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New research: The future of the Internet — Will the web die out?

By Lesley Lanir     Mar 23, 2012 in Internet
New research published by Pew Research Center and Elon University focuses on how the popularity of apps, tablets and smartphones could alter the way people access and consume information in the future and question whether the web can survive the upsurge.
The infamous Wired cover story: “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet,” by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff and their claim that "The notion of the Web as the ultimate marketplace for digital delivery is now in doubt" rattled the Internet world and instigated a number of deep investigations into the future of the Web.
As part of an ongoing series about the future of the internet, the latest joint study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center published March 23, 2012 looks at the future and popularity of the Web versus apps.
In the growing market of Apps, the study reports:
• According to Cisco, by 2016, there will be 10 billion mobile Internet devices in use globally.
• Smartphone traffic will grow to 50 times the size it is today by 2016.
• Google’s Android Market hit 10 billion downloads by December 2011.
• Android users have been downloading apps at a rate of 1 billion a month.
• Apple announced March 3, 2012, 25 billion apps had been downloaded.
Lee Rainie  Director  Pew Internet Project
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet Project
Lee Rainie, Pew Research
The joint research headed by Janna Quitney Anderson and Lee Rainie took place between August 28 and October 31, 2011. During this time, 1,021 experts and Internet stakeholders from the Institute for the Future, Harvard, Stanford, Google, and Microsoft chose from two opposing statements referring to apps growth versus Web and were asked to predict the state of the internet in 2020.
Some 59% of the respondents agreed with the statement:
In 2020, the World Wide Web is stronger than ever in users' lives. The open Web continues to thrive and grow as a vibrant place where most people do most of their work, play, communication, and content creation. Apps accessed through iPads, Kindles, Nooks, smartphones, Droid devices, and their progeny—the online tools GigaOM referred to as "the anti-Internet"—will be useful as specialized options for a finite number of information and entertainment functions. There will be a widespread belief that, compared to apps, the Web is more important and useful and is the dominant factor in people's lives.
Some 35% of the respondents agreed with the opposite statement:
In 2020, most people will prefer to use specific applications (apps) accessible by Internet connection to accomplish most online work, play, communication, and content creation. The ease of use and perceived security and quality-assurance characteristics of apps will be seen as superior when compared with the open Web. Most industry innovation and activity will be devoted to apps development and updates, and use of apps will occupy the majority of technology users' time. There will be a widespread belief that the World Wide Web is less important and useful than in the past and apps are the dominant factor in people's lives.
In correspondence wth Digital journal, Lee Raine states that:
The answer from the respondents to our survey: The Web isn’t dead, but it’s changing. And some of the changes towards more app-oriented access to information worry many of them.
J Anderson
In their report Anderson and Rainie summarise the various reactions from the survey respondents with a response by futurist John Smart, founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation. Smart views the rise in apps as a current trend in the overall development of the Internet. He is quoted quote as saying:
Apps are a great intermediate play, a way to scale up functionality of a primitive Web but over time they get outcompeted for all but the most complex platforms by simpler and more standardized alternatives. What will get complex will be the ‘artificial immune systems’ on local machines. What will get increasingly transparent and standardized will be the limited number of open Web platforms and protocols that all the leading desktop and mobile hardware and their immune systems will agree to use. The rest of the apps and their code will reside in the long tail of vertical and niche uses.
Read the full report: The Future of Apps and the Web including responses from experts and professionals about the future of the internet.
More about Internet, Mobile apps, Web apps, Pew research center, Lee rainie
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