Thirty years ago this month, the first website on what we then knew as the World Wide Web went live.
Our question for this week’s panel of experts: What will the internet look and feel like 30 years from now?
President & CEO, PayPal
“The internet as we know it is long past being just pages on the web, but rather it is an entire digital ecosystem through which we live a significant part of our lives.
“This ecosystem created a new digital economy, which, in turn, set off a transformation in financial services, giving us the opportunity to reimagine the global financial system into something more equal, inclusive and accessible.
“The pandemic has further accelerated this transformation by three to five years. There is no turning back to the way we worked, the way we lived or the way we paid for things.
“My hope is that the internet continues to be a catalyst for greater financial health of populations around the globe, so that everyone — not just the affluent — may participate and benefit from the innovations and betterment that digital technologies continue to bring forward.”
Chief product officer, Wikimedia Foundation
“First of all, 30 years from now, everybody’s going to be online. This doesn’t just include everybody in your town, school or church; it’s everybody in the world.
“And thanks to advances in translation technology, we’ll all be able to talk to each other. Everyone will be a builder on the internet of the future instead of a few large commercial platforms taking up the majority of the space online.
“That doesn’t mean everyone will become a web developer overnight. Instead, there will be an internet focused on communities, an internet that exists both locally and globally. The internet will connect networks of local information, resources and individuals together, while at the same time creating ways for local issues and conversations to reach global audiences.
“People from Argentina to Zambia will have an opportunity to play a crucial role in the global challenges we collectively face, such as climate change, poverty and public health. Power will shift from colonial centers of technology development to local hubs where users are empowered to contribute to their internet. Platforms will focus on supporting these user communities, not just the websites and the content they generate.
“Right now, only 2 percent of all content online is available in Arabic, the fifth most-used language in the world. By contrast, the internet of the future will be rich in languages and perspectives.
“A new user based in Ghana will no longer be forced to toggle between websites in English and Akan. Instead, information will be available online in all of the 80 languages spoken in her home country. Search will be language agnostic, and when she looks up a single concept, she’ll be able to find answers in all of the languages she speaks.
“With this flood of content in more languages will come new perspectives, ideas that are most accurately conveyed in certain languages. Imagine being able to look up the early kingdoms of Indonesia, and be presented with not only the English interpretations of that history, but original primary sources written in Javanese and local indigenous languages.
“Perhaps most importantly, we will build social structures on the internet that incentivize common ground over conflict. This may sound similar to the model of Wikipedia, where editors have built processes to debate and resolve differing viewpoints in order to keep an edit in a Wikipedia article.
“For example, the Wikipedia article on climate change illustrates a polarizing issue where a global community of volunteers has come together to work on making information neutral and reliable, without bias. Projects like Wikipedia on the internet will allow us to build a shared understanding of what’s true.
“With an agreed-upon shared fact base, we will be able to connect people through common causes and create pathways for conversation and collaboration. Everyone is a builder of the internet, and that individual ownership will motivate users to find consensus and move forward.
“Communities will come together to shape identity more so than divisive beliefs. The future internet will be a place where people who have been at odds over issues big and small can find common ground.”
CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
“My vision for the future is to have an internet accessible to all.
“Technology foundations exist today to close the digital divide and make connectivity for all a reality, offering a gateway to critical services like remote learning and telemedicine. It will take effort for business leaders to bring this connectivity, regardless of geographic location, ethnicity and economic background.
“As a CEO of a global company, I’m consistently thinking about how to deliver outcomes that benefit all of society. Through my work with the World Economic Forum, I’m grateful to be part of a group of thoughtful technologists who are mindful of existing inequalities and willing to collaborate to apply technology in new and meaningful ways for the benefit of all.
“Together, this incredible group of CEOs and experts are developing new frameworks and toolkits to take active roles in driving social change.
“If technologists keep up the momentum and continue to radically rethink how we make decisions and maximize the societal benefits of innovation, I am confident that the internet will be more accessible and the world more digitally inclusive.”
Director, UI’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications
“The Internet that I’d like to see…
Read More:Big 10: What will the internet look and feel like 30 years from now?