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The Web in 2050 (jacquesmattheij.com)
333 points by darwhy on Aug 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments



The year is 2050. You are reading this comment from a compatibility layer in your open-source browser that translates HTML from the 2010s into Thought-Interface Language 3.2, which was an open standard ratified in 2045 by a global consortium of content and browser developers.

Back in the 2010s, web access was peculiarly gated in a dendritic configuration as ISPs provided all the single-points-of-failure interconnections between end users (including both content providers as well as consumers) and the true "internet", a multiway resiliently-routed interconnect of servers. As we know now, extending the peer-to-peer core of the internet down to the consumer has had lasting impact, including breaking up the routing monopolies of the ISPs as well as making it possible for anyone willing to spend a few grand a year on server capacity to host a new peer-to-peer router for nearby Internet users.

Many of you may not remember the origins of Google as a "search engine", a monolithic index of "every reachable page on the internet." Such a quaint idea has long since joined even further historic concepts such as Yahoo's "human-curated list of pages on the Internet". Ever since the Searchtorrent protocol was introduced and consumer searches were conducted on one of several competing distributed hash tables across the internet, no one entity has had to shoulder the responsibility of storing all the web content on the internet. This author gladly pays a small monthly fee to a local search cache provider for reliably fast localized caching of search results.

The web is here to stay. Remember your history next time you visit the local Homo Sapiens preserve and give thanks to the carbon-based beings that invented the Internet.


I think it's more likely that we'll be talking about "Guzzaline" and eating each other.


Brawndo? It's got electrolytes.


I can't laugh at that line anymore because I found out that https://www.drinksmartwater.com/ existed


It's what plants crave!


What is Brawndo, exactly?


What... plants... crave?


It's a reference to Idiocracy.


I guess I should have used quotes.


DNS through a massive distributed ledger. The blockchain. I can't wait.

Individuals' devices will be the backbone of the web/internet, not massive server farms owned by Google and the likes. A small group of smart phones distributed across the region will be able to handle massive amounts of traffic with additional amazing cache protocols.


You can use it now, as IPNS, for the IPFS network.

https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmdPtC3T7Kcu9iJg6hYzLBWR5XCDcYMY7HV685E...

There are browser plugins for IPFS, if you don't want to use the ipfs.io gateway. That gateway is free to use, and fairly transparent to people who do not have IPFS set up.


It's worth nothing that IPNS is not a blockchain though, rather a DHT with public/private-keys cryptography. Also, IPFS network is a blockchain-free protocol.


Thanks for the correction, I was wondering when I would have to burn a namecoin or something.

> IPFS and the Blockchain are a perfect match! You can address large amounts of data with IPFS, and place the immutable, permanent IPFS links into a blockchain transaction. This timestamps and secures your content, without having to put the data on the chain itself.

While I'm at it, I should also mention the caveat that IPNS won't put an entry into the classic DNS system, so you won't get a yourdomain.com out of it. It just gives you a random permanent base62 name to refer to some updateable content. You could ameliorate that for yourself by running your own DNS service, and I actually like the idea of that - I'll name things for myself as I see fit.

I'll be i.pub, facebook.com can be troll.psych, and Google can be surveillance.borg. Can't wait for people to see that over my shoulder. Oh, and good luck to anyone at work who is blocking domains for me. Yes, names have power, I think I should be in control of them. I'm sure it will be worth the hassle of canonicalizing URLs before sharing or passing them to third party systems.


> While I'm at it, I should also mention the caveat that IPNS won't put an entry into the classic DNS system

True that, but we (I work on IPFS) have support for DNS with IPFS. I guess the best example is the website for IPFS.

ipfs.io resolves to the following TXT record: dnslink=/ipfs/QmPCawMTd7csXKf7QVr2B1QRDZxdPeWxtE4EpkDRYtJWty

Which means the ipfs.io website is built on IPFS and can be accessed via the public gateways:

https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmPCawMTd7csXKf7QVr2B1QRDZxdPeWxtE4EpkD...

But, the dnslink record also means we can resolve ipfs.io via IPNS and get the same hash:

https://ipfs.io/ipns/ipfs.io/

All three links actually resolves to the same content, but in different ways.

A little bit of magic :)


Ethereum Name Service is probably more similar to DNS: https://ens.domains/


This was the first fork of bitcoin.

namecoin.org


Cool twist in the last paragraph.


Searchtorrent

So, they renamed YaCy? http://yacy.net/en/Technology.html


The future better look like that.

The alternative is... dystopian.


Another example of the "Singularity" ruining even "near-future" sci fi.


My apologies for the machina ex machina. I needed a clean end to the post and got lazy.


Only thing worrying about such decentralization is all of the extra tons of CO2 that it produces. Of course to robots, such concerns wouldn't be nearly as acute.


If we aren't carbon neutral way before 2050, it doesn't really matter anymore.


Hopefully, the power grid will also be decentralizing and mostly transitioning to renewables over that same time period.


> anyone willing to spend a few grand a year

sounds like there has been a lot of inflation in only 33yrs. what caused this?


The value of a high-throughput network interconnect slot from your peers is tied to the current value of all the cryptocurrencies the DHT routes, not just the cost of running the server and the physical links.


I really hope this is the future and not the OP


Wait, you WANT to be in a preserve?


Living in a simulation suits me fine right now ;)


>If you’re over 50 you might just remember the birth of Google, with their famous motto ‘Do No Evil’.

I love how people misremember this motto. The original slogan was "Don't be evil" which is quite different and far more subjective to start with. Now they have updated it to "Do the right thing" and you can imagine how easy it is to dance around that.

But people seem to think Larry and Sergey were actually trying to be ethically meticulous. Nonsense--the slogan always had the subtle meaning of "Don't be Microsoft-level evil" and it turns out that was not an easy hurdle to clear.


Facebook changed theirs in 2014 from "Move Fast and Break Things" to "Move Fast with Stable Infrastructure". It's funny how they predictably become vaguer and less controversial.


Wait, is that true? I could see the case for less controversial ("breaking things" can't be universally agreeable, right?), but it certainly seems less vague to me. Anyways, the mission was never either of those. It was "make the world more open and connected" and after the last US election changed to "bring people together".


Funny I thought it was 'more profits for Facebook'.


'... while performing creepy psychological experiments on our users.'


I'm glad to see other people remember that. Unbelievable they got away with that.


At a Facebook office in Austin I saw a poster, "Move Fast and Make Things." I assumed it to be a transitional state to "Move Fast and Don't Screw Up or You're So Fired"


I think it's similar to Obama's "don't do stupid shit". It's not really supposed to mean anything concrete, it's just a good philosophy for approaching big decisions. I don't know if it works, but I understand the intent.


Boy was that ever vague, considering drone bombing all over Pakistan and Yemen clipping a few hundred civilians cleared the "not stupid shit" bar.


It's been 30 years, memories fade. Fixed. And thank you for pointing this out.


In which ways was Microsoft evil?


The tv movie Pirates of Silicon Valley has a decent (if dramaticized) take on the birth of the personal computer, of which Microsoft, and its misdeeds, played a huge part in shaping for its own benefit. Microsoft under Bill Gates abused their monopoly position numerous times to force uptake of their own product which was often vastly inferior.


I disagree. Cryptocurrencies have shown that the new generation (as well as the old one) can embrace new and decentralized technologies.

The decentralized web is already a "successful" idea. The correct implementation for its wide use is not there yet. But it will be there.

It is just a matter of time before we have a bigger "dark web", a decentralized web, decentralized payment networks, and still have Google, Facebook, and the likes.

As the internet population grows, and as people move to more digital lifestyles; the people won't be limited (or gravitate) to a single portal. Instead, they'll spread over different networks/infrastructures for their different needs. Facebook can still be successful and grow while the decentralized internet happen.

The Internet is growing both in number (population) and in use. People today use the Internet to surf, chat, read the news, buy stuff online, book flights and hotels, pay taxes, work, study, find partners, buy drugs, etc...


Cryptocurrencies are used for financial speculation, fraud and illegal trade. With only tiny fractions of the cryptocurrency-using fraction of society using them for other purposes. I would not call that nonsense the embrace of a generation.


> Cryptocurrencies are used for financial speculation, fraud and illegal trade.

You mean like cash?

> With only tiny fractions of the cryptocurrency-using fraction of society using them for other purposes.

Well, tiny datapoint from tiny fraction: I've only used bitcoin for totally legit stuff. But I concede that all the other transactions might have been financial speculation, fraud and illegal trade. But I can't prove it either way, and I suspect neither can you.

> I would not call that nonsense the embrace of a generation.

Well, I would not call it nonsense either. And it probably isn't the embrace of a generation. But it is moving the needle.


It seems fairly uncontroversial to me to state that the vast majority of people who own cryptocurrency are treating it like a commodity, not like a currency. There's nothing wrong with that, and these people have made a lot of money (dollars) so far, but there's certainly a distinction to be made.


> There's nothing wrong with that, and these people have made a lot of money (dollars) so far,

They have only made a lot of dollars when they sell their crypto currency. Until then it is all fantasy, which is something a lot of .com millionaires would agree with, especially the ones that sold their solid companies for stock in less solid companies.


> You mean like cash?

I would guess that the OP means 'yes like cash, but cash is also used for other things whereas crypto currencies are not practically used for anything else.'


"crypto currencies are not practically used"

Again and again: no data demonstrates this claim.


The burden of proof isn't on the claim there is no practical usage. The default hypothesis is no usage.

The burden of proof is on the claim that non-speculation uses are greater than the speculation uses.


"The default hypothesis is no usage."

Says who? I agree speculators are a big fraction of crypto users, but you are making the even bolder claim that "crypto currencies are not practically used". Consider that lots of hard & anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15094514


> Says who?

Says the burden of proof. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof


Here's your data, a single sample size:

- I live in a US city with a population over 1M. - I have about 0.5 BTC - I have never - ever - seen a place in the Real World where I can spend it. - I cannot be sure of this assertion, but it's worth saying anyway: The only place online I can recall seeing that accepts BTC as payment is PIA vpn service. I cannot recall any other place (this certainly doesn't mean there aren't any!).

If a reasonably tech-savvy person cannot spend it in the real world, it does not meet my standards for something being 'practical'. Period.


I spend my bitcoins on: my CPA, computer gear (Newegg), games (Steam), VPS and domain names (Vultr, Gandi), furniture (Overstock), etc

Also you fail to realize it but Bitcoin's practicality extends to more than just payments: it's great for informal person-to-person transactions. I gift bitcoins to my family overseas, I pay back lunch money to coworkers in bitcoins, etc. In fact I think person-to-person transactions is one of Bitcoin's most promising use case...


"tiny fractions"

Citation needed. You have no data to back up your claims.

In my circles, cryptos seem to be primarily used either for person-to-person transactions (housing rent, beer money, small loans between friends) or--interestingly--B2B payments (US company paying their Chinese suppliers; Bitcoin excels at fast international payments.)


> cryptos seem to be primarily used either for person-to-person transactions (housing rent, beer money, small loans between friends)

I would be pretty miffed if someone as paying me their share of rent in crypto. No merchant I interact with accepts them, so it would be more than a hassle to convert into USD (fees, rapid valuation changes, etc).


But you might do it anyway, if it's enough of a value to your customers (like accepting a credit card payment)


If OP would put substance to their claim, I might be willing to look into that. It's nice that cryptocurrency is used as intermediate in your circles but surely you don't seriously disagree with my 'tiny fractions' of society being like that.

Can you give details about those B2B payments?



Recently, an international client was hosting a website surrounding a global sporting event. At a critical moment, their servers came under a DDoS attack. They needed our protection and they needed it immediately. The sporting event would have been completed by the time their financial institution could initiate a wire transfer. And it would have been several days later before our bank would have received the payment. However with bitcoin, the customer was able to pay quickly and we were able to activate the protection immediately. Bitcoin is hands-down the fastest way to secure an international payment from a new client in the event of a DDoS attack.“

LOL, maybe not the best source to post when we are talking about legitimate uses.


Something must be going over your head (hence the downvotes that you deserve)... You understand they are not paying the hackers, right? They paid a reputable InfoSec company for urgent DDoS protection. That's a perfectly legit use case.


Some of the speculation investors really believe in a future with cryptocurrencies. They want to be able to use it for all payments.

I would love to go to any country without needing to buy foreign currencies, and do conversion calculations on the spot. I would love to own a currency that is not controlled by governments and banks. I would love to wire transfer money on Friday evening and let it clear on Friday evening instead of Monday or Tuesday.

I'm sure it's also more convenient for a European airline to buy a Boeing without needing to time it right for their European bank to transfer the money first to a New York bank and then to Boeing, because of the time difference and bank opening hours. That's crazy, and reality.

What a retarded system are we living in? Time for some disruption! Then we will really find out which currencies are in a bubble.


* are used for financial speculation, fraud and illegal trade.

* gold, diamond, stocks, paper money, etc. would also fit the bill


And I would put gold and diamonds in the same bin as cryptocurrencies - a waste of resources that achieves very little good, beyond their industrial uses. Stocks are headed that way. The original use of providing capital to productive enterprise has waned. Paper money is still overwhelmingly used to facilitate legitimate trade, though obviously on a decline.


This is a disingenuous comment, all of those other things are primarily used for something else; so you either miss the point he's making or you're being unnecessarily pedantic.


Making an overly generalizing statement of a revolutionary technology based on how some people use them in just the first few years they were invented ("cryptocurrencies are used for bad things") is disingenuous and disregards their future potential.


No, it's a factual statement of where the tech currently stands. You're confusing your hope of what it might become with what it currently is.


"factual"

As I said elsewhere in this thread: you have provided no data to back up your "facts".

I am annoyed at people who constantly claim to know how are cryptocurrencies used, but... it's just what they think and have no data to show it.


Well hey, I'm annoyed by people who think their delusions of what something could be is the same thing as reality. I'm a huge fan of crypto, but the OP is correct about what it currently is and who's mostly using it. Demanding evidence of people's experience with things is just a cheap cop out to avoid discussion. Anyone involved in the space knows the value is largely speculation driven at this point and if you need that proven to you, then you don't know the tech or the community well enough to be conversing about it.


"Anyone involved in the space knows the value is largely speculation"

I agree value appears to be driven a lot by speculation, but you are changing subject. We were talking about usage. It's pretty obvious from payment processors, from people in the industry (have you ever attended a Bitcoin conference and talked to users? I have), from usage metrics (increasing tx rate, which is normally not related to speculators, as buying and leaving coins on exchange doesn't create a tx), and from other sources, that usage of cryptos is growing.

So, no, you can't say you "just know" cryptocurrencies aren't used by anyone.

PS: I am a crypto dev, wrote miners, founded TAV (mining ASIC integrator), and have been in the Bitcoin industry for 7 years. I know a thing or two.


I agree usage is growing, but that is not the topic. Most coins are moving not because of usage but because of speculation, people are buying largely because of speculation, trading because of speculation, and selling because of speculation; the majority of transaction volume is not coming from using Bitcoin as a currency to buy goods and services, it's from speculators entering the market due to the price rise.


Speculators do NOT (typically) cause coins to move. Buying, holding, and selling BTC on an exchange does NOT create transactions on the blockchain.

(Withdrawing and depositing BTC creates transactions, however most speculators do not do this, as most people leave BTC on exchanges.)


So? They are being used. The market cap of cryptocurrencies is over $100b which is significant money; and the exchange of these currencies is liquid as of date.


Imagine how much they'll be worth when they do something useful...;)


It's tiny, no more than the size of a single company in the real market. Crypto is cool, no need to exaggerate its size as more relevant than it really is, right it it's a tiny drop in a huge ocean of capital, it is not significant. The market cap of just the top 500 companies is $17.4 trillion.


This comment sort of annihilates itself.

If the market cap of the top 500 companies is 17.4 trillion then that averages out to 17400/500 which is a bit under 35 billion each. Which makes bitcoin as large or larger than a good chunk of those F500 companies.

I'm sure you could have picked a better example to illustrate just how tiny bitcoin is.


Uh, bitcoin is the size of a single company, that's a pretty good example of how small it is. It's 1/6th the size of Google, that's not a world changing amount of capital.


Again, that's incredible to me. Just think about it: something that was launched less than a decade ago in 'fire and forget' mode is right up there with one of the tech giants. It's not quite world changing but let's wait until it is over until we call that one.


I'm a big fan of crypto, I'm just saying don't count your chickens before they hatch; it isn't world changing yet, might be or might not be eventually but no need to exaggerate.


> it isn't world changing yet, might be or might not be eventually but no need to exaggerate.

Agreed. But think of it as my expectations of what Bitcoin would become being rather lower than where it is already. I'm absolutely amazed at how far it has come.


8 years after forming Google, the company wanted to raise $2.7B USD in their IPO. 8 years after Bitcoin was released, BTC has a market cap of $70B USD.


Well, how about it is larger than the GDP of Morocco? (I know GDP is not Market Cap, but $100bn is no way small).


Bitcoin is great for playing poker and buying ... y'know, things. That's because bitcoin is the bitcoin of cryptocurrencies. What are the other 999 actually used for day to day?


Crytocurrencies provide people with the ability to execute censorship resistant transactions.

Who else would want to send censorship resistant transactions other than people who are at risk of being censored?

The modern era is still relatively free of censorship, and thus the people using cryto are pretty far on the shady end of the spectrum.

But trend toward censorship in the modern era, is worrisome. Perhaps a whole lot more people are going to have to protect themselves against censorship in the future. And by censorship, I mean censorship done by ANYONE, including both the government, AND ultra powerful corporations that may as well be the government.


"The modern era is still relatively free of censorship"

Don't take this as an insult but what an ignorant comment... Financial, political & journalistic censorship (all inter-related) is rampant. Start by reading: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_press


I don't disagree that these things are bad. But all things are relative.

Perhaps I just have a bleaker imagination of how bad things COULD be.

I worry that as bad as things are today, we will look back on this era as a comparative golden age of freedom.


And follow up with 'Manufacturing Consent'.


That's an interesting claim that I'd like to see proven.


The internet is growing in users (http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/) and sites (https://news.netcraft.com/archives/category/web-server-surve...) BUT this growth means most of it goes to Google and Facebook (see case Latin America: https://www.sandvine.com/resources/global-internet-phenomena... and https://blog.parse.ly/post/2855/facebook-continues-to-beat-g...). Basically the internet grew about 7% in users from 2015 to 2016, but FB/G mobile traffic share in Latin America grew 16%. It's hard to get better statistics, but the statistics we have point to indeed a FB/G domination.

As for cryptocurrencies, as long as they are dependent on ISPs, they aren't actually decentralized. They're quite vulnerable, and the only way out is to not depend on ISPs or the whole wired internet to be honest. Blockstream is a good way forward.

Basically, the new decentralized web must be wireless-first: http://ssb.staltz.com/view/%25a1xQAO6/UCC370Cq+HcWjEni1ziXH+...


But all of things will never be found, if google or facebook don't point you to them. The author was saying, these 2 portals control access to everything else. Without join those 2 platforms, you have no visitors, thus the dark web.


Basically all decentralised systems share the same flaw. You have to download the entire dataset or use an index for every possible query which means the index will be larger than the data itself.


What? Why would the index be larger than the data itself?


I like the idea of "rebooting the web". If things continue in the direction they are going now, I could see many forms of the internet existing. Just as the Darkweb exists, I could see other splinter networks and technologies taking shape as the internet we know now becomes more homogenized, whether it is because of giants like Google and Facebook or government control (oh god pls no) or any other factor.

I still fondly remember looking at Nike's newest shoe offerings in 1997, waiting for the photos to download and listening to my dad complain about the phone line being tied up. I looked at my girlfriend the other day in fact, and just went "god, think of how different the internet is now compared to when we were younger. What the hell will it look like in twenty years?" She called me a nerd, but still considered the question. Exciting and sightly terrifying thought to ponder, really.


It's worth remembering that there is an important difference between "the Web" and "the Internet". This is the only way to understand something like when Alan Kay says, "The Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs."

If you're less clear on what this distinction is: HTML+CSS+JS transmitted over HTTP based on domains looked up via DNS -- this is the Web. Things like email and BitTorrent and peer-to-peer networks and older things like Usenet newsgroups have always existed on the Internet parallel to the Web, to say nothing of, say, SSH and ping and other developer-friendly utilities, or newcomers like BitCoin.

I've given a chunk of thought to how we might reboot the Web as a new service living on the Internet and I've come away with more questions than answers. What the Web has done extremely well is to convince a bunch of companies that they need to have a Web Server living on the thing and hosting their content. What it has done extremely poorly are these problems which maybe we don't even think about: link-rot, the fact that you can't throw a dime at a YouTube video you liked and trust that the content creator will get 8 cents and YouTube will get 2, the fact that nobody can directly advertise to you, "watch this video and we'll throw a dime at you!", the fact that you can't actually just fire up your browser and start publishing a feed of videos and articles that you like interspersed with a bunch of content you're writing -- you instead need to sign up with some social network or blogging platform and then play by their rules. The problem gets even harder when you think about systematically purging illegal content and discouraging spam and so forth -- indeed the key trait is to be able to say "I want to identify who is holding onto this content and go after them via non-technological enforcement measures" and such. One gets the impression that the Web is a very niche tradeoff in a vast configuration space and that there are many other possibilities -- but it's hard to see one that does something so fundamentally different to the Web that people will instantly be addicted, "THIS is what I want."


Part of the effect that the Web specifically has had over the past decade is to adjust the general personal computing public to the idea that programs and files are more ephemeral than they were, say, 10 years earlier. We don't really worry about "will such and such computer be compatible with my [whatever] files?" as much as we used to. This is actually quite big. What it means is that any system designed for personal computing needs to have one key program in order to be truly usable: a web browser.

Now, how does that get us past the Web or to the "next" web? Well, if a web browser is all you need, we can go about designing personal computing architectures that are very different from the current offerings. This means we can experiment with new programming languages and environments. Imagine making a computer optimized for something like a Smalltalk system. Sure it would be hard to catch on at first, but if the system came with a web browser and internet access, you'd be ahead of the game.


I have always wished that more people understood all these things you've written, for the sole reason that I believe the Internet has vastly more room for innovation than the Web. Oh well, at least we got MMO games.


Alan Kay and project Xanadu are well worth studying in detail for anybody interested in the web and what made it successful. The web is essentially an extremely watered down version of what it could have been.


> The web is essentially an extremely watered down version of what it could have been.

At the risk of starting a flamewar, this is largely due to the profit motive. Profit inherently causes focus on specific areas that may or may not a) have lasting social benefit, and b) be technologically robust.

There's something to be said for purely philanthropic projects. They promote us to explore things that profit might not otherwise encourage.


I do not think that is the reason. The web in its original form, long before commerce came along was already a watered down version of Xanadu.


I have read about Alan Kay, but never looked into Project Xandau. This sounds like something pretty interesting to check out and I will most definitely do so. To the parent reply, thanks for the clear, concise writeup, enlightening, it is appreciated.


I'd be hard pressed to find examples in history in which they were able to go back to a time before the consolidation took effect.


If I know anything about the future, it doesn't look like the present.

The web won't look like it does now in 2050, and neither will the internet.

But it might very well be built on webassembly on browsing engines cum operating systems on top of hypervisors on top of verified microkernels, and the web will probably be delivered on top of HTTP/2 on top of TCP/UDP and so on. The layers probably won't change that much.


> The layers probably won't change that much.

If someone solves the multicast problem during that time span things might change radically on several layers. And even if not some immutable, content-addressed protocols might make some inroads. SRI is planting the first seeds in that direction.


I had high hope for CCNx. Do you know what happened to it?


> The web won't look like it does now in 2050, and neither will the internet.

we're closer to 2050 than we were from 2017 in 1980 and yet people are still using emacs and telnet.


I'd venture to say that few people are using the emacs of 1980, and that telnet is mostly confined to legacy applications (not that it means the point is wholly invalid).


Do you think that an 1980 emacs user wouldn't be comfortable in a 2017 emacs because it advanced so much, or what's your point?


It's possible now to run Linux in a web page. How long before every web page has an Linux running in it?


IPv6 is also a very safe bet.


But I would also bet IPv4 is still in use.


If things really are so dire in...33 years, then it won't be Facebook or Google's fault, it'll be the fault of hundreds of thousands of hackers who had the technology available and did nothing because everyone knows those two are unbeatable, despite the fact that the tech gets cheaper and more accessible every single day.

We've got a long way to go. They're not unbeatable. They're massive goliaths, yes, but they also bloated and slow to adapt, can't focus on any one thing, and don't have consumer loyalty. They can be beaten. Not saying they will, but they can.

Side note, Halt and Catch Fire, which has always tried to be technically accurate starts focusing a lot on the early web in season 3 and 4. CERN, NeXTcubes, and related all make an appearance. It's a fun watch if you are interested in that stuff. The pilot starts with them reverse engineering an IBM PC.


That show is great. Really hoping the story arc MacMillian into McAfee. That could get really entertaining.


If you reduce the details of the story into the statement "the future of the web will be driven by anti-trust", I'd probably agree. The _present_ of the web is driven by anti-trust, and there's always more consolidation.

Where machine learning, social networks, and advertising have economies of scale, a tolerable future for the web would necessarily involve diseconomies of scale. Personal connection, concierge service, local long-term engagement with communities.


Throughout history, the moment anti-trust enters the picture is the exact moment the supposed monopolist begins its natural collapse.


I remember in the late-90s portals were all the rage, everyone wanted to be the one-stop shop for all their users browsing needs.


Absolutely. Yahoo! used to be a particular favourite of mine. Search, email, chat and games. A great place to hang out and weirdly not that far removed from Facebook. Sure the UI has evolved quite a bit but it's similiar basic services.


For a decent chunk of time maybe 1/4 of all internet users thought AOL was the internet.


Servers are only going to get cheaper. Programming is only going to get easier. If anything, things like search engines and social networks are going to become more competitive.

If someone has a genius idea for making a better engine, he won't work for google, he'll create his own.

Implicit in this fear of centralization is a kaczynskiist belief that "everything that can be invented has been invented".

People predicted some company taking over everything forever, and in fact even before the web existed sci-fi-authors imagined a centralized network, were from the servers to the software everything is provided by the government. It's never going to happen.


>Servers are only going to get cheaper. Programming is only going to get easier. If anything, things like search engines and social networks are going to become more competitive

Programming skill and number of programmers is not a limiting factor to Product and social networking development. In fact, there is a vast oversupply of talent. If you look at the talent to opportunity ratio: it's enormous.

Look at product hunt. Dozens of potentially brilliant projects built and released everyday and yet only a tiny tiny percentage will ever be successful. Most fail because, either they've built something that too few people find useful or the market they're trying to address is too crowded (already has too many people offering similar services).


Programming getting easier doesn't just mean that fewer or less skilled programmers can build the same thing, it means that things can be build that couldn't be build before.

Google wouldn't exist without C++ (as opposed to assembly language). Facebook wouldn't exist without PHP (as opposed to C++).


The rebooted decentralised web sounds exciting, but it's hard to deny that there are large number of projects that only Google can carry out. At what point does the dominance becomes irresponsibly large and requires intervention?


I think we've recently reached that point with AMP.


Hmm, do you have any examples?


"Zuckerberg running for president as a Republican candidate in the United States"

LOL... he would run as a Democrat, wouldn't he?


Given that the Republican party has already shown it is vulnerable to hostile takeover by people with just money, brand recognition and no political experience my bet would be he'd run as a Republican. Keep in mind that Trump too in the past leaned Democrat but ran as a Republican.


> Keep in mind that Trump too in the past leaned Democrat but ran as a Republican

Trump cultivated Democratic political connections as part of being an NYC-based real estate developer, but has been on the political right (and specifically the nativist/nationalist right) for quite a long time. His first Presidential run, which was abandoned early, was in 2000 when he threw his hat in the ring for the Reform Party nomination.


That's all true. but (and it is only a small 'but'): The Republicans are the party most friendly to big business and very wealthy people, something that Zuckerberg would surely like.


There's a pretty good case to be made that the dominant role of the neoliberal faction of the Democratic Party makes it the party that is substantively best for big business and the super rich at the moment (when it became dominant, it's economic policies we're not far from those of the dominant faction of the Republican Party—hence the “neoliberal consensus” that used to be frequently discussed—but since then he overlapping nativist/protectivist, social conservative, and religious authoritarian factions have gained more power.)


Then the question is whether he can beat the Rock in the primary.

Who do you think the Democratic nominee will be? Clinton again?


Republican would certainly be the smarter choice. Democratic constituents tend to be more idealistic and more inflexible when it comes to the issues of their particular faction, they're also less forgiving of idealogical transgressions. Republicans are more apt to fall in line as long as the candidate gives lip-service to the stratifying conservative talking points. I think you would agree, it is unlikely Zuckerberg would hesitate to reconstruct his positions as necessary to achieve the goal of being elected.


If history repeats itself, then some new technology will take Google and Facebook by surprise. And let a new player rise to the top.

AI is the obvious elephant in the room here.

If in 10 years Apple, Amazon, Tesla or some new startup has the better AI, then this AI will search and present content better. And market it better. And monetize it better. It might also produce its own content. Perfectly customized interactive 3D surround sound content.

Mayb it will be some decentralized autonomous organization that lives on a blockchain. Driven by AI, doing its thing. Outside of what a human mind can understand.


It is clear to me that AI will be part of the networking stack. AI will stand at the top. Everything will be filtered, ranked and searched by an intelligent agent that runs locally, before it meets the human eyes. I don't think Siri and Google Now will be the most popular AI assistants for long. Surely a local, open source solution will be preferable.


I think the current tech giants stand a pretty good chance of staying ahead of the AI startups. They're soaking up all the PhDs and have astonishing amounts of training data to play around with.


An aging Richard Stallman throwing his towel into the ring

That's when I realised this article was Fake News!


Some prefer the more-charitable, longer-lived term "fiction".


Relics like this exist today -- there are still Gopher servers out there. Current browsers no longer support the protocol, but you can tour the relics through a proxy -- info here:

http://gopher.floodgap.com/gopher/

The links to gopherspace itself are on the upper right ("standard version"/no-javascript); I'm honoring their request not to link to the proxy itself directly.


The symbolic nature of WWW leading to WW3 would be a little to much for me to handle.


If I was to bet, I would bet that in 2050 the web will be mostly replaced by some kind of VR network with a lot of sound, 3D videos and interactive objects. The web as it is already decays due to tons legacy cruft, insane complexity of doing trivial things, oceans of bad content and hyper-centralization. And all of these things are getting worse every year. VR is our best bet for a clean start.


My bet is in the exact opposite direction. I think that the internet will be increasingly ambient, driven by virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Now. Most interactions will be short, personalised and push-oriented. Rich VR experiences will exist, but they'll represent a very small proportion of internet use.

Consider the development of phone technology. In the 70s and 80s, most futurists thought that video calling would replace voice. They thought that richer, higher-bandwidth experiences would dominate the market. In fact, the opposite happened - voice was surpassed by SMS and IM. Users overwhelmingly prefer to communicate in a medium that is less rich, but more convenient. Asynchronous messaging came to dominate because it's "snackable" and doesn't demand your full attention.

I think that the future is an Amazon drone dropping off a box of goodies that you didn't order, but is exactly what you wanted. It's Google Now booking you an Uber to a restaurant that turns out to be your new favourite place. It's Spotify using heart rate, galvanic skin response, pupillary dilation and a thousand other data points to compose the soundtrack to your life.


> I think that the future is an Amazon drone dropping off a box of goodies that you didn't order, but is exactly what you wanted. It's Google Now booking you an Uber to a restaurant that turns out to be your new favourite place. It's Spotify using heart rate, galvanic skin response, pupillary dilation and a thousand other data points to compose the soundtrack to your life.

I will definitely opt-out of your future.


Those rich experiences never materialized. It's 2017 right now, Every time I open some video chat application, whether it's skype, or facetime, I get stutterring, and sound issues, not to mention the 5 minutes of lost time trying to set up the call.

I'm on a 50 mbps internet plan (the best plan in this area), and I live close to the At&t router, i'm told! of course, i loose 70% of that cuz i need to use 5ghz in a super crowded CA neighborhood. But still, 15mbps should be enough for video chat, right?


Whether or not VR becomes massively mainstream depends on whether it can become more standardized, affordable, and most importantly, whether the hardware can be miniaturized. It's clear that we have a long way to go in those departments, but 2050 is still a long time from now-- so it could be possible.

But your comment isn't on topic. The article is about predicted changes in how content is owned, distributed, and made profitable. It's about the trend away from decentralization, and how that's going to hurt certain people while benefiting others.

You're only thinking about the interface to the web, not the web itself: You might as well be saying, "The only way to fix the decaying internet is this new keyboard I heard is in the early stages of development!"

The article's prediction is that the entire web--VR or not--is going to be controlled and owned by Google and Facebook, and because they'll have such total control over information, they'll have a dangerous and unregulated degree of control over the lives of their users

Since your response is, "nah, VR is going to give us a clean start", how do you reconcile that with the fact that Google and Facebook are the two biggest players in VR right now?

If anything, the way that the "VR revolution" is playing out is just reinforcing what the author is saying. If you buy an Oculus, you're strongly encouraged to connect the device with your Facebook account, and the only way to launch a VR experience with the Oculus is through a custom app store similar to Steam, complete with social media integration and all.

VR's current state is looking worse than any other introduction of computer hardware in history. Could you imagine buying a monitor, mouse, keyboard, speakers, etc. and being forced to associate the device with a social network and app ecosystem?

Welcome to your new mouse! To install, please choose from the following:

[Express installation (recommended)] [Advanced]

Advanced Settings (WARNING: Advanced users only)

Share my mouse movements on Mousenet with:

[x] Everyone [ ] Friends of friends [ ] Friends only [ ] Just myself


So... everybody starts from the premise that we will still be here in 2050....


No, that the internet will still be here.


"at first joining the AMP bandwagon not realising this was the trojan horse that led to their eventual demise"

Hopefully this will not be the result of AMP but interesting take nonetheless.


Directionally, AMP does make the Google search page start to look more like the semi captive AOL interface of old. Content producers upload stuff to AOL, and pay for things like ads and "AOL keywords" to get an audience. AOL, meanwhile, controls the UI, puts whatever they want in the sidebars, has all the analytics data, etc.


It seems reasonably clear that it's one of the motivations _behind_ AMP - the result is down to us, in the end.


the internet will go the way of the telephone network.

what will replace it? a copy of all your favourite people stored on the implant in your brain. the interface will be a waking dream.


This scenario contains a lot to unpack. Let's try to extract some of the claims:

1. Most websites will get little to no traffic.

2. Consolidation will eventually result in a mere handful of verticals remaining, in the author's opinion, solely Google and Facebook.

3. At first, content framing tactics, like FB Instant Articles and Google AMP, will result in these providers obviating the need for users to navigate outbound links; instead, the content will be surfaced from within the ecosystem.

4. Content providers (i.e. "publishers") go along with the above because in truth they are desperate for revenue. Giving away content for free in exchange for the potential of display ad revenue due to high volume is seen as their only realistic hope for survival, making this a coercive relationship.

5. Some strange political speculation, but, notably, the two giants banning people and services who have presence on the other. Also, independent newspapers get bought out and absorbed.

Out of this distillation of claims, #5 is complete baloney more egregious than an industrially-processed slice of knockoff Mortadella; beyond even a fanciful fantasy of how these companies work. Claims #1 through #4, on the other hand, are very astute predictions, or rather, observations, as they're already here.

The long tail of websites is pretty long, and most sites indeed get very little traffic even today. One need not look further than the power of communities like HN and Reddit to slashdot all sorts of sites by overwhelming it with legitimate traffic. This brittleness and inability of some sites to scale to momentary demand, along with ISPs forbidding home servers and the risk of malicious denial-of-service means that the original way of self-hosting sites on the Web is largely dead [1], or at the very least, a risky call. This unfortunate fact means you probably want to pay someone to host your site instead. Though there are thousands upon thousands of professional hosting providers, it's a dramatically smaller number than the number of websites; so we're slowly walking up the tree of vertical consolidation.

#3 is well-documented, and #4 follows naturally from the tribulations of finding business models that work on the web [2].

I stand by the view that #5 is too much of a leap; willingly excluding potential customers seems like an act of folly -- Home Depot doesn't ban anyone who shops at Lowe's, but instead they'd love to lure them away. Orthodox airlines in the US at time of writing might as well be regarded as quadrupoly: they have suspiciously similar ticket prices for most non-hub destinations, and they have semi-secret programs to offer matching frequent flier status to the topmost tier of most profitable travellers if one wants to jump ship.

Nonetheless, there is in fact a real emergent phenomenon in the continued vertical consolidation of content silos. Apple -- mysteriously absent from the author's narrative -- is the exact sort of player whose excellent products, dedicated fanbase, and seeming benevolance will result in the sort of transformations that the author fears: Apple has doubled down on producing original content [3] for its captive ecosystem, following the tactics of Amazon and Netflix, but unlike them, Apple's presence does not extend horizontally to other platforms. In fact, we just had a trending article [4] which covered in-depth the different tactics companies use to achieve reach and retain customers.

It's more believable to envision a future similar to what happened to major US television networks: NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and Turner; lots of mergers and intrigue, phases of ownership by movie studios, phases of ownership by seemingly unrelated enterprises that pivoted to holding companies from something else, acquisitions in efforts to form new verticals; and yet despite all this, there's still several of them. They're all deeply vertical now, but their valuations and regulatory pressure keeps them existing side-by-side.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14699084 [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12299230 [3] https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/16/apple-said-to-be-spending-... [4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15082966


"After some years of dwindling turnover Apple finally got bought by Facebook, which gave Facebook a way to counter the ever stronger integration between Google's mobile offering vertically integrated from the website all the way to the phones and tablets running its Android-NG operating system. The reason it took as long as it did before this could come to pass is that Apple had tremendous cash reserves from their enormous business success in the first two decades of the new century and tried very hard to stay independent."


You made me do a double-take; to clarify, this paragraph is not present in the article, but it presents an intriguing retort to my scenario.


Agreed the political stuff was thin, but I could not resist the temptation and it fits well with the present day landscape becoming more and more polarized where people start treating politics more like team sports than something affecting all of us.


>If you read this far you should probably follow me on twitter


So guys who will you place your bets on personally I think Google will prevail over FB.




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