At the World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos, Eric Schmidt, who is Google’s chairman and one of the top technology executives, created a flutter on Friday with his statement on the future of internet. Schmidt said that internet will soon “disappear”.
Even by Schmidt’s standards – he is prone to making sweeping and prophetic statements – this was a rather unique prophecy. Schmidt is the chairman of a company that survives on internet. If internet “disappears” surely Google would also be gone.
Well, no. And the reason is that Schmidt didn’t exactly mean what he said. Just like most of his other overly broad and generalised statements, this one too has a more nuanced – and believable – side to it.
Here is the full statement that Schmidt made:
“I will answer very simply that the internet will disappear… There will be so many IP addresses … so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won't even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time.”
Now, that makes more sense. It is still an ambitious prophecy but it is also plausible if not downright impossible. We can also argue that such a world may not be good for the web as we know it and users, but it may come true.
What Schmidt really meant with his statement was that internet, as we know it, will be gone. It will be replaced by something different, where we will continue to be connected but we won’t even know how we are connected.
This means, when you have to access a service like Facebook, you won’t have to switch on your internet connection and open a website and then log into it. You will be able to pick up a device and just start browsing your Facebook feed. A lot of it is already happening. For example the Facebook app on an Android phone. It is always connected, you don’t have to log in or put the password all the time.
Or a better example of invisible web is Google Now. It connects so many dots in the background that a user doesn’t even know that they are using internet. Google Now tells the weather as soon as you land up in a new place, automatically. You don’t have to on a browser and search for it. It tells you news stories you will like to read. Automatically. It tells you if your flight is late.
Automatically. Everything happens in the background. You don’t have to browse anything or open a website. That work is now done by AI (artificial intelligence) in the background.
But this is just the beginning. In the coming days, we may see smarter devices completely taking over what we call browsing. These devices may forge their own connections. They may talk to each other. For users this means they will have the information but they won’t have to bother with the means of getting this information.
This may not turn out to be an utopia that Schmidt or Google may like you to believe. It will definitely have a darker side to it, especially around the concept of privacy, control and choice. But as far its plausibility is concerned, it may well be the future of our connected world.