Time flies when you’re having fun. For the past 25 years, we’ve all had a lot of good times with Internet. But, as the World Wide Web matures, what will the next era of our online lives look like?
The Good ‘Ol Days
From the early days of adoption, discovery and wonder, we were once such innocent online users, listening to 80s music on cassette tapes as we sat in in the privacy of our own homes facing the clunky monitors of our big slow computers. Like surfers looking for the perfect wave, we devoted ourselves to seeking more. The search went from Netscape to Google. Cassettes transformed to CDs and our music went digital, giving birth to Napster.
Music was shared. People were meeting online. Content that was once printed onto paper was digitalized into a portable document format, or PDF files, allowing information to be exchanged exponentially more efficiently and effectively. Online chat rooms expanded and user IDs turned into connections and relationships ultimately morphing into what we know as social networking today.
Data and the Information Highway
Ahh, yes, the good ol’ days of the Internet, a free-for-fall moment in time that is coming to an end. <insert sad face emoticon here.> We have been innocently traveling on the information highway for 25 years now.
Building our homes on land that is not our own. In other words, “earning media” on platforms that have more power than some countries’ governments. We’ve handed over the keys to our personal information in exchange for convenience or entertainment. We routinely give access to mega bytes of our social data so that we can log into new apps or download resources. Today, data has become the new currency.
For consumers, data is like fuel on the information highway. For businesses, big data is like oil. Jeanette Horan, IBM’s CIO calls data “the planet’s new natural resource.” In 2010, McKinsey & Co. reported that 13 exabytes of new data had been stored by businesses and consumers – just imagine what that number is today, just four years later.
As marketers, we’ve always understood the value of data. Many of our roles are designed to capture customer data, manage data, and analyze data. Some of us are tasked with creating and distributing content so that we can keep our company’s data need fed. It’s no wonder that big data is a recent trend.
However, marketers must understand that consumers are growing up along with the Internet. The Era of Sharing, when data is exchanged for convenience, is starting to wane and we’re waking up to a new dawn. And that new dawn is a place where privacy is the new black.
Privacy and the Deep Web
With big data game changers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange headlining at SXSW this year, we’re forced to ask ourselves who has the right to own or share our data? Snowden-like whistle-blowers? And, who is protecting our personal data? The U.S. government? The NSA? Can consumers trust the cloud, or the faceless stakeholders and investors of the myriad of free apps on the market?
It’s no wonder that we’re now seeing the rise of “shhh apps” that are supposedly providing users privacy like Snapchat, Whisper, Secret, Wickr, TigerText and Gryphn. Consumers obviously want privacy. But who owns the data and content behind the curtain? And how secure is it? After all, when 4.6 million Snapchat accounts were hacked, the response was an underwhelming blog post that said the breach of security was no big deal. Snapchat’s sans-apology post was signed, “Happy Snapping!”
For years we’ve travelled on the information highway and the SEO juice and social influence ranking has provided us a wealth of knowledge upon which we base our successes and best practices. This will work for now. But as I watched Edward Snowden present virtually from an unknown location at SXSW last month, using technology developed to protect his autonomy, I imagined him somewhere on this earth, on a planet that is covered one third by water, and the term “Deep Web” took on a new meaning to me. The Deep Web is the large portion of the Internet that’s not accessible to search engines. It’s where privacy and security still exist – it’s the encrypted underground. Can you imagine the possibilities the Deep Web holds?
The Next 25 Years of the Internet
Today web surfers will continue to have fun, chatting and riding the Internet waves, at a superficial, surface level. People will still travel on the information highway. Some will litter and spam. Information will be stored in clouds providing, utility for consumers as our lives interact with sensors causing the Internet of Things to become more embedded in humanity.
As we grow as professionals with the Internet for the next 25 years, I predict we’ll see more from the Deep Web and be forced to answer new questions about how big data trends impact privacy. I think we’ll also start seeing security protocols that will change the marketplace, brands, currency, healthcare, communication, politics, parenting, global governance, ethics, morals, education and more.
How about you, what are some of the new trends you see impacting the next 25 years of the Internet? Please “share!”
photo credit: Jamie In Bytown via photopin cc