The Internet in 2025: new killer apps in the gigabit age (Pew 3)

6867-bright-pier-1bBrighton Pier from the East


The Pew question. New killer apps in the gigabit age – Will there be new, distinctive, and uniquely compelling technology applications that capitalize upon significant increases in bandwidth in the U.S. between now and 2025?


You are your own killer app

I answered YES to the survey question. As I wrote in my elaboration, however, the “killer app” concept is misleading when we’re talking about what people get drawn to online. Certainly some emerging technologies have a big future: advanced motion capture and speech recognition come to mind.

No, as a matter of fact, content isn’t king

But using the Internet isn’t like watching TV, which is highly structured and impersonal, despite years of attempts to make TV “interactive.” Using the Internet, by contrast, is very personal. And to the chagrin of those who produce and distribute content for a living, third-party content is not king in the online world. Personal stuff is, as reflected in the most popular online activities, i.e. using email and search engines. In fact, these two activities have consistently ranked as the most popular ever since the Pew Internet Project began measuring online activities over the last decade. I didn’t quite put it this way in the response below, but my view is that it’s the bandwidth itself that’s the killer app.

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The Internet in 2025: which tech giants will dominate? (Pew 2)


Screen grab from Pew/Elon survey questionnaire, January 2014


The Pew survey included a question about tech firms that was set up a little differently than the others. As the screen grab above shows, participants were asked to rank the long-term success, or lack of success, among the Big 5 as listed, as well as among other firms of our choosing.

Although it’s about 10 years too early to say “I told you so,” the news over the last few days provides some support for conclusions drawn in my response. As you can see, I’m calling for Amazon and Apple to become “More important”… Facebook and Microsoft to become “Less important”… and Google to “remain the same.”


Apple: too big to be successful any more?

A recent financial piece in the New York Times (Trying to See Apple From a Different Angle) says the stock market “doesn’t know quite what to make of Apple.” Two general reasons are adduced. One is cyclical: the company has had problems with sales of its cash cow, the iPhone. The other is structural: Apple has the largest market cap of any multinational, as well as the highest brand rating on the global Interbrand survey (all that engineering brainpower finally knocked a syrupy, dark-brown soft drink off its throne). Oh, and the $159 billion in cash it has lying around. Apple’s now so big and so successful that it’s scaring off growth investors who want to see a hit product every six months. Continue reading

The Internet in 2025: Pew surveys our online future (2014 edition)


“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” — Roy Amara (d.2007)


In January, I participated in the latest edition of the experts survey on the future of the Internet, brainchild of the Pew Internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. Some takeaways from grappling with the latest survey:

  • It’s been increasingly difficult from year to year to think through the tangle of issues associated with online life (I answered only 5 of the 8 questions on this survey);
  • Trying to look ahead a decade made me think a lot more about the present-day than the future.
  • My mood was pessimistic, and the theme that kept coming up was the inevitable fragmentation of the global public Internet.

ElonThe Pew-Elon Survey on the Future of the Internet, now in its sixth edition, collects responses from 900-odd participants around the globe on eight questions (originally 10), focused on the leading controversies of the day. The participants comprise a motley collection of thought leaders, technologists, entrepreneurs, futurists, academics, axe-grinders and experts of many stripes. The first edition of the survey was launched in 2004. Continue reading

Netflix, YouTube traffic soar, while “pirate” transfers fade


Sandvine has just released its latest half-yearly Global Internet Phenomena Report. The reports are based on data collected by Sandvine from among its 250-plus customers spanning, well, the globe. Several items jump out this time, but two are especially interesting.


First, video continues to crush the numbers. Not that this is any surprise, since the dominance of video has been in the forecasts for years. What is surprising is the odd bedfellows that now account for 50+% of downstream traffic on wireline broadband in North America: Netflix and YouTube.

Netflix just won’t let up – in traffic share, share of mind or share price. Despite the ham-fisted attempts by ISPs like Rogers and Bell to make OVDs expensive for its customers by screwing them with data caps, Netflix’s traffic share is still holding at about the same level as six months ago – currently 31.6%. I’ve written a lot about Netflix over the last two or three years, much of that in defence of our right to choose what we watch in Canada. Continue reading

Get yer grimy paws off my Netflix, again (the dance mix)


 Last week the Wire Report ran a story by Nick Kyonka headlined “CRTC vertical integration rules encourage OTTs to buy sports rights: Gourd.” No prizes for guessing where the chair of the Online Broadcasting Working Group (OBWG) was headed with that worrisome observation:

The CRTC’s new regulatory framework governing vertically integrated companies may have given too much of an advantage to online content providers such as Netflix Inc., Google Inc., [and] Apple Inc.

As I explained in a pair of posts last July (“Get yer grimy paws off my Netflix”), the OTT cabal has shown they will stop at nothing to persuade the CRTC and political friendlies that new, innovative online competitors must be stomped out. They’re bad for the broadcasting system, bad for Canadian culture, bad for Canadian citizens. The group’s claims would be laughable if they weren’t part of a deadly serious attempt to win concessions. To say nothing of the fact they’re doing all this with the publicly acknowledged support of the CRTC. This time, however, the OBWG is trying to put the public interest in double jeopardy.



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Pew’s Internet Futures – quotable quotes from me and the experts

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released the findings from its fourth experts survey on the future of the Internet. I was one of 895 respondents who took part in this edition. Between Christmas Day and January 15, I blogged my responses to the 10 questions (those posts are all tagged “surveys”). I’ve been doing a scorecard to see how I match up with the other 894 respondents and their predictions for the year 2020. (My thanks to Lee Rainie and his colleagues for a thrilling ride.)

Here’s the setup, from the report’s preface (p.3):

“Respondents to the Future of the Internet IV survey, fielded from Dec. 2, 2009 to Jan. 11, 2010, were asked to consider the future of the Internet‐connected world between now and 2020 and the likely innovation that will occur. They were asked to assess 10 different “tension pairs” – each pair offering two different 2020 scenarios with the same overall theme and opposite outcomes – and they were asked to select the one most likely choice of two statements. […]

“Please note that this survey is primarily focused on eliciting focused observations on the likely impact and influence of the Internet – not on the respondents’ choices from the pairs of predictive statements. Many times when respondents “voted” for one scenario over another, they responded in their elaboration that both outcomes are likely to a degree or that an outcome not offered would be their true choice. Survey participants were informed that “it is likely you will struggle with most or all of the choices and some may be impossible to decide; we hope that will inspire you to write responses that will explain your answer and illuminate important issues.”

The report concentrates on five of the 10 original “tension pairs”:

1 – whether Google will make us stupid (as alleged by Nicholas Carr);
2 – the impact of the Internet on reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge;
3 – takeoff technologies;
4 – the end-to-end principle; and
5 – anonymity. Continue reading

Google’s Gigabit Bonanza

Last week Google announced it will finance ultra high-speed residential Internet access over fiber in select US communities. North American broadband households get average downlink speeds of around 5 Mbit/s. No wonder this initiative has caused a lot of jaw-dropping, soul-searching and wild-assed speculation.

The announcement has gleaned very positive support from Washington’s advocacy community. Others have fretted about Google’s real motives, such as whether or not the company is planning to become a retail ISP. The incumbents and their fellow travellers have dissed the venture. For example:

“The Google plan is short on details, with no information on capital spending, and, in our view, should primarily be seen through the lens of regulatory posturing,” Sanford Bernstein senior analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a research report. “We do not view Google’s announcement as a serious threat to the broadband businesses of either the cable or telecom operators.”

Short on details? Jeez, the project just got announced. The details will come as part of the “experimental” process. Like, that’s the whole point. And the suggestion Google is engaging in “regulatory posturing” is a hoot coming from the carrier sub-culture, which pretty much invented regulatory posturing. Continue reading

Americans still invading, broadcasters still in charge

Last week Interactive Ontario hosted its first iLunch of the season, entitled “What is broadcast?” (I was involved in some of the planning.) Buddy Brady Gilchrist moderated in his usual immoderate, provocative and enlightened way. Two things kept jumping out.

First, I was surprised to hear a current of old-fashioned jingoism running through much of an otherwise useful discussion. After radio, TV, movies and magazines, now it’s apparently the turn of Google, Apple and the other US cyber-behemoths to be pouring over the 49th parallel and… messing with our digital media? Apparently we have to face up to this menace or… all is lost?

Apple is a menace because it’s taking money out of the country and creating its own new brand of walled garden. Yes and yes. And so what? Where is the biggest concentration of Canadian movies, TV, music and podcasts on the Web, in one place? If it’s not the Canadian iTunes Store, somebody point the way. There was complaining about rev share (is there another system?) and about the tilt to success for artists who get on the iTunes homepage. Yes, and other artists will be suffering in the background, not doing quite as well. That’s show biz. Continue reading