Forces of Change 2002: 10 Dynamics That Will Impact the Internet Over the Next Five Years

April, 2002

Politics, social conditions, consumer demand, law, culture, language, and technology are interacting in the creation of Internet applications. Developers and service providers face challenges to meet ever changing demands but also have opportunities to enter new markets.

Michael Erbschloe, Vice President of Research at Computer Economics, has studied technology and society from many perspectives. Mr. Erbschloe has updated his analysis of dynamics that will impact the Internet annually since 1996 when his series of lectures on advances in technology were filmed at Oklahoma State University.

Mr. Erbschloe will present an updated analysis of the forces of change at COMDEX Nordic 2002, on the afternoon of January 22 in The Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre, Göteborg, Sweden. Issues to be covered in the forces of change presentation include the following:

Global Response
The impact and the use of the Internet have been discussed at the highest level of government and policy making around the world. The global nature of the Internet has come into conflict with local laws that govern content and commerce. Many countries including France, China, and Saudi Arabia are leading a backlash at openness as they attempt to control the World Wide Web.

Linguistic, Cultural, and Physical Diversity
Internet use will increase around the world, across cultures, and span a wider range of educational and economic strata. The U.S. Federal government, for example, is now starting to address the usability of information technology for people with physical limitations.

Privacy: A Social and Legal Demand
On the Internet, privacy can be easily compromised and is bought and sold on a daily basis. Social, political, and legal pressures are mounting because of the cross-border nature of the Internet and thousands of pending laws in countries around the world.

Defining and Controlling Access
The digital divide, Internet access in public facilities, libraries, schools, and the personal use of the Internet in the workplace, as well as the use of wireless Internet devices in classroom settings are now boardroom and town hall issues. Religious groups and national governments also want to control access to the Internet. The concept of access is constantly being redefined.

Taxation of Internet Commerce
Taxation will come to Internet commerce in full force because national, regional, and local governments want revenue. International, intrastate, and local tax laws need to be addressed.

Cyber Law and Disorder
Military, industrial, and commercial infrastructures have been the target of thousands of random attacks, and organized attacks are inevitable. The military and telecom firms are preparing, but e-commerce companies remain highly vulnerable. The use of the Internet to support criminal activity is a natural evolution in criminal behavior. Law enforcement agencies around the world face the challenge of investigating, prosecuting, and combating crime, and they need help from service providers.

Strategic Turmoil
Strategic direction (how to best use the Internet) for business, entrepreneurs, government, nonprofit organizations, and Web developers will remain a moving target. Technologies and consumer response will continue to evolve. The best strategy of today can turn into a liability overnight. The most radical experiment can quickly become a standard strategy and just as quickly devolve into mediocrity.

Bands, Channels, Platforms, and Formats
What is the Internet: modems, DSL, cable connections, ITV, wireless, voice, images, all of the above? Development demands and creative approaches will burst open, making the Web guru of the middle 1990s a dinosaur.

The Crowded Web: The User’s Perspective
Surfing or seeking, the Web is a mess. Search engines are a pain and their usability has sharply declined. A search term often yields over 100,000 pages of results. What sites do people visit? Ones they know! And how do they know the ones they know?

The Crowded Web: The Purveyor’s Perspective
The population of companies on the Web will continue to grow and competition in all niches will increase. Investors in Internet companies will put more pressure on developers to create unique and more marketable applications and services.

December 2001