IEEE Computer Society Identifies Key Drivers and Predicts the Future of the Web

Expert roundtable addresses critical issues of the future web — privacy and security, equal access, net neutrality, web of things, and more
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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., June 23, 2015 — Experts from IEEE Computer Society have made important key predictions about what the future of the Web holds for individuals, business, government, and society by exploring essential issues such as Web of Things, security, equal access, open data, growing global use of smart phones and devices, collaborative apps, cloud computing, and more. Against the backdrop of the 25th anniversary of the Web, Computer Society experts envision its future progression and influence.

The five top predictions for the future of the Web identified by the experts are:

  1. Socioeconomic Gaps in Web Access
    Although the Web has permeated the industrialized and wealthy world almost completely — reaching nearly every household, every business, every kind of activity — that same level of permeation has not yet been achieved in mid-tier countries or in poorer regions of the world. Significant efforts are being made to bridge this gap because the Web provides phenomenal access to educational resources and consumer and financial markets.
  2. An Interconnected World
    With mobile phones and devices, wearables, and the IoT, billions of devices are currently interconnected and more so in the near future, and this presents both risks and opportunities. The Web will continue to be a transformative platform, and many “things” in our world will be connected. The Web will be akin to electricity, less visible but as essential as an appendage in daily life. The Web will not only integrate many activities, it will also facilitate integration of machines, artificial intelligence, and elements of the human condition. Computer scientist Dave Raggett said, “As Web services become smarter, we can expect that the things will have a near-human-level understanding — so such things can better relate to and serve the people who use them.”
  3. Open Data, Standards, and Sources
    Many of the current IoT applications relate to specific application areas, such as medical devices, smart city applications, or smart sensors in factories, but what could be a concern, however, is these things could become stovepiped, which is the opposite of what made the Web so successful. What’s made the Web successful is its openness – technology, data, information, and access that’s open to all. It’s critical to ensure that data in the new interconnected world is available in open formats for everybody to use, while safeguarding privacy online. A powerful enabler in the IoT world will be the openness of data and interoperability, so that for example, a sensor could be used for multiple applications over time.
  4. Net Neutrality
    How to address the particulars of Net neutrality objectives and how to achieve broader governance structures and protocols will be key areas of discussion and action for the foreseeable future. To better understand how one regulation might affect the overall ecosystem and policy implications, there’s a need for increasing the dialogue between government legislators and regulators and the technical community.
  5. Security and Privacy
    Web security isn’t just a technology issue, it’s a human issue as well. Even very secure, private infrastructures can become insecure and public if they’re misused. Hence, fundamentally different approaches are necessary to address cybersecurity and online privacy issues.

The new era of the Web is being driven by growth in a multitude of areas, including:

  • Advances such as Web 3.0, Semantic Web, the 3D Web, and the real-time Web
  • Open standards, open data, and open source software
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Multimodal access and multilingual presentation
  • Growing use of Internet-enabled smartphones, gadgets, and consumer electronics
  • Smarter search engines and question-answering systems
  • Integrated, context-aware, collaborative apps
  • Cloud computing and cloudlets
  • Demand for an open, neutral, equal-access Internet, and for it to be declared a public utility

Challenges for this progression, however, include a broad range of technical, developmental, operational, organizational, political, and societal issues, such as:

  • Interoperability of Web applications — integration of data, knowledge, and apps to make the Web a more meaningful and collaborative platform
  • Cybersecurity — securing data on the Web and in Web applications remains a major challenge due to increasing and sophisticated attacks
  • A smarter Web — realization of a fully Semantic Web in which programs can analyze and synthesize Web-based information
  • Information overload — better context awareness, easier navigation, and smarter search engines for all kinds of data and information on the Web
  • An open Web — fostering open data, open standards, and an open/neutral Internet
  • Societal and social issues — addressing the Web’s dark side, such as insufficient privacy controls and incorrect or poor information quality

These issues and more are explored in a roundtable featured in the May 2015 issue of Computer magazine. The IEEE Computer Society experts who participated in this roundtable are: Ron Vetter, University of North Carolina Wilmington; San Murugesan, BRITE Professional Services; David Alan Grier, George Washington University; Jeffrey Jaffe, World Wide Web Consortium; and Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center.

“The Web will continue its evolution, offer new capabilities, and extend its reach and utility. As it becomes even more ubiquitous and embedded in our lives and goods, the Web’s influence will be even more significant and widespread in the years to come. The opportunities it presents will continue to outweigh associated risks and limitations. It certainly has not reached its zenith, so we must recognize and harness its full potential,” said Vetter.

“As a community, we must build a better, safer, more open Web that addresses the needs of all segments of society. With the help of the Web and our coordinated efforts, we can address the coming technical, operational, organizational, political, and societal issues and challenges,” said Murugesan.