Back in 1995, when I first started participating in bulletin boards and various other forums that were emerging across the Internet, there were 16 million users of the Internet, which equated to just 0.40% of the global population.
By the turn of the millennium this had grown to nearly 250 million, or 4.10% of the population.
Currently, there are just over 5 billion users of the internet globally, which means about 66% of the worlds population have access to the internet. A truly staggering levels of technological adoption. Two thirds of the population now have the technological ability to communicate across borders, in real time, for free. Something few, if any futurists would have predicted even back in the early 1990’s, when technologists such as Bill Gates saw the internet as a passing fad. Indeed, in his 1995 book ‘The Road Ahead,’ the Microsoft co-founder would suggest that the internet was a novelty that would eventually make way to something else.
‘Today’s Internet is not the information highway I imagine, although you can think of it as the beginning of the highway.’
Goes to show that even those who (at the time) had their finger on the technological zeitgeist manage to get the big picture wrong can a person be.
Moving on, if we extrapolate the past 5-6 years worth of growth out; and factor in the likely future growth of satellite-based internet; along with the continued growth in smartphone access to prognosticate overall future growth, we come up with a date of 2031 for 100% internet access across the world, which for the sake of argument we will say is 8 billion.
Whilst it is highly unlikely that the number will ever hit 100%, the adoption percentage will likely max out at this date.
In terms of ages, I prefer to describe the periods within the ‘internet age’ as the following five ‘ages’:
The static web. From 1995 through to 1998-99. This time period included brochure-ware, simple transactional properties and advertising-based properties.
Read and write. Some of the most notable sites during this period were Blogger, Digg, Reddit and a myriad of other social bookmaking and social media sites like Twitter and the rest.
The semantic web. This is where personalisation, prediction and what we classify as ‘smart’ belongs. The majority of the more advanced internet platforms we know today operate within this segment.
The virtual age. This is (and will be) driven by rudimentary AI and ML, low latency interactivity; and by extreme data transfer rates via true 5G communications, or something beyond even that. We are beginning to see the development of the Web 4.0 economy.
Prepare to download and upload your thoughts, memories and more. Also prepare for automation, cybernetics and assimilation into the cloud.
The question is, what happens then?
The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘New research: Global internet access will max out in 2031‘ article. Automatic translation from English to a growing list of languages via Google AI Cloud Translation. Reporting by Rob Phillips.
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