What will the internet look like in 2040?

The World Wide Web was officially born way back in 1991 and has developed considerably since then. So, what will the internet look like a similar distance ahead? We asked a range of industry insiders, and have collated their professional opinions, below. Interestingly, they’re remarkably consistent…


A whole host of competing internets

Nick Lambert, CMO of UK startup Maidsafe

By 2040, global decentralised computing networks running on the spare computing resources of individual users’ machines, mobiles and embedded devices will be common place. Rather than having one internet, there will be several (similar to browsers today) and large technology companies will compete to be the most dominant.


Rings of an onion diced to suit your need

Garry Stevens, business consultant and CEO of Centerprise

The internet could be structured as many different internets by 2040. I can envisage a free-to-go zone for all the personal level information that families collaborate on, and a different area that would be the ‘professional’ social media domain. Perhaps we will see another level of the internet focused purely on business information that companies would need to pay to be a part of... 

Think of the internet as the rings of an onion that could be separated and diced to suit the need, instead of the whole onion as it is today.  With different performance needs, security requirements, fees and uses, the internet could drive the structure of society by the access levels that you need and the ones that you can afford!


The Cloud-of-Things

Peter Cochrane OBE, the ex CTO of BT

If by 2040 we have achieved sustainable societies and smart cities it will be on the back of Clouds-of-Things sustained by a dense infrastructure of low energy optical fibre and short hop wireless.  The internet of today will be a distant memory along with cellular mobile, which already represents a minority carrier.

New generations of Wi-Fi (and more) will provide the primary short-range communication between people and things, whilst networks without infrastructure will dominate along with local storage. Whilst most things will have to be online, they need not communicate beyond some local community or boundary, and even for many apps and services this projection could be the dominant mode.


Wired-up to our everyday lives

Gary Taylor, Business Director of the digital agency, TMWI

In 2040 the internet will be wired into our everyday lives to help in all aspects from ordering food in our home, driving our cars and essentially play the role as our virtual personal assistant. The Internet of Things will have converged and the items we carry on our person will no longer exist as separate entities (wallet, credit cards, phone, car keys, ID) particular advancements in healthcare and education will change the way patients are diagnose and students are taught as the ability to access large data sets and information in real time becomes better and faster. Connectivity in developing countries will have allowed significant investment and commercial growth within those areas, creating a new generation of empowered workers.


The internet of identity

Richard Lack, Director of Sales at Gigya

By 2040, users will experience an entirely fluid internet experience, both online and in the real world with Internet of Thing devices, all communicating and learning via that single digital identity. We are already seeing the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google moving to dominate digital experiences. By 2040, these user experiences will have developed considerably.


Sensors, data and more AI

Robert Ackland, Group Director of Product Development for HEG

My first prediction for the internet in 2040 is that the bar for creating an online presence online will be set lower and lower. In 25 years, I’d expect a huge degree of maturity here, with Artificial Intelligence being used to anticipate needs and customise experiences in real-time based on feedback and trends.

My second prediction revolves around the evolution of the location aware internet that we’re seeing today. In 2040, the environment aware internet will be mature and widely accepted. Vast numbers of sensors with real-time processing capability will instrument every facet of your life - creating wearables that can keep you healthy, cars that can drive themselves, and buildings that can optimise your energy costs.  


DNA security

Zafar Jamati, account executive at technology PR agency Stone Junction

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.


Like rats in a maze…

James Kirkland, Chief Architect of Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat

The boon and bane of the internet in 2040 will be that most real world objects will be connected to it via pervasive IPV6 wireless internet. It will allow amazing gains in productivity. We will see services and products we couldn't have imagined. The downside will be the huge potential risks to security, privacy, and sanity. A well monitored 2040 internet life will be productive, but like rats in a maze we have to ensure it is happy as well.


Wearable implants and the dark web

Bradley Maule-ffinch, Director of Strategy, IP EXPO Europe

In 2040, the way we work will be unrecognisable. Everything will be connected, thanks to the Internet of Things. Gadgets will have entered a new domain, with wearable technologies the norm for business and leisure, perhaps implanted into the body. Flexibility will be key, and the traditional office will phase out. On a darker note, web surveillance will increase dramatically and shift more people into the ‘dark net’, which will become difficult to police and create complex security issues. That said, we are excited to see how IT, as we know it, will have changed.


Woven into our daily fabric

Axel Pawlik, Managing Director of the RIPE NCC

The internet of 2040 will be ubiquitous, invisible, and woven into the fabric of everyday life. Future applications will use this infrastructure to enrich our lives in ways that we can’t even imagine today. All of this will be built on a foundation of work that is being done today [on IPv6] by thousands of network engineers in cooperation around the world.    


100 billion connected devices and a “digital butler”

Paul Gainham, ‎Senior Director Vertical Marketing Telecom, Cable and Cloud Vertical at Juniper Networks

Although there are only approximately 7 billion humans on planet Earth as of 2015, some people are estimating there could be some 20-25 billion devices of all varieties connected to the global internet by 2020.  If that forecast is accurate it’s not a stretch of the imagination to suggest that number could approach 100 billion by the end of 2040. Everything that can be or is useful to have connected, [will be] connected.

Lots of potential goodness in that but one major downside – human capability to absorb information from such a vast resource and capacity and act on it in a beneficial manner.  That’s where another of the major enhancements to the future internet will likely figure in my opinion – fully integrated artificial intelligence or as I like to call it the “digital butler”.


An instant capsule into historical events

Paul Bolt, VP of Technology Practice Areas, Rackspace

In 2040, we won’t even be calling it the internet. Instead, it will be totally immersive and fully engrained in all we do - yet for all intents and purpose, invisible.

As part of this, virtual reality will also be fully immersive, placing you seamlessly into work environment, historical events and even football matches – imagine being placed in the shoes of your favourite player live? I think that in 25 years, this will be a reality.


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