We've had 20 years of the web. What's next?

Will we still use browsers?

"The web will further evolve to connect people in a common knowledge," says Dan Ma, Senior Project Manager at Positive Technology. "It will be less about 'browsing' the web and more about actively becoming part of it. We will become increasingly reliant on web-based widgets, mobile applications and appliances being part of our daily lives, possibly relegating the browser as we know it."

Jimmy Ang thinks that browsers will certainly have to change as a result of the myriad ways we'll access online services. "I believe browsers will become more integrated into the system in general; there might not be an independent web browser application. Networked information will be integrated directly into the computer systems and other software and hardware."

Tristan Nitot thinks it's too difficult to predict how people will browse in the future. "When I look at browsers from 15 years ago, they look really similar to what we have now. Yet, on the other hand, the community at Mozilla Labs have come up with exciting things like Ubiquity, which offers a very different way to interact with your browser. It's too early to say that it's going to be mainstream, but it's definitely something to watch."

All about mobile

Mobile has a huge part to play in the future of the web. Bunker thinks the future will be exciting: "Network connection speeds, storage and processing power will continue to rise with smart phones having in-built virtual keyboards, projectors and fold-out flexible screens to replace the laptop of today." Ang adds that there's an ongoing debate at how the web should deal with mobile access.

"Generally there are two opinions in this issue, a) we should design one web for all b) mobile phones need specific web design. For the next 10 years option b seems to be more likely. Perhaps in the distant future, we need only one web which will adapt automatically into specific devices."

Nitot believes that we'll want our browsers to work together, something Mozilla is working on with Weave. "One thing is for sure: you'll want your mobile browser to be an extension of your desktop browser: you'll want to access sites on your mobile that you've seen earlier on your laptop. You'll want to share bookmarks between the two."

Through this, Nitot believes that we shouldn't need or have a specific mobile web. "Of course, this means that we should not have 'two webs', one for mobile and one for desktop computers: instead, people want to access the same data regardless of the device - mobile or not."

Fundamental change?

So will the web still exist? Stuart Okin, Managing Director at Comsec Consultin, believes that, eventually, it won't exist as it does now. "Imagine a world where your presence is known and avatars are able to always pick the information you need and present it to you – quite often before you request it. Our children will not see the difference between the physical world and the internet – as all of this will be merged for them. In essence, for them there is no web!"

And it could be that the web will be spoken instead. IBM researchers have predicted that a spoken web will change the way we live, work and play over the next five years. "We know this can happen because the technology's available, but we also know it can happen because it must [in developing countries]." IBM also believes the spoken web "will enable people without reliable computing infrastructures, who are handicapped, or who are unable to read or write, with all the benefits and conveniences the web has to offer."


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