A Look Ahead: the Internet in 2010

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Casey Stengel, baseball hall of famer, once said, “Never make predictions, especially about the future.” He was probably right, and I may regret this blog post in a year or so. With that in mind, here’s the five Internet-related topics that I think are going to be very important in 2010:

1. Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). At the ICANN meeting in Seoul in October 2009, ICANN announced one of the most significant changes to the Internet in its 40 year history. I blogged about it when it happened, and since then it has gone on to pretty much dominate domain name news. Since November 2009, nations and territories have been able to apply for IDN ccTLDs. If all goes according to plan, these IDNs will be operational by mid-2010. Since non-Latin alphabet scripts are used by something like 800 million Internet users, it’s pretty safe to assume IDNs will be a popular item in 2010.

2. How the rise of social media is changing the way people use the Internet. When CIRA began 10 years ago, we used the Internet to get information from websites and send emails. Fast forward to 2009. The rise in social networking sites means fewer people are using email, and we’re using the Internet to share and interact with each other.

Social media is still new and we’re just trying to find our way around it – think about the current debates about privacy – but it’s already changed the way many of us do business and even how some kids are learning. In short, we’re witnessing a change in the way people actually use the Internet.

3. Internet governance, including the new arrangement between ICANN and the U.S. Government. Following the ICANN meeting in Seoul, South Korea at the end of October 2009, I blogged about the fact that the U.S. government now has an indefinite contract as the top watchdog for the overall ICANN process. Following that meeting, hardly a mention was made of it in the media. I know we haven’t heard the last of this issue; it may likely take on a life of its own in 2010.

4. The emergence of mobile as the next big thing for accessing the Internet. There are more than 450 million mobile Internet users worldwide and that number is increasing. The meteoric rise in popularity of some social media sites like Twitter are in part driving the rise in use of mobile devices (or is it the other way around?), making this a topic that we are going to hear a lot about in 2010.

5. Streaming media. The fact that so many Internet users now have broadband access and that video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo have so much content has people, especially Canadians, moving away from their TVs to their computers to watch videos. This rise in the use of video on the Internet continues to drive demand for bandwidth. I think we’re going to start talking about this a lot in 2010.

What do you think the top stories of 2010 will be?

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Dr. Vint Cerf Looks Ahead

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Because the New Year is fast approaching, and 2009 marks the end of the first decade of this century, we’re seeing a lot of ‘year in review’ and ‘decade in review’ reports lately.

Being the CEO of a technology centred organization, I tend to prefer looking ahead as opposed to looking back in time. Perhaps this is why the end of year article that really caught my attention was this interview with Dr. Vint Cerf by CBC.   As one of the head designers who worked on TCP/IP in the early 1970s, Cerf played an integral role in how the Internet operates today and is often referred to as the “father of the Internet”.

In the CBC interview, instead of looking back at where the Internet has been, Dr. Cerf looks ahead to what we can expect. It’s a little bit science fiction and a little bit science fact, and all in all a fascinating read.

As it happens, I was chatting with Dr. Cerf earlier this week and the thing that really stood out for me was how passionate he remains about the subject and the possibilities for the Internet in the future.  We were supposed to be talking about something fairly mundane, but within minutes he was speaking excitedly about new technologies and potential of IDNs.  Quite inspirational really, and served to remind about how much potential the Internet still holds.

What do you think the future holds for the Internet?

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Internationalized Domain Names

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At the ICANN meeting In Seoul in October 2009, ICANN announced one of the most significant changes to the Internet in its 40 year history. By approving the use of new extensions containing non-Latin characters, ICANN not only opened the Internet up to millions, perhaps billions, of users worldwide, they also reinforced the idea that the Internet is truly a global resource.  It means that people can access it in their national language, even if that language uses non-Latin characters, like Greek, Hindi, Arabic, Russian, Korean, or a host of many others.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the Internet is truly becoming a resource for all of us, regardless of place of residence or the language we speak. This is important for Canadians. Canada is a multicultural country. We are one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world. Half of the population of our largest city, Toronto, were born outside of Canada. Statistics Canada estimates that by 2017, that there will be 1.8 million people of Chinese descent in Canada.

ICANN put together a great video about IDNs, and what this decision means. One line from the video that resonates for me is, “it’s one step at making the Internet equally accessible for everyone.”  You can find it here.

I think ICANN’s decision is a step forward in advancing the Internet as being accessible to all. What do you think?

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ICANN’s Strategic Plan

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ICANN, the folks who manage the coordination of the DNS and Internet addressing, have opened their Strategic Plan for July 2010 to June 2013 to public comment.  This Plan was first presented at the ICANN meeting that was held in Seoul in October, and outlines four areas of work for ICANN: preserve DNS security and stability; promote competition, trust, choice, and innovation; excel in Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and other core operations; and, contribute to shaping a healthy Internet eco-system.

This is all part of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder, bottom-up approach to Internet governance. A laudable approach for sure, and one that, in my opinion, democratizes some of ICANN’s internal decision-making.  It is, in fact, ICANN’s carrying out of Section 7 of its Affirmation of Commitments which calls for ICANN to “adhere to…responsive consultation procedures that provide detailed explanations for basis of decisions”.

ICANN has been around for about 11 years now. In that time, the Internet has changed dramatically. It has become a resource for everybody with access, regardless of whether or not we can attend ICANN meetings in Seoul, live in an urban centre in a developed nation or in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is a resource and a tool that can be used for business, family communications, political activism, and many, many more things. It truly is one of very few resources available for the entire world, and, in my opinion, it is only right that its users have the opportunity to have their say in how it is going to work in the future.

Specifically, ICANN is looking for responses to the following two questions:

  1. What should be the three to five year high level strategic objectives for each of the four areas of work?
  2. What would be the specific metrics for each of the four areas of work?

You can find the Strategic Plan public consultation here. You have until January 21, 2010 to have your say. I know I plan to. Do you?

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