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June 22 2013


Solutions for Creative Brand Marketing

Advertise here with BSA

There are only so many various methods for getting your company out there in the world. To be recognized among a global audience is spectacular, if you can manage to keep people interested. Running your own website is a challenge and branding is the key ticket for natural marketing. People who are able to associate with your website are more willing to share it around and jump on board.

In this brief article I would like to share a few different resources for creative branding. All of these ideas are more geared towards marketing, which can take a lot of time and practice to get it right. But when you start landing new interested people it is definitely worth the time. I hope that these resources may provide a good starting point for webmasters looking into brand marketing.

24 Hour Print

In the latest craze of online printing services we can find 24 Hour Print. This is a beautiful product with a truly honest turnaround time – one day for your product orders. It really is fantastic! I have been impressed with not just the design, but also the quality of their products. After going through some of the examples it is clear that you may select from a wide range of print marketing materials.

24 hour print printing services online internet shipping

With enough money you can have same-day business cards shipped right to your office. This is a brilliant strategy because you are paying for the expedited services while also managing your own overhead costs. The design work should be done ahead of time so that way you have branding which is already recognizable. If you want to get into deeper ideas why not purchase design brochures or bumper stickers?

Online Portfolio

Does your company have any products or designs to show off? It may be worthwhile to setup a small online portfolio on websites like Carbonmade. This is a brilliant open community for designers to setup their own portfolio of creative works. But it can also be used by companies and other businesses, too.

By generating an online portfolio you will have time to practice this branding. You can see what works and what doesn’t. Plus you’ll have the fun time of rooting around for older projects worth posting on the site. And then when people search your company name in Google, you can expect quite a few search results.

carbonmade portfolio website online theme projects internet

Targeted Advertising

The final big point you might want to try is webpage advertising. This means you would pay an agency or network a fixed price to run your ads on a website or group of sites. Many Internet marketers will swear by Google AdWords which is a fairly common solution. But it also requires a bit of planning to get your ads placed on the right websites.

Each payment is done by click, and you invest a certain amount of money into your AdWords account for this service. Then people are driven to your website and may check out other stuff online. It is a great marketing plan because you can directly implement the graphics/branding of your website into the advertisement.

Final Thoughts

The Internet is a large place with a whole lot of people. It can be tough to draw in crowds interested in your website. But just keep in mind how various marketing endeavors often end up running themselves with enough traffic. If you truly believe in your product then keep at it! Others will notice your determination and it will provide a lot of benefit to the community.

April 12 2013


Lo stato della rete Internet: Report 2013

Lo stato della rete Internet - Report 2013
Negli ultimi 12 anni Internet è stato protagonista di una crescita strepitosa. A livello globale si è passati dai 361 milioni di utenti attivi nel 2000 agli attuali 2,4 miliardi. L’incremento ha segnato una crescita del 566,4% rispetto agli inizi del nuovo millennio. Un balzo in avanti assai significativo che merita un approfondimento.

Nel periodo 2000-20012 le aree geografiche del pianeta che hanno registrato la maggiore crescita nell’utenza sono state l’Africa, passata da 4,5 a 167 milioni di utenti (+3.606,7%), il Medio Oriente, da 3,2 a 90 milioni (+2.639,9%) e l’America Latina con la zona caraibica passate da 18 a 254 milioni di utenti (+1,310,8%).

In termini assoluti, l’Asia con oltre 1,07 miliardi di utenti è il continente con il maggior numero di persone connesse a Internet anche se, in termini relativi, il tasso di penetrazione del Web calcolato come utenti connessi rapportati alla popolazione totale di 3,9 miliardi di abitanti, è appena del 27,5%. Meglio solo dall’Africa che chiude la classifica con un modesto tasso di penetrazione del 15,6%. Dal punto di vista della penetrazione globale i dati restano ancora abbastanza scoragganti. Appena il 34,3% della popolazione globale ha accesso a internet anche se si registra una crescita positiva con un balzo del +5,3% rispetto alle stime che nel 2010 parlavano di appena il 29%.

Sfogliando le statistiche per regione, la Corea del Sud è il Paese asiatico con il più alto tasso di penetrazione della rete con 40,3 milioni di utenti connessi pari all’82,5% della popolazione totale. Seguono il Giappone con 101 milioni di utenti e una penetrazione del 79,5%, il Brunei con una penetrazione del 78%, Taiwan 75,4%, Singapore 75% e Hong Kong 74,5%.

Il Nord America si conferma a livello globale l’area geografica con il maggiore tasso di penetrazione della rete. Il 78,6 percento dei 348 milioni di abitanti, circa 273,7 milioni, è connesso regolarmente a Internet. A seguire l’Australia con il 67,6% e l’Europa con il 63,2%. In totale il nostro continente ha 518,5 milioni di utenti connessi alla rete su una popolazione totale di 820,9 milioni di abitanti.

La Germania è in testa alla classifica dei paesi più connessi in Europa. 67,4 milioni di utenti, pari all’83% degli 81,3 milioni di abitanti, accedono regolarmente a Internet. L’Italia che per numero di abitanti è confrontabile alla Francia sfigura clamorosamente con un tasso di penetrazione di appena il 58,4% e un totale di 35 milioni di utenti connessi. In Francia sono 52,2 milioni, pari al 79,6% degli abitanti. In Europa, la percentuale più bassa di utenti connessi si registra in Kosovo con appena il 20,5% di utenti sul totale degli abitanti.

Il Brasile guida la classifica dei paesi sudamericani più connessi a Internet con 88,4 milioni di utenti pari al 45,6% del totale degli abitanti, seguito dal Messixco con 42 milioni e l’Argentina 28 milioni.

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December 14 2011


How SOPA/PIPA Can Affect You

The United States government has been facing an intense amount of pressure, mostly from the entertainment and computer software publishing companies for years to find some method of stopping the online piracy that is allowing people to own copies of their merchandise for free. This is of course understandable, nobody wants to see something they worked hard on to create something of quality be disrespected by people gaining access to it for free.

However, what the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have planned for their respective bills is not a way of just putting a halt on online piracy. Tech giants such as Mozilla and Google who once supported these bills, now are on the offensive in trying to ensure they never get passed. Before going any further into how this affects the everyday internet users, let’s first get a good understanding about both bills.

Curious about the image above? It’s an infographic from

What is PIPA and SOPA

*Image Credit: Brian Lane Winfield Moore


Let’s begin by first breaking down the first of the two bills that were introduced, PIPA. PIPA is an acronym for the Protect IP Act, and was first introduced to the U.S. Senate on May 12, 2011 by Senators Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley. It is also good to take note that PIPA is a re-written legislation, the original being the failed to pass Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) of 2010.

PIPA, if passed, will give  U.S. corporations and the government the right to seek affirmative legal action with any website that they see as enabling copyright infringement weather of U.S. origin or not. Here is a breakdown of all that they will have the power to do.

  • Force U.S. internet providers to block access to websites deemed as enablers of copyright infringement
  • Seek legal action by suing search engines, blog sites, directories, or any site in general to have the black listed sites removed from their website
  • Will be able to force advertising services on infringing websites, and those supporting of them, to remove them from their advertising accounts
  • Companies will also have the power to sue any new websites that get started after this bill is passed, if they believe that they are not doing a good job of preventing infringement on your website


SOPA is an acronym for the Stop Online Piracy Act, and is a bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Represenative Lamar Smith on October 26, 2011. In similarity with PIPA, SOPA is a build on a previous legislation. This legislation being the PRO-IP Act of 2008.

SOPA, if passed, will work in conjunction with PIPA. As described by such entities as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, SOPA is nothing more so than the U.S. government and private corporations black list. Here is a breakdown of the power given to the government and private corporations.

  • The U.S. Attorney General can now seek a court order that would force search engines, advertisers, DNS providers, servers, and payment processors from having any contact with allegedly infringing websites
  • It will allow private corporations to create their own personal hit lists composed of websites they feel are breaking their copyright policies, ironically this doesn’t have any odd feelings of a legal mafia at all. These companies will be able to directly contact a website’s payment processors a notice to cut all off payment involvement with the targeted website. This payment processors and website of question will then have five days to act before it is simply taken down.
  • Payment processors will have the power to cut off any website they work with, as long as they can provide a strong reason of why they believe this site is violating copyrights

Where Do the Tech Giants Stand

*Image Credit: francesco.chillari

Originally, the majority of technology corporations that put their input into these bills, were in support of it. Companies like Apple, Intel, Corel, Dell, Microsoft, Adobe, and 23 other big name tech companies are supporters under the BSA(Business Software Alliance). However, there is still hope in the realm of big name support of tech giants. Two of the biggest in Mozilla and Google, have gone public with their issues with these bills and their reasons why they can no longer offer their support after further research was done.

Mozilla is strongly against both acts because of its use of DNS filtering in both. Mozilla, like the majority of the tech world, believes that by using DNS filtering this will open up more security risks and slow down the system’s up and coming extension DNSSEC.

How Does This Affect You

*Image Credit: cal Walker1

Well by now one probably has gained a good understanding of what both PIPA and SOPA are, and is wondering how exactly will these acts will directly affect how citizens use the internet. Well in all honestly, a lot of things will change.

Blog Sites like 1stwebdesigner could be blocked or shut down

As stated prior in what PIPA and SOPA are and what will they enable U.S. government agencies and private companies to do, the internet will become a hunt for any little bit of possible copyright violation. Of course the government loves blogs and bloggers, so it is only natural to think that they will receive a lot of special attention. These acts make it the blog owners responsibility for everything that is displayed on their site, including the comments of visitors.

So say an article is published one day featuring a logo, or trademark, of corporation and that corporation doesn’t like that it is being put on display on the site. Now the author of this article could have used it as a teaching method, critique, praising good design, or anything you can think of, it doesn’t matter. With these acts being only direct enough to give an area for attack, and vague enough to manipulate and twist seemingly any possible way, any type of accusation can be made and found true.

Say Goodbye to Innovation

These acts are stopping developers from coming up with the next big thing in the online market that could change how we use the internet. Let’s say that these acts were around back when the internet was started, how many of the most popular sites would still have come into fruition. There would be no Facebook, YouTube, MediaFire, SoundCloud, Twitter, DropBox, or any other site that can be targeted as a place where online piracy could take place. Is it even possible to think about what the internet would be like without sites like this?

Legal Action Over A Child Singing A Song

It is quite oblivious that none of the people on sites like YouTube have been given permission from record label execs to sing their favorite song, and then proceed to post it on a video sharing site. However will that be a problem for the record execs?

The site the child will have posted the video on will be put under pressure to resolve this issue, or face their site being put on the blacklist. This child, and her family, could also very well face legal action with either the site or the record label the song that was sung has copyrighted.

The U.S. Government Hope They Will Spark Global Change

The U.S. government officials and private corporations aren’t only concerned about how these bills will work out in America, they are hoping that they will have the influence to get other nations to follow suit with these acts passing. That means if these acts pass, then the next country this could be coming toward may be yours.

What Can We Do

*Image Credit: xomiele

The House Judiciary Committee will be voting on SOPA, and likely passing it TOMORROW!! Once the bill has been passed by the committe, it will be able to be passed at any time by the House of Representatives. The internet community has always been an active and vocal group about anything we diassaprove of, especially when it is hurting the overall internet experience. This is the time to now show this passion for what the community of professionals, and users, love by telling the U.S. government exactly how you feel. Below, you’ll find some helpful ways so you can become vocal about this presssing issue.

Call Your State Senators

This is the most important thing anyone can do, because this is how your voice can be heard in the process. It is the Senators duty as an elected official to do what is right by, and listen to the will of the people who elected them. If they don’t hear the input from the people, then they’ll have no idea of how anyone feels. has a great tool that will help you find who your Senators are, their contact numbers, and get you right in touch with them. They also inform you of speaking points to mention in your conversation before calling.

Inform Anyone You Know

Can you imagine how much stronger and effective the Occupy movement would have been if this happened a few years ago? It would’ve been a completely different playing field, and would have a lot more impact then what it already has on government officials. This movement couldn’t happen earlier because people were not informed and those that were just waited to see how things would affect them before deciding to take action. That philosophy has never worked, and will only lead to trying to get out of a disastrous situation you could have easily prevented.

Sign Online Petitions

You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to take charge here, online petitions is a great way to get a global reach on how people feel. The most important thing is that everyone is heard, in any shape or form.

Stay Informed

Being unaware of what is going on is only allowing for acts like these to pass through without anyone knowing. Being an informed individual about what is going on in the political world, only makes you more capable of being an advocate for change in a positive fashion. Below you will find some links to good articles, and videos about SOPA and PIPA.

Stop Online Piracy(Scary Facts)

Protect IP Act Breaks the Internet

DNS Filtering In SOPA/PIPA Won’t Stop Piracy, But Will Hurt Online Security

Tech Giants Back Off SOPA Support

Mozilla Renews Call Against SOPA/PIPA

An Alternative To Blacklist Bills SOPA and PIPA

Why Americans Need a Civil Liberties Caucus

What SOPA Means for Business and Innovation(Infographic) Infographic

‘SOPA’: Internet Piracy Bills in Congress Threaten Core Values

SOPA visual petition riles up the ‘geek lobby’ 

Wikipedia may blackout all articles to protest SOPA 

Reddit users organizing a global mesh network

May 30 2011


A Brief Introduction to Web 3.0

If you ask some, they’ll tell you Web 2.0 as we know it is probably on its way out the door. For many, Web 2.0 is characterized mainly by the ability of users to share information quickly with others, which has been developed into the phenomenon that we call social media. From Twitter to Facebook to YouTube and to all sorts of other kinds of communities, Web 2.0 is all about sharing and seeing. Now if you recall or were around during what is now known as Web 1.0, information was put up on a website and that was it–the best way of sharing it was privately through e-mails and such. There was little to no communication and if you wanted information, you had to go to the source for it. Can you imagine such a harsh internet? Now with Web 2.0 on it’s way out, the obvious question is, what in the world is Web 3.0 going to be?

What is Web 3.0?

If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to imagine how the internet is going to top sites like Twitter and Facebook. But it’s bound to happen and when you research  Web 3.0, you find out it is going to be synonymous with the user’s interaction with the web. In Web 2.0 we focused on the users’ interaction with others, now we are going to focus more on the users themselves, which is always a plus. But how is this going to happen?

Web 3.0 is being referred to by experts as the semantic web; semantic meaning data driven. The data will come from the user and the web will essentially adjust to meet the needs of the user. For example, if you do a lot of searching for ‘design blogs’, you’ll receive more advertisements related to design. Also, when you search for other things, for example, ‘computers’, the web will keep in mind that you often search for design and may pull up search queries that combine ‘design’ and ‘computers’.

Benefits of Web 3.0?

A huge benefit of Web 3.0 is the move towards being able to access data from anywhere. This is mainly being driven by the heavy usage of smart phones and cloud applications. The idea here is to make sure that the user can access as much data as possible from anywhere, not  just their home. Technology is trying to expand this idea in ways that allow TV’s to pick up on user data, and allowing smart phones to access data on your computer. For designers like myself who typically forget their jump drives, this is an amazing and useful advancement!

Web 3.0′s Effect on Design

So now that you have an idea of what Web 3.0 is and what it’s going to be, we have to ask the most important question for us: what does that mean for design? Web 2.0 design was based around drawing attention and persuading your audience, because after all, web 2.0 made a huge deal about being able to purchase things online. Web 2.0 wanted to generate excitement and get people to make a purchase and understand what they were doing. You want to make a purchase? Sure, then click this button. You want to join the mailing list? Great, then there’s no question about clicking this button. That is the basis of Web 2.0 design.

Other elements were added to make things more fun and give a bit of style. The usage of linear gradients in web 2.0 is almost necessary. Whatever color combination you desire, linear gradients are typically present from your background to your buttons. Other trends surfaced like various badges, rounded corners and a necessary usage of icons. But again the question remains, what can we expect for web 3.0?

Web 2.0 Design vs. Web 3.0 Design

In web 2.0 we had to create design that was great for the web. I think in web 3.0, we will firstly have to create design that is going to be good not just for the web and the web browser, but for all sorts of media. With the growth in the usage of smart phones and tablets, people want more usage out of their items and to be able to access more things as best as possible. Design will have to be able to translate in great quality across all sorts of technologies. Now while you can create two different websites (one for the web and one for mobile devices), designers and developers will have to kill two birds with one stone, by creating one website that will look good in both environments.

Also for Web 3.0, designers will continue to focus on making things simpler. The truth is, the designer has the absolute power to persuade viewers on where to look first and second and so forth and so on. By doing this the designer creates a hierarchy of importance, that should not be muddled by useless design. Designers will continue to design so that content remains king by putting much focus on it and taking focus off non-content things such as logos and navigation bars.

Web 3.0 Design Trends?

Using these types of techniques plays into the increasing popularity of the minimalist design technique, where the focus is not necessarily making something as simple as possible, but making it as simplistic as possible. Creating a site with non-flashy web elements makes the user HAVE to focus on the content of the site. Of course designers desire to design and will ‘fancify’ some things, but in Web 3.0, that isn’t the main focus. The focus is to draw the viewers’ eye to the content or other important information on the page.

Many of the design trends used in Web 2.0 will only change by way of design, but not really the usage. The change in Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 is about how the internet is used, not really how it’s seen (with the exception of mobile devices and such). I believe designs will continue to get more and more minimalistic while maintaining a certain sense of beauty, but of course we will continue to use buttons and rounded corners and gradients. The design of Web 3.0 will be based on the way designers decide to design it and what becomes popular.

More on Web 3.0

Perhaps you desire to do your own research on the budding Web 3.0. Well we have provided some slide shows and videos that will get you started on the right path. Web 3.0 isn’t here just yet, but when it does come, you should know what’s coming at you!

The Evolution of Web 3.0

Why Web 3.0?

Web 3.0 – Wikipedia

The Future Internet: Service Web 3.0

Intro to the Semantic Web

Evolution Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0

August 11 2010


The Future of the Internet

Smashing-magazine-advertisement in The Future of the InternetSpacer in The Future of the Internet
 in The Future of the Internet  in The Future of the Internet  in The Future of the Internet

“In only a few short years, electronic computing systems have been invented and improved at a tremendous rate. But computers did not ‘just grow.’ They have evolved… They were born and they are being improved as a consequence of man’s ingenuity, his imagination… and his mathematics.” — 1958 IBM brochure

The Internet is a medium that is evolving at breakneck speed. It’s a wild organism of sweeping cultural change — one that leaves the carcasses of dead media forms in its sizeable wake. It’s transformative: it has transformed the vast globe into a ‘global village’ and it has drawn human communication away from print-based media and into a post-Gutenberg digital era. Right now, its perils are equal to its potential. The debate over ‘net neutrality’ is at a fever pitch. There is a tug-of-war going on between an ‘open web’ and a more governed form of the web (like the Apple-approved apps on the iPad/iPhone) that has more security but less freedom.

Brochure in The Future of the Internet

An illustration of a computer from a 1958 IBM promotional brochure titled ‘World of Numbers’

So what’s the next step in its evolution, and what’s the big picture? What does the Internet mean as an extension of human communication, of the human mind? And forget tomorrow — where will the web be in fifty years, or a hundred? Will the Internet help make the world look like something out of Blade Runner or Minority Report? Let’s just pray it doesn’t have anything to do with The Matrix sequels, because those movies really sucked.

This article will offer in-depth analysis of a range of subjects — from realistic expectations stemming from current trends to some more imaginative speculations on the distant future.

[By the way: The network tab (on the top of the page) is updated several times a day. It features selected articles from the best web design blogs!]


“Death of the Open Web”?

Those words have an ominous ring for those of us who have a deep appreciation of the Internet as well as high hopes for its future. The phrase comes from the title of a recent New York Times article that struck a nerve with some readers. The article paints a disquieting picture of the web as a “haphazardly planned” digital city where “malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary.”

There is a growing sentiment that the open web is a fundamentally dangerous place. Recent waves of hacked WordPress sites revealed exploited PHP vulnerabilities and affected dozens of well-known designers and bloggers like Chris Pearson. The tools used by those with malicious intent evolve just as quickly as the rest of the web. It’s deeply saddening to hear that, according to Jonathan Zittrain, some web users have stooped so low as to set up ‘Captcha sweatshops’ where (very) low-paid people are employed to solve Captcha security technology for malicious purposes all day. This is the part where I weep for the inherent sadness of mankind.

“If we don’t do something about this,” says Jonathan Zittrain of the insecure web, “I see the end of much of the generative aspect of the technologies that we now take for granted.” Zittrain is a professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University and the author of The Future of the Internet: and How to Stop It; watch his riveting Google Talk on these subjects.

Bill in The Future of the Internet

The Wild West: mainstream media’s favorite metaphor for today’s Internet

The result of the Internet’s vulnerability is a generation of Internet-centric products — like the iPad, the Tivo and the XBOX — that are not easily modified by anyone except their vendors and their approved partners. These products do not allow unapproved third-party code (such as the kind that could be used to install a virus) to run on them, and are therefore more reliable than some areas of the web. Increased security often means restricted or censored content — and even worse — limited freedoms that could impede the style of innovation that propels the evolution of the Internet, and therefore, our digital future.

The web of 2010 is a place where a 17 year-old high school student can have an idea for a website, program it in three days, and quickly turn it into a social networking craze used by millions (that student’s name is Andrey Ternovskiy and he invented Chatroulette). That’s innovation in a nutshell. It’s a charming story and a compelling use of the web’s creative freedoms. If the security risks of the Internet kill the ‘open web’ and turn your average web experience into one that is governed by Apple or another proprietary company, the Andrey Ternovskiys of the world may never get their chance to innovate.

Security Solutions

We champion innovation on the Internet and it’s going to require innovation to steer it in the right direction. Jonathan Zittrain says that he hopes we can come together on agreements for regulating the open web so that we don’t “feel that we have to lock down our technologies in order to save our future.”

According to Vint Cerf, vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, “I think we’re going to end up looking for international agreements – maybe even treaties of some kind – in which certain classes of behavior are uniformly considered inappropriate.”

Perhaps the future of the Internet involves social structures of web users who collaborate on solutions to online security issues. Perhaps companies like Google and Apple will team up with international governmental bodies to form an international online security council. Or maybe the innovative spirit of the web could mean that an independent, democratic group of digital security experts, designers, and programmers will form a grassroots-level organization that rises to prominence while fighting hackers, innovating on security technology, writing manifestos for online behavior, and setting an example through positive and supportive life online.

Many people are fighting to ensure your ability to have your voice heard online — so use that voice to participate in the debate, stay informed, and demand a positive future. Concerned netizens and Smashing readers: unite!


Net Neutrality

Some believe that the fate of the Internet has been up for grabs ever since the federal government stopped enforcing ‘network neutrality’ rules in the mid-2000’s. In a nutshell, net neutrality means equality among the information that travels to your computer: everyone has the right to build a website that is just as public, affordable, and easily accessible as any other. However, some companies like phone and internet service providers are proposing ‘pay tiers’ (web service where you need to pay premium fees in order to allow visitors to access your site quickly). These tiers of web service could kill net neutrality by allowing those who can afford premium service (particularly large media companies who don’t like sharing their audience with your blog) greater access to consumers than the average web user.

The debate over net neutrality reached a boiling point when Google and Verizon announced a ‘joint policy proposal for an open Internet’ on August 9th, 2010. Despite the proposal’s call for a “new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices” amongst online content, many criticized it, citing leniency and loopholes.

Net neutrality needs to be made law. If the Internet were to have a slow lane and a fast lane, your average web user could lose many of his or her freedoms and opportunities online, thereby shattering the core values that make the Internet so profoundly valuable to society. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this thorny issue. To learn more, read the full proposal or watch the Bill Moyers episode ‘The Net @ Risk.’

The World into the Web

Browser-based Everything

Google is developing a variety of applications and programs that exist entirely within the browser. Their PAC-MAN game was a preview of what’s to come because it allowed in-browser play of a simple, lightweight video game that required no downloads and relied on pure HTML, CSS, and Javascript. At the company’s 2010 I/O conference, Google laid out its plans to develop “rich multimedia applications that operate within the browser” (according to this New York Times report on the conference). The company plans to sell in-browser web applications like photo editing software (imagine using a Photoshop equivalent entirely within the browser) that it will sell in a web applications store called the Chrome Web Store.

If our programs and applications are about to be folded into the browser, what will exist within the browser in ten years? Currency? Education? Consciousness? Personally, I’m hopeful that my browser will be able to produce piping hot cheeseburgers sometime soon.

The Internet as a Collective Consciousness

The Internet is a medium, and philosopher Marshall McLuhan believed that all media are extensions of the human senses. The engine of our collective creative efforts is the force that’s causing the web to evolve more rapidly than any biological organism ever has.

Buddha in The Future of the Internet

Transcendence is one of the great themes of human culture. Image of seated Buddha statue: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Internet is an extension of the collective human mind and it’s evolving into a medium of transcendence. By constructing a place where the collective human consciousness is both centralized in one location (on your computer) and globally accessible (for those with the means to reach or use a computer, that is), our human spirit is transcending the human body. Way back in 1964, McLuhan himself wondered, “might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?”

With the advent of trends including social media, ‘lifecasting,’ and ‘mindcasting,’ the Internet is being used as a real-time portal for the human consciousness. Perhaps those trends will be inverted by some web users of the future: instead of bringing offline life to the web (as so-called ‘lifecasters’ do when they stream live video of their attendance at an offline event), some web users will live their entire public lives online. Imagine a pop star who conducts her entire career online: every interview, live performance, music video or album release conducted solely through a browser window or mobile screen. Or a media theorist who exploited the platform of the web while discussing the theoretical ramifications of those actions. It’d be a great gimmick.

The Web into the World

The ‘Web of Things’

The ‘web of things’ or ‘Internet of things’ is a concept that will be a reality (at least in a rudimentary form) in the near future. The idea is that devices, appliances, and even your pets can all be tracked online. With Google Maps for iPhone, you can currently track your location on a digital map in relation to the streets and landmarks in your area. So it’s not hard to imagine a world where you can zoom in on your location and see detailed, 3D renderings of your surroundings: the cars on your block, the coffee machine in your kitchen, even Rover running around in your backyard! And it’s a good thing that you’re digitally tracking the location of poor Rover; he’s liable to hop the fence and make a run for it now that you’ve created a satellite computer out of everything you own (including his dog collar) by attaching a tracking device to it.

AT&T is betting big on the web of things. According to this Reuters article, the phone service provider is investing in tracking devices that could be installed in cars, on dog collars, and on the pallets used to move large shipments of products. The dog collar, for example, “could send text messages or emails to the owner of a pet when it strays outside a certain area, or the device could allow continuous tracking of the pet.”

Combine the concept of the ‘web of things’ with Second Life-style 3D imaging and you can imagine a web-based duplicate world — a virtual world that corresponds to the real one. But what are the implications of a world where every physical item has a corresponding digital existence online? Can we track the physical effects of climate change in the web of things? Will there be a digital avatar for every pelican carcass in the vicinity of the oil spill that’s devastating the Gulf of Mexico? It’s a tragic shame to develop a virtual world if we let the natural one go to waste in the meantime.

Interactive Landscapes

It has been said that today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s reality. Unfortunately, most good science fiction stories are cautionary tales set in dystopian nightmares.

Nbuilding2 in The Future of the Internet

QR codes on the façade of Japan’s N Building. Photo: Gizmodo

Simon Mainwaring reports on the N building in Japan, where “the whole building facade has been transformed into a real time dialogue between smart phones and what’s going on inside the store.” The exterior of the building is layered with QR codes (an alternate form of bar code) that can deliver real-time information to your phone. In Stephen Spielberg’s film Minority Report (adapted from a short story by mad genius Philip K. Dick), Gap ads came alive to hawk khakis to Tom Cruise. Looks like we’re about one step away from this scenario.

Mr. Mainwaring imagines a future with “billboards that watch you shop and make targeted suggestions based on your age, location and past buying habits,” and “stores will effectively be turned inside out as dialogue and personalized interaction with customers begins outside the store.”

The technology is cool, but it sounds like a pretty annoying future if you ask me. Who wants to be accosted by a holographic salesperson? The web grants us a great opportunity to use our collective voices to speak out on topics that matter to us. Because there are no regulations yet for much of this technology, it may be up to concerned citizens to make themselves heard if Internet-based technology is used in intrusive or abrasive ways.

The ‘Innerweb’

Cyborgs are among us already — humans whose physical abilities have been extended or altered by mechanical elements built into the body (people who live with pacemakers are one example). What will happen when the Internet becomes available on a device that is biologically installed in a human? What will the first internal user interfaces look like?

Here’s one speculation.

In the near future, we may be capable of installing the Internet directly into the user’s field of vision via a tiny computer chip implanted into the eye. Sound far-fetched? I doubt that it would sound far-fetched for Barbara Campbell, whose sight has been partially restored by a digital retinal implant (CNN reports on Barbara’s artificial retina).

Ms. Campbell was blind for many years until she had a small microchip surgically implanted in her eye. A rudimentary image of Ms.Campbell’s surroundings is transmitted to the device, which stimulates cells in her retina, in turn transmitting a signal to her brain. It’s a miracle that the development of a bionic eye has begun to help the blind see.

How else might doctors and scientists take advantage of the internal microchip? Perhaps the user’s vision will be augmented with an Internet-based interface with capabilities including geolocation or object identification. Imagine if technology like Google Goggles (a web-based application that identifies images from landmarks to book covers) was applied inside that interface. The act of seeing could not only be restored but augmented; a user might be capable of viewing a landscape while simultaneously identifying web-based information about it or even searching it for physical objects not visible to the naked eye. Apply the concept of augmented sight with the idea of the ‘web of things’ — an environment where physical objects have a corresponding presence on the web — and you can imagine a world where missing people are located, theft is dramatically reduced, the blind can see, and ’seeing’ itself means something more than it used to.

If the web is an extension of our senses, it follows suit that the web may be capable of modifying those senses or even accelerating their evolution.

The Crown Jewels

“The next Bill Gates will be the deliverer of a highly technological solution to some of our climate change challenges.” — Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham

In preparation for this article, I considered a variety of wild ideas and fun speculations about the future. Could the Internet be used to solve the problem of climate change, generate tangible matter, or contact extraterrestrial life? Maybe those ideas sound like the stuff of imaginative fiction, but in a world where quantum teleportation has been achieved and researchers have created a living, synthetic cell, it almost seems as if the concept of science fiction is being eradicated while real technology brings our wildest fantasies to life. Here is the result of my most daring (absurd?) speculation.

Time Travel

Muybridge in The Future of the Internet

The functionality of the Internet relies on a linear series of events. Image: Eadweard Muybridge

I called on physics teacher Mark Stratil to answer my last burning question: could the Internet ever be capable of facilitating the development of time travel? Here’s Mark’s answer:

“The Internet is still based on computers, which make linear calculations. Right now, all computers are based on binary code, which is a series of yes and no questions. You can make something that’s incredibly complex with a series of yes and no questions, but it takes a certain amount of time. The Internet still has to go through those calculations and it still physically has to make one calculation that will lead to the next calculation that will lead to the next. So no matter how fast we can get our computers – they’re making billions of calculations, trillions of calculations per second – there’s still going to be some lag time. They’re still limited by time in that way. They still need some time to make that conversation or that calculation.

In that way, they’re kind of chained to time. Their whole existence is based on a linear sequence of things that happen. In order to create something else, something that goes outside of time, you would have to make it a non-linear system — something that that’s not based on a series of yes and no questions, because those have to be answered in a precise order. It would have to be some kind of system that was answering all the questions at once.

So Mark’s short answer to my fundamental question was basically that the Internet, in its current state, would not be capable of facilitating time travel. However, if the Internet was liberated from the linear structure of binary code and migrated onto an operating system that ‘answered all questions at once,’ then maybe it could have the potential to manipulate time or transcend the boundaries of time.

Sounds unlikely at this point, but one of the Internet’s greatest capabilities is the opportunity to share and develop ideas like these!


Responsible Evolution

Through technology, we hold the reins to our own evolution.

For the first time in history, it might be said that there are moral implications in the act of evolution. The Internet is an extension of our senses and our minds, and its progress is propelled by our own creative and intellectual efforts. The future of the Internet will be shaped by millions of choices and decisions by people from all walks of life. Designers and programmers like us have the advantage of technical skill and specialized knowledge. Given the increasing presence of the Internet in our lives, our choices can have deep reverberations in human society.

We’ll face small choices like what color to use for a button and larger choices like which platforms to endorse and which clients to support with our work. But the real questions form broad patterns behind every media trend and every mini technological revolution. Can we use technology to develop solutions to environmental problems — or will we abandon the natural world in favor of a digital one and the ‘web of things’? Have we fully considered what it means to merge biology and technology? And finally, do we really need a digital tracking device on our coffee machines?

What a thrilling time to be alive! Let’s proceed with great enthusiasm and a commitment to designing a future that is meaningful, peaceful, and staggeringly exciting.

Partial Bibliography

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© Dan Redding for Smashing Magazine, 2010. | Permalink | Post a comment | Add to | Digg this | Stumble on StumbleUpon! | Tweet it! | Submit to Reddit | Forum Smashing Magazine
Post tags: analysis, future, internet

May 31 2010

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