Because the Internet itself is still relatively new, it’s hard to imagine it being even more of an influence in our lives. But when you consider the fact that just a few years ago it was seen as little more than a mechanism for carrying email, and how the Internet now allows for not just computer connections, but telephone and other wireless applications as well, it’s almost a whole different animal; and as the future unfolds, it seems likely that a lot of the devices that we use today will meld into one “thing” that we all likely continue to call the Internet, if for no better reason than because it’s a brilliant name.
With that said, there are of course varying opinions as to what the Internet will look like five years from now:
Google’s Eric Schmidt (see references below) believes that five years from now the Internet will be dominated by Chinese applications and content, and because of the higher bandwidth many more applications on the net will be run in real time, which he believes will be indistinguishable from television, radio and any other media. He also says that he believes the new technologies will evolve to help “good” content bubble to the top, because there will soon be more information on the Internet than even Google can sort out for us.
Others believe (see references below) that a better system of paying people for content will need to be devised to allow people to create content that is of higher quality than we are seeing today. One highly touted approach is the concept of using micro-payments, which is where web sites are able to charge less than a penny for certain things, and which they hope will occur over and over in such quantity to add up to big numbers, meaning profits for them over the long haul. One example of this might be if Wiki started to charge users a tenth of a penny every time they used the site (which could be automatically deducted from PayPay) which would of course add up to a lot of money if the site managed to maintain the same number of hits as they do now while allowing users access to its content for free.
On another front, no less an expert than Bill Gates (see references below) believes that the Internet will cause conventional universities (and maybe high schools or middle schools) to die out as online degrees become more and more the standard way to get an accredited education. This would of course require advances in both bandwidth and the way courses are taught online to take advantage of the computers computing power and speed.
Whichever way things go, there is little doubt that as technology advances are made and as people think of new, different and hopefully better ways to do things online, the the Internet will become something we can only now barely imagine much less foresee.