When you think about the basic essentials of internet use today, everything feels straightforward. Email, search engines, chat systems, basic digital payments, video and audio streaming…. These are the building blocks of most people’s day-to-day internet use, and in 2020 they tend to feel like second nature. Once upon a time though, they had to be learned. There was a day on which you created your first email address; an instance when you found a video on YouTube for the first time; an initial transaction you made while shopping online. As hard as it is to think back on these times, on these first instances things didn’t feel quite so easy or familiar.
Thinking about things this way makes it all the more interesting to look forward to the internet of tomorrow. With that in mind, we did some thinking about some of the online concepts that are relatively new to some people today, but which may become second nature in time. The following are five that came to mind.
1. Video Conferencing
It would be hard to start this list with anything else given how rapidly video conferencing has caught fire in the bizarre social and working conditions of 2020. Indeed, Fast Company pointed out that the rise in video chatting has been so sudden that some upstart companies have been able to establish themselves as leaders before the big tech companies had time to dominate the space. The result is likely to be a broader selection of video conference providers over the long term, consisting of these upstairs (like Zoom and Houseparty) and big-tech alternatives alike. Regardless of the companies involved though, video conferencing is fast becoming vital in everyday life. It’s not a new concept in 2020, but it’s certainly becoming a more important one, to the point that it now looks to be part of the fabric of near-future internet use.
Cryptocurrency has been around for more than a decade at this point, but it’s still only beginning to catch on with a wider audience (beyond the early enthusiasts, that is). It all started with bitcoin, which as we wrote in our piece asking ‘What is Bitcoin?’ is “a computerized currency, which is utilized and dispersed electronically.” That covers the basic concept of cryptocurrency in general, and it’s something more and more people are going to come to understand in the years ahead. Cryptocurrency is not poised to displace fiat currency the way some once argued it would. But it is becoming more and more useful as an alternative, and it will likely continue to work its way into the world of web-based digital transactions.
Blockchain is a digital network that came into existence alongside bitcoin. It is in fact the playing field for cryptocurrency in some sense — the ledger that enables and records all crypto transactions. This is important to understand with regard to cryptocurrency’s expanding importance. But even more important is the fact that blockchain technology is now being used in countless ways that go beyond crypto transactions. The technology’s fundamental capability is that of facilitation. It can be used to create contracts wherein an action automatically triggers a digital response. And these contacts are already being used in everything from tracking precious resources at points of sale to carrying out real estate transactions. Some see the blockchain’s potential as being so vast that the technology will almost create a sort of new internet unto itself.
4. Cloud Storage
Like some of the other concepts here, cloud storage isn’t actually new — but it is becoming far more prevalent. Plenty of people today still don’t consciously use the cloud. Moving forward though, cloud storage is going to become so ubiquitous that there won’t be much choice. For those who aren’t familiar, Box explains the basic benefits of cloud storage, which basically boil down to the ability to store and share files entirely online, as opposed to on a device. To some extent, cloud storage is valuable as a means of security; your data is protected even if the device you created it on becomes compromised. Additionally though, cloud storage makes for incredible convenience, both for individuals who would like to access their files seamlessly from different devices and for businesses that want to bring about easy online collaboration between employees. Many have already realized these benefits today, but another five years from now there will be few internet users who aren’t consciously and constantly using the cloud.
5. VR Socialization
Of everything mentioned here, VR socialization is the newest concept, and probably the one furthest from becoming a day-to-day reality. The idea is that video chatting and even social network interaction could ultimately migrate to virtual reality, such that we are able to interact with other people socially in immersive, 3-D environments. The Sociable looked into the future of this concept and found some encouraging data — most notably that 77% of young people (those in the Gen-Z and Millennial generations) are interested in the idea. Furthermore, we’re already seeing some early trial runs of VR social networks. So, while we don’t know exactly what VR socialization will ultimately look like, this is clearly becoming an exciting concept to keep an eye on.
Hopefully this has given you a few things to think about regarding the internet of tomorrow. Embrace these concepts and technologies now, and you may just have a leg up on the future!