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The Internet In 2020: Mobile And Mean

By the year 2020, marketing and manipulation will have merged on the Internet, encouraging consumers to trade privacy for discounts. Copyright will be a "dead duck," virtual reality sanctuaries will provide an escape from cyberspace, and viciousness will prevail over civility.

These are some of the predictions offered by "experts" in "Future Of The Internet III," a study released on Monday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

It's not immediately clear what Pew believes constitutes expertise in events that haven't happened.

The Internet of 2020 sounds a lot like it is today, full of potential and pitfalls, only with greater extremes.

The Pew study predicts that mobile devices will be the primary tool for connecting to the Internet 12 years hence, which isn't really going out on a limb.

It foresees a world where the transparency of people and organizations will increase, but human nature -- personal integrity, social tolerance, and forgiveness -- won't change. No surprise there.

It anticipates a time when voice recognition and touch interfaces become more prevalent. Again, this is hardly an unexpected prognostication. Apple with its iPhone and iPod Touch could realize this prediction through its own devices, were other vendors not also headed in this direction.

"Those working to enforce intellectual property law and copyright protection will remain in a continuing 'arms race,' with the 'crackers' who will find ways to copy and share content without payment," the study says.

Sixty percent of the experts interviewed disagreed that content control through copyright-protection technology would dominate the Internet of 2012.

But the majority view appears to discount the popularity of the locked-down iPhone ecosystem. Given the extent to which Apple's competitors in the mobile arena have committed to copying the iTunes App Store model, it wouldn't be surprising if mobile customers traded freedom for the promise of phone security. That might keep copyright alive until nano-assemblers make it feasible to copy objects on an atomic level.

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