the internet would follow the same path other technologies did, and that there would be a consolidation of producers. I’ve been surprised by the number of people who produce their own content for the web, and by the degree to which peer-to-peer communication occurs. – A. Halavais, State University of New York at Buffalo

Greater penetration to remote parts of the world, and adoption in places where access is limited. – Joshua Fouts, executive director, USC Center on Public Diplomacy

Ubiquity, internationalization, pollution. – Louis Pouzin, internet pioneer: inventor of “Datagram” networking and designer of the Cyclades network; a formulator of the groundwork for contemporary networks

The transformation of intellectual property is, I think, already a done deal – it will just take a little while for our laws and policies to catch up. And as a social phenomenon, people have very quickly acculturated to the concept of 24/7 information availability. – Alexandra Samuel, Harvard University/Cairns Project (New York Law School)

IP phones. PDA and wireless applications. – Liz Rykert, Meta Strategies Inc., Toronto, Canada

The e-mail-system has turned out to be a lot more useful, than I expected allowing instant communication with research fellows abroad. It has also been extremely useful to be able to access libraries and other knowledge banks from distance. – Kirsten Mogensen, Roskilde University, Denmark

Yes, the internet saves time and makes communications easy, but the increased communications resulting from the internet means that more time is devoted to it. – David M. Scott, Freshspot Marketing/EContent Magazine

I would never have imagined blogs, or that I would have one of my own. On the other hand, I spend much more time doing fairly routine work (such as scheduling meetings) online. The nuisances, like spam, viruses, and comment spam, are worse than I would have predicted. – Peter Levine, University of Maryland

The pace of criminal exploitation; once there were sufficient pickings for the Internet to be taken seriously as a source of revenue. – Philip Virgo, secretary general, EURIM – UK-based Parliament Industry Group/IMIS – UK-based professional body for management of information systems

I am amazed at the spread and rate of access. I think everyone is. We are discovering that virtually everyone coming to college has access, is adept. Most faculty have scarcely begun to take advantage of that – may not be able to, in fact, may have to wait for the next generation to do that. But the students are already there, online; access is already approaching the saturation point, and that raises critical questions about what happens then. – George Otte, technology expert

It may sound silly, but the shopping power of the net has changed how I do business. It has really been a real time saver for me, and I think for many women. – Arlene Morgan, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

Political activism has been striking. Disenfranchisement of mainstream media is happening more quickly than I would have though. – Jan Schaffer, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism

The rise of Weblogs as influencers in the media and public. – Mark Glaser, Online Journalism Review/Online Publishers Association

The movement of the Internet into wireless and cellular communications; the prosperity of companies like eBay and Amazon; and the use of the Internet for free search: Google. – William B. Pickett, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

The decline in national television audiences for broadcast news is more rapid than I expected. – Janice Castro, assistant dean, director, graduate journalism programs, Northwestern University

The spread of rich media has exceeded my expectations, as has the quality and availability of wireless Internet service. I am sitting in front of my TV with my wireless-enabled laptop tapping this out at my leisure, without having to be secluded in my lonely basement office with my desktop computer. Earlier tonight, I checked in and watched a segment of NOW with Bill Moyers that I missed when it aired on TV, and the video quality, though coming through on a picture frame that probably measured only three inches by three inches, was great, as was the sound. So the distribution of quality wireless audio and video has exceeded my expectations. – Kevin Featherly, news editor, Healthcare Informatics

Those affecting daily activities (such as buying books, music, shopping for travel, checking the weather, getting driving directions). – Douglas Levin, policy analyst, Cable in the Classroom

The re-arrangement of priorities in the media industries, and the high level of confusion there has been happening pretty fast. And the success of open software as a technology and as a movement has been a happy surprise for me; never would have expected it ten years ago. – Tom Streeter, University of Vermont

The expansion of wireless access has made the Internet far more pervasive that I could have ever imagined. It’s not about going to a computer in the home or office. It’s about checking e-mail or driving directions while waiting for a cab on the sidewalk. – Allen Fuller, Fleishman-Hillard

Everyday people have embraced technology faster than I expected – not just technology buffs or white-collar workers. – Dan Ness, MetaFacts

I never expected to experience the dreaded feeling of isolation that overwhelms me if my Internet connection (particularly email) is down for more than half a day. – Peter W. Van Ness, Van Ness Group

The use of e-mail, and the way it has radically changed the workplace. I can now do most of my job via a networked PC, and send and receive e-mails on the move (via Blackberry … an amazing device!). Just a decade ago I was still writing paper memos and reports. Yes, face to face communications are vitally important, but the productivity gains from being able to “copy in” colleagues, and forward ideas, are incalculable. – Graham Lovelace, Lovelacemedia Ltd.

The radical change and acceptance in the way we live and work. – Tiffany Shlain, The Webby Awards

The Boomers are on board. They’re using it and loving it. Who predicted their 70-year-old mother would buy an iMac, then learn to use it so she could get pics of her granddaughter by email? If it gives them an emotional payback, they’ll make the investment in time and resources. – Meg Houston Maker, user experience designer

And the following are from predictors who chose to remain anonymous: [Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below include the Mayo Clinic, IBM, Intel, AT&T, Oracle, Internet2, Athena Alliance, MIT, Microsoft, University of Pennsylvania, RAND, Portland State University, FCC, Slippery Rock University, University of Maryland, Global Village, UCLA, Gartner, Disney, New America Foundation, Proteus Foundation, Media General, Knight Foundation, U.S. General Services Administration, USC Digital Future Project, Morino Institute, Mobile Data Institute, AOL, Center for American Progress, Purdue University, USA Today, FAA, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Google, blue research, Civic Interactive Networks, American Museum of Natural History, MoveOn.org, Open Society Institute, Center for Democracy and Technology, MSNBC, CNN and others.]

The rise of the Web is astonishing. In 1992 (I have slides from a talk that year) we were not sure that the Web would win out over competitors such as WAIS, archie or gopher. The transformation of the telephone industry has gone faster than I thought.

Bandwidth increased more than my pessimistic projection due to competition. However, I predicted that this was the only way to get the higher speed.

Web logs and peer-to-peer networks.

Organized Crime has embraced the Internet much more rapidly than I had envisaged. This has resulted in the proliferation of spam, viruses, worms, pornography, etc. Overall, the younger generation has embraced online technology more rapidly than I anticipated.

Online auction and online sales is much further along.

The alternative media – illegal file downloaders, bloggers challenging CBS or Trent Lott. Dissonance always has a place in American society, but as people try to control all aspects of a culture, be it entertainment or journalism, the internet can more easily spark an opposition and have it spread almost uncontrollably.

Spam/identity theft.

The pervasiveness and use of email as a frequent substitute for telephone; high quality “smart” searching does a better job than I had expected, making all sorts of information available without going to a library or calling a government office.

The complete ubiquity of spam (I now filter out about 95% of my email to a spam bucket just to get to the emails sent to me by people I know or those who need to contact me for bonafide reasons); The wildfire-like spread of personal publishing via easy-to-use blogging software; the influence of political blogging on public opinion; The swift-rise of social-network models for creating, disseminating and selling culture (e.g. music file-sharing, resource sites such as istockphoto and art communities such as deviantart).

Commercialization, commodification in general was something I never expected at this scale. I was a doubter of online auctions as well, but am now an avid eBay user.

P2P file sharing, especially music; ubiquity of search engines; spam; easy-to-use viruses; other hacking tools.

The way we have become dependent on the internet as an information resource and on email as an interactive communication tool.

The digitization of media and its impact on copyright and many businesses snuck up on me.

Mostly in the form of entertainment and information available, especially to scholars.

The quality and quantity of information in all fields available via the internet.

People’s ability to find precise information quickly and accurately is one of the reasons for productivity growth. This has happened more quickly than I expected and seems likely to continue more quickly than economists expect.

My work has been transformed by the internet: the magazine I edit couldn’t exist if it weren’t for the internet and couldn’t publish the range of content and contributors it does with the internet.

It’s had a huge impact on work life. I now spend my day in front of the computer using the Internet and most of my colleagues at my think tank do the same.

The Web has really transformed the Internet – I couldn’t have foreseen that 10 years ago.

EVERYBODY uses e-mail. The biggest surprise is its adoption by senior citizens.


E-mail was expected. The Web took us completely by surprise.

Copyright and intellectual property battles have emerged much faster than I would have predicted, and seem to be biased in favor of copyright holders (something I would not have predicted).

Copyright issues and fair use.

The revolution in content distribution. The potential was obvious, but I felt resistance by the “powers that be” (RIAA, etc) would be more effective. Their moronic handling of the file-sharing dilemma accelerated the growth of P2P.

Changing of business models such as music/CDs and the jones felt by users when the internet is “broken”/not available.

Communications among family members of all ages, relationships and generations. Changing the dynamics of education, at both high school and college levels.

I’m surprised at how quickly ecommerce has taken off. The social habit of shopping is being discarded much more quickly than I thought it might. It probably has to do with time poverty and convenience.

Its ubiquity has grown faster than I expected.

Its influence in the supplying industries and the rate of change in the supply industry.

Those astute in the use of the new tools have made huge leaps in their daily lives, in their understanding of the world, even in their financial fortune. It is the dawn of a new era.

Connectivity. The rise of IMs and enhanced e-mail has helped people connect. Gaming has affected the ways we look at entertainment – accelerated the shift toward interactivity.

Email has come to dominate daily life in a way I’d never have imagined.

As a tool to conduct transactions and as a pipeline for global trade; the integration with PDA’s; the reliance as a communications tool; the transition to getting children to learn computing at younger and younger ages.

Voice over IP seems to be catching on quite quickly. The effect on the quality of film and television (downward trend in production standards) has been striking. The Internet is partly responsible.

Ability to buy groceries without ever talking to a stranger or driving. (Did I mention I am an introvert?)

High-speed internet has allowed huge attachments of files – beyond what was anticipated.

Worrying about virus invasions.

Commercial necessity of the Internet.

The incredible abundance of information of any quality. Certainly humans can comprehend and assimilate only a finite quantity, and there does not seem to be a limit in sight. That begs the question: is too much unfiltered information really desirable?

The successful chilling effect of insane protectionist lawsuits.

Hijacking the net with porn and other dubious enterprises.

E-mail has changed our lives – communication is now instant and written.

Acceptance of technology has been quicker than I would have thought. Integration of hardware/software into daily routines has occurred at a much higher level than I thought it would.

Extent to which print media adapted to the new format.

Connectivity – IM.

Mobile telephones, PCs, and the Internet have untethered computation from the desktop and colonized all parts of our lives faster than I had expected.

The drive for personal rather than work related need for equipment – new computers, printers, mobile devices – continues to surprise me. The unquestioned assumption of access, availability, being on the 7/24 clock also surprises me. Even though the seeds of this were there 10 years ago, the ‘channel switching’ needed to handle multiple roles and multiple social worlds all through the same devices is increasing much faster than I expected.

Commercialization and the exiling of the wonderful geek culture far into the sidelines.

The deep penetration of email into every facet of daily life.

The ability of the bad guys – see Osama and his ilk – of using the Internet as a soapbox.

The surge to online usage in the mid- to late-1990s clearly spiked and came faster than envisioned.

Access to more information than expected. Search tools. Comparative tools. Advertising and spam – both worse than feared.

Communication via the Internet – whether peer-to-peer or peer-to-many, B-B, or B-C – has become a default for most people.

Spam is everywhere. I had no idea of the size of the Spam problem. I am also surprised about the lack of a firm response on this issue. I also underestimated the magnitude of the security and virus problems that people have encountered. This is probably because I work on a Macintosh rather than on Windows.

Government has more functioning web sites that provide useful information, but we still have a long way to go.

It’s become a major mass-advertising and retail medium. I probably would have predicted that B-to-B would grow more first.

Changes in distribution of news have been quicker or more extensive than I had thought possible. Most folk that I talk with get their breaking news on the Internet and read newspapers and magazines for analysis of that news. Television is virtually out of the picture except for documentaries.

I underestimated its take-up by lay users.

I did not expect that file sharing would take off so dramatically. I did not expect that blogging, the independent journalist, would attract so much attention.

Cellphone use in entrepreneurial and personal communications in underdeveloped nations – very heartened by tales from the trenches from efforts such as at www.digitaldividends.org.

I underestimated its monstrous effect on political discourse.

Change to the work environment – reliance and predominance of email in communications.

The electronic nature of so many relationships is surprising (and not unwelcome) to me. Even now, you can live online.

The closure of small used bookstores.

Social exclusion. So few of the world’s population are part of the internet, and 1/3 of Americans are not. There seems to be no real enthusiasm or plan to do something about this.

E-commerce. Despite the dot-com bust, it is becoming hard to find even small businesses without a Web presence, and the number of them with e-stores is amazing.

The increase and bursting of the .com bubble happened relatively more quickly – people should have had more realistic expectations that when you are significantly challenging so many societal norms (vertical to horizontal, rewriting intellectual property rules) that it will take some time. No one was prepared for the speed of re-pricing (commoditization) of info I think.

The prevalence of online shopping for all kinds of things.

The dot-com boom made online financial transactions and web-based transactions everywhere is more standard than I would have expected.

I am surprised by how the internet has cut across generations, meaning my parents are using it (perhaps not as widely) as are a number of individuals in the 70 + bracket.

The explosion of the Web, providing a common interface not controlled (yet) by any one organization.

Tremendous strides have been made in geospatial resources on the web.

The speed my kids are embracing new technology blows my mind; it’s hard to imagine where their children will take us.

P2P networks, blogs, and a few others are reshaping entire industries.

Peer-to-peer greatly impacted/rattled the establishment. The acceleration of broadband access has definitely opened alotta doors that were previously cyber-shut. It’s improved the access to the marketplace for small business/entrepreneurs.

The availability of information has really surprised me. For example, I Googled “R/2R” and immediately got data on a chip made by Bournes.

The cultural polarization due to the ease with which people can selectively filter what they see and read.

Utter and ill-advised reliance on dubious information received via the ‘net; the blurring of the line between work and leisure; the movement of information online.

Corporate data harvesting … the only thing saving us is that people have not really figured out how to use all that data we are collecting … But give it time.

People taking over the diagnosis of their own health issues; taking the power of control out of the doctors’ hands and into their own. It was a century-old power relationship that was turned on its head in a few years.

The culture has become homogenized by television and the Internet. It has broken down many barriers but made us aware we are more the same than distinct from each other. Otherwise, the speed of communication has made us realize how small the world is. Yet we still wish to travel and meet other people for the need of face-to-face, human interaction.

Pervasive use of email, RSS, IM and blogging.

Adoption of instant messaging still fascinates me.

The impacts of blogs and online news source lately are accelerating faster than I originally anticipated.

The proliferation of social uses and media formats, e.g. with P2P file sharing.

I don’t subscribe to a newspaper anymore. I don’t shop at retail stores nearly as often, or the bank. I don’t buy reference books or go the the library. I don’t use the phone as much.

The disruptive effect on the media.

Commercialization. It astounds me how fast the previously money-free elements of the online world have been subsumed by for-profit entities. Anyone remember InterNIC? or pre-blog personal Web sites?

The uptake of the internet by the general public has been astonishingly rapid, most especially the web. I would have expected uptake to be primarily a generational phenomenon, but clearly there are a lot of middle-aged folks who are vigorously using the internet now, who weren’t aware of it 10 years ago.

Computer-assisted pedagogies have turned out to be largely a disappointment to me, but the ”Google-Library of Babel” is so beautiful it still takes my breath away. I feel like I am in Alexandria, and I’m impatient for all works to be accessible in this way.

I am amazed how quickly the computer/Internet has become a must-have tool for families and stay-at-home parents. It replaces the newspaper and the phone book, it gives directions, it helps neighbors communicate about every day items, and more.

The impact of open source software, and the ability of users to become very knowledgeable about the Internet.

The commercialization of the Internet and its use as a political force.

Searchable information via Google.

Commerce is moving very fast-paced. Governments are also being impacted significantly.

Internet adoption by older consumers, the change in retailing, the sheer number of providers of all types that one can interact with over the Web.

The impact on our political system and the availability of information from all levels of government.

Increased expectations of work productivity Need to remain ”tech savvy” to do non-technical work.

The move from print on paper to digitization of scholarly materials. My students think that all information of any value is located on the computer – and they don’t go to libraries anymore.

Institutions and individuals have put far more information up than I expected, and much more quickly. This treasure trove, much of which is freely available, is a major attraction in drawing people onto the Internet. Commercial services (especially for travel and financial services) have developed quite well, and provide real value.

The ability to retrieve ”general opinions” about issues; different from ”grounded research,” it is possible to find out what anyone thinks about anything ranging from fixing the toilet to diagnosing schizophrenia. I’m continually amazed at how misinformed people publish misinformed information that further misinforms others who read the misinformation!