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What will the internet look like in 2040?

A journalist recently asked me what I think the internet will look like in 2040. The question took me a little by surprise, because despite working in the technology industry for the last two years and witnessing the drastic changes that have taken place, I’ve never really taken a step back from it all and thought what the world might be like in ten years, let alone 25 years.

So I did what all good researchers do and opened the floor to questions. I asked my colleagues what they thought and once we got past the obvious answers such as, “Cats! Cats will rule the world” and “the internet will be in our minds,” we actually had a productive discussion. So, here are some predictions.

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The internet in 2040 will look nothing like the Web 3.0 of today. The rise of the internet of everything (IoE) will continue to transform the interconnectivity of people, information and money. As embedded sensors and displays become prevalent in all new hardware, wearable and implantable devices, the bigger picture will begin to emerge.

The internet will no longer be consumed through a five inch window on your phone, but rather through the very world around us. Virtual and augmented reality in devices, such as Google glass, contact lenses and shop windows will allow real time translation of printed text, a real-life Babel fish of sorts.

Fibre optic broadband will be the norm globally and the higher bandwidth will spur the development of supercomputing in everyday devices. The use of silicon as a computing material will be replaced by graphene, a carbon-based material offering much higher electrical conductivity and a finer atomic structure, giving a fresh lease of life to Moore’s law.

Cloud computing will literally be done in the clouds as Google’s project Loon gets its feet off the ground – taking a Wi-Fi network of balloons into the stratosphere and filling in missing internet connectivity in rural areas of the world, to deserts and even the oceans.

The internet will also morph into a wider network used to automate transport, energy, water and industrial manufacturing. The next generation of hydrogen-electric hybrid, driverless vehicles, for example, will be connected to a smart-grid capable of alleviating traffic and accidents through the use of optical and radio sensors interacting with other vehicles and directly with the roads. This future form of the internet will also contribute to the development of smart cities, a network of urban conurbations where resources, citizen mobility and security are optimised to improve the quality of life for residents.

The ubiquity of big data, combined with greater transparency will continue to raise challenges of security and privacy. Increased regulation of the internet will mandate the use of enhanced biometric identification using fingerprints and possibly even DNA.

Despite all of these revolutionary changes, some things will look exactly the same. As the practice of search engine optimisation (SEO) moves from an art form to a science, the value of good content will remain king. As human beings, we may change our behaviours and our daily routines, but we will always be drawn to inspiring content and valuable interaction with others.

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