Web 2.0 and the Internet of the future
Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding gave her most concise definition of Web 2.0 during a conference in Hong Kong in 2006: "We are now living through a new disruptive phase of the Information Society. Some people call it Web 2.0 or social networking. I can list some of the components: blogs, podcasts, wikis, social networking websites, search engines, auction websites, games, VoIP and peer-to-peer services. What is new about these uses of the Internet is that they exploit [its] connectivity to support people networking and creating content."
Her colleague in charge of science and research Janez Potocnik commented: "Europe must stay at the forefront of this key technology. The Internet is an asset we should invest in." "If Europe succeeds in designing the future Internet, it will stand stronger in designing the future of the world," he added.
Slovenian Growth Minister Ziga Turk, whose country is the current holder of the EU Presidency in the first half of 2008, underlines the advantages of Web 2.0: "The Internet today is based on a much broader participation. The most important thing is that it is allowing more talents to take part in creativity and innovation."
According to Tim O'Reilly, the Internet guru who first defined Web 2.0, the essential features of the second generation of the Net are the following: "Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability; control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them; trusting users as co-developers; harnessing collective intelligence; leveraging the long tail through customer self-service; software above the level of a single device, and; lightweight user interfaces, development models and business models."
Geert Lovink, a Dutch Professor and scholar of the new Internet trends, invokes cultural change to really understand the Web and its potential: "We have to overcome the so-called e-syndrome that makes us apply different discipline to the Internet. We have to shift from a culture based on heritage to a future-driven culture."
Diogo Vasconcelos of Cisco, a technology firm, emphasises the emergence of blogs as an alternative to traditional media and as a new political power, citing the example of South Korea: "The Korean website 'ohmynews' sets a good model for what will happen. It has 60,000 citizens as reporters and only 60 professional journalists. The Korean prime minister could not be elected without the support of this site."
Looking at future trends, the telecoms sector dreams of a mobile Internet where everybody is connected everywhere. Jan Uddenfeldt, a senior advisor to Ericsson's CEO, underlined: "If we look at the future, we see a tremendous growth of the Internet and we also see that the majority of the users will be mobile within a few years."
Challenges and regulation
When in charge of justice and home affairs, EU Commissioner Franco Frattini focused on the issue of low public awareness of the risks and the rights of personal data management: "Data protection laws are designed to ensure that personal data is treated with the respect and care it deserves. But legal rights and protections are only useful if people know that they exist, and [know] how they can invoke their rights," he said in a recent speech.
"We are determined to make sure that the existing legal framework is properly applied, and that everyone, and in particular those that are handling data, is aware of their rights and obligations," Frattini added.
His colleague responsible for the information society Viviane Reding stressed the necessity of improving the security of the network: "ICT has become the nervous system of our society. A problem in the TLC sector harms other sectors such as energy supplies or financial services. The interdependency goes well beyond national borders, therefore we need to be strong in order to defend ourselves collectively," she said, announcing a new EU initiative in 2009 to increase common cyber defence.
Andy Wyckoff, the head of the OECD's Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP) focuses on the infrastructural hurdles: "A huge technical challenge is bringing fibre to the last mile, especially in rural areas," he said, outlining the need for quicker Internet connections and broadband penetration, which currently averages 20% across the EU.
Dag Johansen, chief scientist at Fast, the search engine development company just acquired by Microsoft, warned: "We leave a lot of traces there. Privacy is by far the biggest concern. Now users keep not caring. But one day we have to care."
"The majority of people think that what it is done on the Internet is much more private than it actually is," according to representatives of BEUC, the European consumers' organisation.
"The requirements on transparency of the collection/processing of personal data exist. There is no new territory here, only faster technology," reads a position paper issued by FEDMA, the Federation of European Direct and Interactive Marketing. At the same time, the paper acknowledges that "there is always more that can be done to ensure that consumers know where to find information about their rights and how their data may be used".