So, from an infrastructure point of view, what does the New and Next Internet portend? What are its characteristics?
Always-on: We are moving in India from a pay-per-use pricing model to a flat rate subscription model (in some cases, with download limits). But the instant availability of the Internet connection will fundamentally change the way we use the Internet everything now becomes a few clicks and a few seconds away.
Ubiquitous: As data networks envelop us, the Internet will become pervasive. Already, the presence of cellular networks provides computer users the ability to connect from anywhere. In the coming years, technologies like WiMax and mesh wireless will blanket much of urban and semi-urban India.
High-speed: The narrowband speeds that we are used to will give away to higher speeds as real broadband makes its way to the mainstream. The world wide wait will be a thing of the past. What this will do is encourage the use of more media-rich content.
On-demand: As connectivity improves, there will be little difference between online and offline. If it is out there, it is instantly available. This will lead to the rise of centralised services especially for business applications. We will have control over when we want entertainment delivered.
Multi-format: The computer will no longer be the only device accessing the Internet. Smartphones with wireless data networks will provide equally viable alternatives. This means that there will be two screen footprints that content providers will need to cater to.
Two-way: The growth of weblogs is a harbinger of the publish-subscribe Internet. Readers and surfers will have the ability to participate in the content creation process. Cellphones with cameras can turn device owners into content producers.
Personalised: The Internet will also become more individualised as websites (especially search engines and portals) build up increasingly sophisticated profiles based on what we do. This will enable highly targeted advertising.
Not Free: This new Internet will not be built around the free access model that we have been used to. The eyeballs-centric business model is a thing of the past. As we find content and services of value, we are more likely to start to pay for them.
This New Internet will make possible path-breaking applications and services. From voice-over-IP which will allow phone calls anywhere in the country for a flat fee to video-on-demand which can provide education and entertainment to users when they want it, from software-as-a-service for businesses to automate all their processes to multi-player gaming platforms which will transform leisure time, the New Internet will create new opportunities as well as threaten conventional business models. It will force players in computing, entertainment, consumer electronics and entertainment to tread into each other’s territories.
What, then, is the endgame? What will the next decade of the Internet bring? This vision for the future is best captured in the concept of a Mirror World which was first espoused by David Gelernter in 1991.
Over the past decade, we have been spending an increasing amount of our time in so-called cyberspace. Companies and individuals have created virtual representations of their products and services. Our communications have also moved to conversing with identities (email IDs, IM monickers, SMSing to mobile numbers) rather than directly with people. Mirror Worlds takes this to its logical conclusion: we will have a parallel world that we will increasingly inhabit which is a copy of the real world. Today, maps can provide us the spatial copy. But they do not give us the real-time component. That is where a mix of next-generation mobiles, sensors and user-generated content will come in and embellish the other world. So, Mirror Worlds are microcosms of all that we see around us as updated as the real world that they resemble. These Mirror Worlds are accessible to us through screens on the devices we have our mobiles, computers, and networked TVs.
Ubiquitously available computers, mobile phones and next-generation networks are what will make all this possible. What has been missing are the applications to leverage this emerging new order. This is where lie the opportunities of Internet 2.0.
Tomorrow: Defining Themes
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