Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2010 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.
This page includes details on responses to a question about people’s perceptions of the likely future of the Internet’s core values. This was one of 10 questions raised by the 2010 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts and social analysts. A report outlining results of five of the survey questions was unveiled at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Survey respondents shared thousands of issues-exposing predictive statements after being asked to consider “tension pairs,” thus projecting their attitudes about the likely state of things in 2020. Experts were asked about the Internet and the evolution of: intelligence; reading and the rendering of knowledge; identity and authentication; gadgets and applications; and the core values of the Internet.
Following is a selection of responses from survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. Additional anonymous responses to this question will be posted soon. To read the responses of people who took credit for their remarks, click here.
“Even if there would be a push to change the architecture away from the end-to-end model, new technologies would emerge that recreate the same model on a different layer in the network.”
“While the Internet has become and will continue to become more commercial in the future, I think the end-to-end principle/architecture will endure. End-to-end architectures are inherently capable of processing greater information than star-like architectures or architectures where there are a few intermediaries. There will continue to be consolidation in the content area, I expect, although the opportunity for new content development will continue. Certainly organizations like IETF, W3C, and other consortia will continue to standardize the Internet-derived technologies. Corporate entities such as AOL, Google, IBM, and others will likely provide much of the best content seen, although opportunities for independents will remain.”
“Copyright holders will try, but it’s hard to assert the principle that censorship is good in (more or less) free-market democracies.”
“Institutions want to control (see protections for children) and will try, and users will find work-arounds.”
“If the entertainment industry gains control of the routers, it will stop being the Internet, so your dystopian scenario could happen, but not as written.”
“Eh, somewhere between these two, while the patently obvious goal of tolled balkanized ‘Internets’ is implemented. Prioritized packets indeed.”
“An open question, but end-to-end has strong socio-economic arguments to its side. It should prevail.”
“Issues with the E2E principle will accelerate with the exhaustion of freely allocatable IPv4 address space. For example, I expect techniques such as IPv4 address sharing to see significant deployment, while in 10 years there is a significant likelihood that IPv6 will be recognized as a complete and utter failure.”
“There will be intrusions in the end-to-end principle – in fact there already are. But this is one of the things that distinguishes the Internet and provides us with certainty that information is not being manipulated, either to the benefit or the detriment of the user. The Internet community, and many many users, will fight to keep this principle alive.”
“I am so so hopeful that number 1 is true since, in my view, the fundamentally good things about the Internet flow from the fact that it is open, accessible and standards based.”
“*Sigh* I am not hopeful. Too many economic forces push against end-to-end. The forces keeping it in place are quite weak, especially in many countries other than the US.”
“I may be an incurable optimist, but the advantages of end-to-end are so clear that we may be able to stop the governments and telecommunications companies from screwing things up.”
“The current FCC seems likely to codify principles of end-to-end-ness. And it’s a good thing, since failure to do so would greatly reduce the ability of the Internet to create value.”
“That is my wish.”
“Freedom of speech, right of access to Internet.”
“Ask Rupert Murdoch what he thinks.”
“Issues such as ‘net neutrality’ demonstrate the public’s resistance to major changes to Internet technology.”
“Control will increase.” “Seems this can go either way depending on consensus as to how ‘free’ it should remain. The most-likely influential organizations would be operators and those most likely to directly benefit from more control, e.g. the AT&T’s and highly centralized special interests, e.g. Madison Avenue denizens, etc. It’s whether the general public will care enough to resist it.”
“We see the first efforts to create intermediary institutions that control access to content, e.g., Apple, consortia of publishers, etc. This seems to be motivated by the need to generate revenue needed to create and distribute (i.e., promote) content. There are limits to this that will tend to drive such attempts to a common architecture (e.g., no one will tolerate having to buy dozens of access devices or have dozens of 2-factor authentication devices to get to the content that interests them). I don’t see the end-to-endprinciple as incompatible with the need to be compensated for services that users value.”
“This is a poorly worded question. The strict end-to-end principal in your headline, at least as articulated in the original paper and applied to the Internet, is already dead since there are numerous middleboxes in today’s Internet. But luckily, the commercial arrangements in the Internet backbone mean that it’s still possible to build end-to-end networks over top of the middleboxes, using various approaches including tunnels over http if necessary.”
“I’m hopeful. IPv6 transition is a key part of retaining end-to-end functionality, however just as the Internet was a hostile overlay on the PSTN [public-switched telephone network], building a hostile overlay on the Internet even a bisected version of the Internet may support the development of end-to-end applications.”
“I believe we will win this battle.”
“2, I can only guess on this except to pitch another market-driven reply.”
“2, And that answer is because I see governments such as China exerting more pressure and control and building a firewall. the fear is that Internet will become a series of intranet silos, unless restrictive regimes are stopped and censorship is routinely and uniformally degraded.”
“2, The founding fathers of the Internet believed in certain principles (rights of the individual, freedom, openness, egalitarianism etc.) and it is true that the current architecture of the Internet does promote these principles. However, it always surprises that a relatively small sector of society (engineers, computer scientists who are working in the Internet industry either as academics or advocates, or sometimes both) seem to hold so much influence over the future of something that has become so important to all of us. One only has to look at the debate in Australia regarding Internet filtering, and the extreme position that the techno-liberationists are taking: it won’t work, and how dare you even try to filter our content? Throughout history engineers have tended to build what governments and corporations have asked them to build e.g. nuclear bombs, bridges etc., without asking too many questions. But when it comes to their baby, the Internet, they resist any attempts by government to challenge the founding principles. With regards to Internet filtering, one argument by the techno-liberationists is that it won’t work (people will get around it, and it will slow download speeds too much): this must be one of the first times in history that engineers have not risen to the challenge of finding a technical solution to a problem that has been laid out by an elected government and instead raise moral objections to the proposal. By 2020 it will be widely realised that the design of the Internet needs to take account of social obligations of government and commercial imperatives of corporations. It will more closely resemble broadcast media such as TV and radio, in that sense.”
“I’m not sure this is an either/or question. How do you define ‘control’ and ‘architecture’? In a large way, Google already controls a lot of the information accessed online, but most would still view that Google’s doing this in a way that embodies the original visions of the Internet’s founders (including Vint Cerf, who went on to work at Google).”
“Mostly likely the result will be somewhere in-between. Major organizations will control key swaths of the Internet, both the front and back ends, but smaller entities will still provide connection points and services.”
“I do hope this won’t be the case, but if the signals we are seeing now, like e.g the three-strikes rule discussed in France, England and elsewhere (three illegal downloads and you’re Internet connection is cut) are anything to go by, we might very well end up with much more restrictions and control online. We’ve certainly seen politicians discussing much tighter online controls for a range of issues, such as the EU propsal that no bloggers should be allowed to remain anonymous, recently. Also, I find the Night Jack ruling in England about blogger anonymity, and the precedence it sets, very worrying. We’ve also seen law suits in e.g Sweden against people linking to illegal downloads of copyrighted material – there are lots of stuff happening here, both in the legal and political realm, which is worth paying very close attention to. I’m no fan of piracy, but I think it’s a lot more meaningful to combat illeagal downloading with new business concepts, such as Spotify, than with a canon of new rules, regulations and law suits which may have unintended consequences and risk making life more difficult for innocent bystanders.”
“I sure hope so.”
“Internetworking is essential to the Internet.”
“This is the way the innovators would have it, but the challenge will be Internet governance, when it is broadened to various countries and regions that do not have each others best interests as their objectives.”
“All or nothing may not be realistic Perhaps a happy medium will emerge from this debate.”
“Not really sure about this one.”
“Hope my answer is ok, or we will not have the Internet as we know it today, instead we will have a bunch of nets, using Internet Protocol, but not interconnected.”
“A significant amount of 2020 content will originate from people e.g., ‘Total Recall’ Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell talk about how three converging streams of technologies – recording, storage, and retrieval – will profoundly impact business, health, personal relationships, family, history, and education. Governments that keep their people underinformed will fall.”
Many more anonymous responses will be added to this page in coming weeks!