You might not have noticed, but the Internet celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. To commemorate the occasion, the Pew Research Centre (USA) asked 2,600 experts and technology builders to predict what our digital lives would be like in 2025. The results were striking, but perhaps not surprising. For example, a common response was that the Internet will become like electricity – less visible, yet more deeply embedded in our lives.
However, while most respondents agreed on the kind of technology change that lies ahead they disagreed about its ramifications and the effects on our lives. Nonetheless, the majority believed there will be:
- A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment (connected via smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, and massive data centres) creating the Internet of Things
- Augmented reality enhancements to real-world input (that people will perceive through the use of portable, wearable and implantable technologies)
- Disruption of business models established in the 20th century (most notably impacting finance, entertainment, content publishing and education)
- Tagging, databasing, and intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms
Commenting on the report, Joe Touch (Director at the University of Southern California’s Information Science Institute) offered an insightful conclusion: “We won't think about going online or looking on the Internet for something – we will just be online, and just look!”
The human race seems to have accepted that the only constant is change. We are now adopting new technologies faster than ever before. Consider that in 1876 it took the telephone 35 years to be used by more than one quarter of Americans; the mobile phone introduced in 1983 took 13 years; and the Internet launched in 1991 needed just seven years.
But something else is happening as well. We, as audiences, are becoming hungrier for compelling and engaging content. “Television let us see the global village, but the Internet lets us be actual villagers,” said Paul Jones, professor at the University of North Carolina and founder of ibiblio.org.
Simultaneously, the Internet is also making it possible for us to share knowledge on a scale never before imagined. To reach out and connect one-to-one with the billions of humans on this planet. Not just as individuals, but also as marketers and influencers.
Are these trends and predictions something that businesses should be apprehensive about? Can companies succeed without effective online presences and the adoption of emerging technologies? But in the same vein, does doing so guarantee success?
The key to unlocking the future of communication and marketing is relevance. Content and the technology used to share it must be relevant to the intended audience. Consider TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) as an example. Founded in 1984 as a one-off event, the conferences became an annual feature as late as 1990. In 2012, TED celebrated its 1 billionth video view – equating to 17 new page views a second, and proving without doubt the power of compelling, focused and integrated content.
There’s no doubt that we will have plenty of instantly accessible digital content to choose from by the time 2025 comes around, but the real question is how much of it will we be attracted to? Entities and businesses that understand this fundamental truth are the ones that will lead and prosper.