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Experts Point at Four Threats the Internet Faces in the Coming Decade

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(Image: Internet Hall of Fame 2013)

(Image: Internet Hall of Fame 2013)

In a report released   Thursday, the Pew Research Center refined the concerns of over 1,400 computer experts, Internet visionaries and analysts campaigned earlier this year. They were asked whether individuals will be pretty much fit to uninhibitedly impart data online in the year 2025.

‘Sixty-five percent said the web of the future would be more open, 35% less.’

On a happier note: by 2025 “every human being on the planet will be online. The collision of ideas through the sharing network will lead to explosive innovation and creativity," said filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby awards

However the open structure that has made the Internet so capable is under risk, say the specialists.

"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," said Doc Searls, director of Project VRM at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

That is a long ways from the humble beginnings of the Internet, when users initially acknowledged they separately had the power to reach out to millions of others without publishing houses, newspaper or TV channels going about as intermediaries.

As the Internet gets more commercialized, individuals may quit seeing it as something they can use to contact the world, restricting their desires of "what the Internet is for," said David Clark, a research scientist at MIT's computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory.

The biggest challenge is to keep the web from being "just a corporate entertainment-delivery system," said Mike Roberts, a member of the Internet Hall of Fame.

Dangers to 'net neutrality,' treating all senders and receivers as equals, could devastate the power of individuals. The experts dread organizations will rather concentrate on expanding income by sending the content of the highest bidders initially, consigning the individuals who can't pay to the slower lanes.

"The interests of everyday users count for very little," said P.j. Beam, an analyst at the University of Maryland.

A growing concern is an increasing number of government regulations and censorship. Nations, for example, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey have blocked Internet access to control the stream of data. China broadly has its "Great Firewall" to keep undesirable news from its natives.

"The pressure to balkanize the global Internet will continue and create new uncertainties. Governments will become more skilled at blocking access to unwelcome sites," said Paul Saffo, a futurist and professor at Stanford University.

Many fear that government and corporate surveillance will only increase with time " The next few years are going to be about control," said Danah Boyd, research scientist at Microsoft.

Another concern corporate are fretting over is with extending copyright, to keep creative franchises like Mickey Mouse or “Gone With the Wind” from falling into the public domain.

"The dominant content companies may seek ever more rigorous ways to prevent the flow of copyright content within and across borders," said Kate Crawford, a professor of civic media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

There is a persistent push to have copyright arrive "into the neat-infinite past" in the expressions of Jeremy Epstein, a computer scientist at SRI International, a non-benefit research institue in Menlo Park, Calif.

In any case, others contend that in the end "sharing freely will be recognized as having greater long-term economic value than strictly limited controls over intellectual property," says Clark Sept, co-founder of Business Place Strategies.

Vince Cerf, the co-creator of the protocols that make the Internet possible, is confident. By 2025 governments and corporations will understand that being versatile is imperative, "the Internet will get much more available than it is today”.

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