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The DIY Internet: Parallel Universes?

The DIY Internet: Parallel Universes?

"People are inherently selfish -- they want to read about what directly affects them, such as local or community news," said Steve Boriss, associate director at Washington University's Center for the Application of Information Technology. He envisions a future news community consisting of millions of local sites that use technologies similar to RSS feeds to deliver content.

By Erika Morphy
01/09/08 4:00 AM PT

The annual Consumer Electronics Show, now in progress in Las Vegas, not only highlights the must-have consumer products for the upcoming year, but also provides a forum for tech execs to share their philosophical musings on the future of their industry.

This year is no exception. On the second day of the show, Intel CEO Paul Otellini described his vision of the future Internet: a more personalized medium that lets users build their own experiences, reading and watching only the content that interests them the most. In short, it will become strictly what people want it to be.

It will also be more proactive in its efforts to please.

Currently, Otellini explained, the Internet reacts to our requests for information rather than anticipating them.

"The next evolution of the Internet is moving away from that model," he said. "Instead of [our] going to the Internet, the Internet is going to come to us. ... You have to think about a more personal Internet -- one that is proactive, predictive and context-aware."

Utopian View?

Otellini didn't miss the opportunity to show how Intel plans to leverage these future trends.

Canmore, the company's forthcoming new chip for consumer electronics devices, will allow people to connect to the Internet from a variety of devices, he pointed out.

Otellini also revealed a new mobile chip platform, called "Menlow," that can support streaming video, Flash and Java.

Still, his utopian talk of "the personal Internet" is what simultaneously captured imaginations and drew out the skeptics.

Otellini's view of the future is already being realized in some ways, Steve Boriss, associate director at Washington University's Center for the Application of Information Technology, told TechNewsWorld.

"Consider the way many people are consuming news now online," said Boriss, who also teaches a class called "Future of News."

"People are inherently selfish -- they want to read about what directly affects them, such as local or community news."

Thus far, such sites have been relatively underdeveloped. In the future, though, Boriss envisions a news community consisting of millions of local sites that use technologies similar to RSS (really simple syndication) feeds to deliver content.

Measured Criticism

Business intelligence, social networking, job boards and chat rooms are all leading to the realization of Otellini's vision, said Kyliptix CEO William Gast.

"However, I think the adoption rate will be fairly slow," he told TechNewsWorld. "Generation Y -- and to some degree Generation X -- will be more apt to head down this path. ... The question will be, how far-reaching will it go?"

The problem is -- the mob scene at CES notwithstanding -- the U.S. is still too culturally disparate to fully support Otellini's vision. Countries like Japan are more advanced in this respect, Gast observed, because technology Visit the VMware Tech Center is more closely tied in to the daily routines.

"Other countries -- mainly emerging countries -- are going to have more widespread adoption of things like 'the personal Internet,'" he predicted.

The future of the Internet is not an either/or proposition -- that is, either greater personalization or passive access to information, Simeon Spearman, a futurist at Social Technologies, told TechNewsWorld.

The current model of "consumers actively seeking information on the Internet is important to the realization of a more personalized experience," he said.

Also, much will depend on how mobile devices integrate features such as GPS (Global Positioning System), cameras and voice recognition, all of which will provide data for personalization.

"Otellini's demonstration suggests that location-based services and a truly mobile Internet experience are finally being realized after a lot of discussion over the past few years," Spearman said.

Cold Water

Some sectors will flat-out reject a move to greater personalization, though, Jason D. Baker, associate professor at Regent University's School of Education, told TechNewsWorld.

"One sector likely to resist wholesale implementation of Otellini's vision of the Internet is education," he said. "Despite the significant growth of nontraditional education in the past decade -- particularly homeschooling on the K-12 level and online learning in higher education -- many schools and colleges are reluctant to cede ground to self-directed learners, just-in-time instruction, or social network-based learning."

Educational institutions, particularly for-profit universities and technology-driven schools, will likely experiment with new instructional models, but most colleges will focus their attention on using the personal Internet to attract potential students and to network with alumni, he said.

"While the personal Internet could be a boon to developing a lifelong learning relationship between students and universities, it's unlikely to replace traditional degree-granting models in the near future," Baker concluded.


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