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This article was published on August 6, 2011

What will the Web be like in 20 years?

What will the Web be like in 20 years?
Martin SFP Bryant
Story by

Martin SFP Bryant


Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

On the day the World Wide Web celebrates its twentieth anniversary, it’s worth considering what the future holds for the Web and the Internet as a whole.

Yesterday I threw out the question on Twitter and Google+, receiving some excellent answers back. Here are some of the best. Thanks to everyone who contributed, retweeted or reshared.

The pessimists

Some of you took a grim view of the future.

Henrik Sijswerda: Pessimistic view: increased identity validation, less or no anonymity. closed communities.

Daniel Radu: 20 years is a long time. My bet is that all the colors will fade away, as priorities like survival as a race will come first. This is by no means a pessimistic view, as the exponential growth of data won’t slow down much. Just for most of us – the access to it will be via 70s style ascii terminals rather then holodecks. Think flying cars in the 60s. And then think middle east now.

However, the technoloy race will continue in the background (with a less focus on making white devices with huge powerdraining screens and more focus on smaller processors) – making the web a suitable host for those who will aford digital versions of themselfes, agents to take care of all digital needs. The web in 20 years? Will be the only wonder of the world still standing :)

Michael Mozard: AT&T will own the World Wide Web and Charge 25 dollars a second to use it ! This is after congress finally allows the AT&T Sprint Comcast Verizon Time Warner Cox Merger.

Jean Ouellet: Twenty years from now, the information highway will become the information “park”way. Cluttered with incredible demands on amount of bandwidth available. New availabilities will be created but only accessible to very few people, those who can afford it. Users will become classify along their means, with the poorest at the bottom having the least access to technology. Those with the greatest access will be those with the greatest powers over society. A new Orwellian society filled with very few Big Brothers. On the other hand, everything may be fine! A more desirable outcome.

Polo High: More Internet censorship lol

Randy Hudson: In 20 years time The Net will primarily exist for those with power to keep an eye on those without power.

The futuregazers

Some people let their imaginations take them to a far-flung future, full of new possibilities.

Chris Robinson: In 20 years, we will be emailing real inanimate objects (e.g., chairs, toys, etc.) as attachments.

Henrik Sijswerda: Optimistic view: meeting people using holograms as in real life, tv, music, movies, only over the internet (no cable companies).

Daniel Radu: 20 years go by, we manage somehow to keep the consuming status quo. Don’t ask me how I have no clue :)  The web will grow in dimensions, getting all our needs inside, not only communication and information. Each an every object in the physical world will have a digital synonym in the so called 3d web (think Opensim and it’s hypergrid protocol), and technologies like AR and ubiquitous computing will blend reality into a powermix of digital and virtual. We’ll get better at real world by filling it up with digital possibilities and probabilities, through gamification.

In this scenario, I think before 20 years we’ll use DNA to sign our digital fingerprints, as the ultimate privacy mechanism. 20 years is a very long time. 20 years is the new 100 years.

Dave Kinsella: “”20 years is the new 100 years” that’s a very astute observation. Personally, I’d like to think that we’ll be using implanted HUDs to seamlessly access the web for communication, financial transactions, work and whatever else we happen to be using it for. Similar to the technology used in (Cory Doctorow’s book) “Down and out in the Magic Kingdom”

I think that there will be fewer people working on producing web-specific content. We will be so immersed in publishing tools that the web-designer will become obsolete whilst the number of quality content creators will be exponentially greater.

Greg Lloyd: We may catch up to Vannevar Bush and As We May Think (July 1945) with effortless personal and contextual access to anything you’ve seen, heard, wish to recall again, use or share – with anyone, at any time, for any purpose.

Pedro Henrique Monteiro Padilha: Next 20 years? I see the internet creating a new global economy, with people selling and buying things from other countries without big taxes and with simple e-procurement process.

Internet will more and more allow people to work to companies on other countries or continents. It will also create a new way for all our social behavior, we will have web shows and maybe we pubs. The large bandwidth will help us connecting everywhere and we will no longer need TV as we know. Every TV show will be a stream to be brought in different languages.

I think the (Google+) HangOut thing has to do with this future, people really meeting each other and creating strong groups that are together not because of geographical options but interests. Nice future?

Jeff Cormier: In 20 years we will be able to pull up a search query from the WWW using an implanted chip in our brains. the thought-controlled mechanism will render us super computers.

Hashem alDhaheri: In 20 years time we will be able to email other creatures in our Galaxy…free of charge!

Siddhartha Gupta: Computing will pervade every aspect of human life. Maybe we all would be able to plug into the matrix. Think Facebook will be the architect of that one.

Eric Baze: In 20 years people will be able to function directly as the connective nodes (routers) to the Internet. The power, function, and security features of future mobile devices (and perhaps remaining stationary smart appliances — entertainment, fridge, etc.) will be directly keyed to authorized individuals. Tech will become invisible and fade into the structure and decor of our lives. They’ll be made of sustainable materials, and possibly integrate biomimetics into the compontents. Personal data will be just that, because it will kept on-person by something like RNA sequences, nano-materials, or biomimetic storage devices. Device Interfaces will be keyed to neurological mapping information and data-mined user behavior/preferences for optimal user experience.

3D printing and equal information access will have created an economic transition. Varieties of products will be purchased by download for tangible production in-house. Engineering of some products will change to accommodate production models using 3D printing. Business models will be primarily based on the exchange of customer information with other businesses, resulting in continued rise in “free” products and services at the cost of providing our personal information.

The web will get smarter. Research in neural networks, artificial intelligence and artificial life will result in cloud-based apps which begin evolve literally, as much as by self-correction as by crowd-sourcing.

I could keep going :) It sounds pretty far fetched for a 20-year turnaround and extends heavily beyond the web but just consider how heavily the web has influenced real-world products and business models to accommodate connectivity in all aspects of our lives. I haven’t mentioned any technology that doesn’t currently exist. It’s just in it’s infancy.

Hugo Magalhaes: I’m thinking fully fledged holograms, a la Star Wars, but also with flavours of Minority Report and a Star Trek holodeck, perhaps? All within easy grasp, considering Moore’s Law…

Jason Poggioli: Smartphones will continue to get more powerful, but without some significant breakthrough in battery technology integrated HUD displays in wearable glasses will continue to be very expensive. Serious science fiction leaps to biological integration won’t be commonplace in twenty years, either. That kind of integration will be reserved for amputees and others who will benefit greatly from computer/human interfaces.

I see the real mind-bending transformation happening with 3D printers. In twenty years 3D printers are probably going to be household items bringing small just-in-time manufacturing straight into everyone’s homes. Printers will be measured by their size as that will be one of the major limiting factors as to what the household will be able to produce. However, even printers only capable of producing small objects will transform multiple industries.

Coupled with the crowd-sourcing capabilities of the internet it will impact manufacturing like a supernova. Almost overnight people will no longer need to purchase countless cheap, disposable items at the store.

Go ahead. Spend the next week moving through your life imagining all the different, basic items you use that could be manufactured out of a 3D plastic printer. What’s most shocking is how fast it will be able to permeate into everyone’s lives. The entire infrastructure is already in place – buy a 3D printer, web sites will collect and collaborate on designs for every conceivable household item, and overnight you’ll find you don’t need to buy a whole lot of things any longer.

Alex Wilhelm: In my eye, reading my thoughts. Porn on the go!

Rafael Pelon: If we can maintain #netneutrality for the next 20 years, we succeeded!

Guy Cookson: Invisible – because it will be incorporated into everything.

Maria Aretoulaki: Touchable, chatty and immersive.

Clare White: Surely to god we’ll actually be flying through the webs by then?

Balanced views

Some people took a more balanced approach as they gazed into the crystal ball.

Mike Hendrickson: In 2020 the US will be bankrupt and have defaulted on what it owes China. The world economy will crash and China and Brazil will battle for control of the Web. Brazil will champion an Open web and China a closed tightly controlled web. Open will win again. And our Brilliant congressmen will resume using the pipes.

Laura F. Morales: We already started into the standarization stage of Internet in our lives. In 20 years everything will be connected to this LITERAL World Wide Web. Whoever is not online, DOESN’T exists, the only way to “disappear” is by diyng or well, pay someone a big bucket of money to “fake” your death… The communication devices will be by standard contact lenses, and ear pieces some how surfing the web and thinking will almost merge in one single process. We already are (according to Columbia University) depending highly on Search Engines for the information, we store less in our memory so everything will be accesible from anywhere from every device. I mean EVERY device, cars, refrigerators, OUR PERSON will be online, all the time.

Sadly lots of human beings will be left behind in the process, the most we delay in connecting everyone the most people will be left behind as Internet becomes the new standard for life. Living outside of it will be a more and more difficult task. And so, there’s my opinion ;)

Santiago Ochoa: Companies like Google, Facebook, PayPal, Amazon, will create virtual currency systems linked to our social reputation. The more friends, posts, contacts, and comments we have, the more +1s, “like it”s or whatever points we’ll accumulate. These points will then be used to buy real things like you do now with PayPal and Amazon. Good social communicators will be able to make a living out of social networking points. Similar to Second Life but not limited to a virtual world. Our cell phones will be used as wallets and even some salaries will be paid with virtual money.

Terence Eden: The same speed. Faster pipes & processors – more bloated markup & JS.

Derek Bryant: If by WWW you mean websites/apps and their distant descendants then the answer is unimaginable, unless global economic meltdown means that we are communicating with cocoa tins linked by pieces of string :)


If there’s one thing we can be pretty sure of, the Internet of 2031 will have cats – it’s only natural, right?

Tim Difford: I think in 20 years there’ll be animated gifs of kittens.

Joseph Stashko: Everything will be linked to LOLcats.

Mark Cadwaladr: I’m gonna bet on ROFLdogs as the natural internet selection replacement for LOLcats.

Thanks to everyone who took part. Feel free to add your own predictions by leaving a comment below.