Five thousand days of the World Wide Web

In 2007, Kevin Kelly looked back on the last 5,000 days of the World Wide Web and asked: what’s to come? Now, with years of hindsight since that talk, we ask: what next?

One thing I have to call attention to here is the latter part of the talk, in which Kelly discusses codependency and the exchange of privacy for convenience. Total personalization equals total transparency. From a development and data perspective, nothing is outlandish about that statement. But as we have seen in the social fabric over the last few years, not everyone understands or agrees with that logic. There is a demand for personalization without the transparency. I believe the watershed moment in that space will be a split between those who eschew all personalization in order to maintain privacy, and those who are determined to innovate a way around having personalization and privacy to the degree that we expect now.

That is not my prediction for an innovation in the next two decades. For that, think back to 2012, when Google Glass was first introduced to the public. It was a product ahead of its time and failed to gain traction. Less than ten years later, Google is refining the product for a more sophisticated release and targeted audiences are paying attention. Looking ahead to 2030 and beyond, augmented reality products will be as commonplace as the personal vital signs wearable (Apple Watch) or natural language processor in the living room (Amazon Alexa). Forces working in their favor are both tangible and intangible. Augmented reality is already here, most notably in current iPhone models. This has introduced the concept in an incremental and friendly way in an existing device as opposed to a bombshell new product class. Consumers are able to experience the tangible technology on devices they are already familiar with, gain confidence, and accept the new products that push the envelope. These are a mix of technological, cultural, and social forces.

These same forces can work against adoption. The development of augmented reality now centers around headsets and devices with cameras, but what of the technologies that can project fully-functional desktops and workstations into the ephemera to be touched and manipulated as though they were physically there? The interface running Tony Stark’s lab in Iron Man is not run through Google Glass but is just simply there. Assuming these can be done, take my earlier point about transparency and privacy, and apply it to these technologies that, by definition, augment the very reality we function in. If people are uncomfortable now with the personalization/transparency tradeoff, a new device that alters how they see and interact with the world might simply be a bridge too far.

References

Dimandis, P. H. (2019). Augmented 2030: the apps, headsets, and lenses getting us there. Retrieved from https://singularityhub.com/2019/09/13/augmented-2030-the-apps-headsets-and-lenses-getting-us-there/

Kelly, K. (2007). The next 5,000 days of the web. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_kelly_the_next_5_000_days_of_the_web

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