Jon Roberts



My work of several years and knowledge of the information industry reached a point of culmination in the Spring of 2002. While in Colorado for my sister's wedding, I took my wife and son to see one of my favorite places: the town of Boulder. I had only been there once before, when I competed in the National Science Olympiad during my senior year in high school. The town had gotten considerably more crowded but still exuded that same soothing spirit that I remembered, embracing both modern sophistication and natural beauty. On May 30, after a morning of hiking in the fresh air and lunch at the excellent Sushi Zanmai, my wife and son retired to nap in our hotel room. Feeling an impulse to exhaustively record my motivations and clarify my direction, I took my son's laptop to the lobby and wrote the following list of predictions.

  • Use of the web will continue to grow, with more content and more users communicating at faster speeds.
  • The web will represent the world's largest source of information and thus be the most common vehicle for virtually all types of research.
  • The web's role as an enabler of international information sharing and commerce will grow as trade customs adapt.
  • Most established standard web protocols will change slowly or not at all.
  • More web content will be generated dynamically on the server side.
  • More web content will contain encoded information on its semantic relevance.
  • The number of methods and platforms for creating and hosting dynamic web content will increase.
  • Web development will become more object-oriented, with more business logic encoded in models.
  • The details of the presentation of web content will continue to be transferred from technical workers to members of non-technical business units empowered with new tools.
  • Some web commerce markets will be consolidated, disappear altogether, or go into hibernation until online culture is more receptive.
  • Successful web ventures will be driven technically by architecture and logically by business returns.
  • Effective use of the web will provide returns inversely proportional to the size of the business.
  • Small business will continue to be underserved by the major web architectures currently available.
  • Businesses will prefer to outsource services, but retain infrastructure.
  • The web will still host public information, but an increasing portion of it will only be available through secure and private transactions.
  • In web transactions, standard protocols will serve more as an addressing mechanism for applications than as the end in themselves.
  • Web applications will typically be defined in terms of services and will primarily involve textual data.
  • Eventually, more software will be delivered as web services than as shrink-wrapped products.
  • Security and privacy will always be the fundamental threats to the internet, and establishing identity will be the touchstone of these concerns.
  • The most critical databases will center around people.
  • Successful organizations will consolidate their identity databases into centralized directories.
  • A significant portion of the identities stored in central directories will need to be accessible from web applications.
  • The methods for mapping identities to privileges and behaviors will be paramount and complex.
  • Directory servers will increasingly be used for more than user account or contact information.
  • XML will rapidly become the most prominent standard for textual data representation, particularly for communication between software systems.
  • Moore's Law will continue and the Software Crisis will widen, manifest by sharper declines in the quality of products and support.
  • Computer hardware markets will continue a trend towards standard interfaces and broader platform support.
  • Operating systems will become commodities, commanding lower prices and providing similar capabilities.
  • The largest and most successful proprietary software companies will be forced to provide more value through well-balanced professional services.
  • Open source software alternatives will arise or remain available and in use for all major categories of middleware and most categories of applications.
  • Individuals will seek and gain more control over their own data while reducing their dependency on proprietary vendors.
  • The subject of intellectual property will be the source of the most controversy, litigation, and opportunity cost in the software industry until the concept is readdressed.

Together they represent the motivation for my long-term strategy. I leave them here unmodified so that you know where I'm coming from. I make no claim to prophecy and the timetables will vary, but from what I'm reading and hearing all of these trends are proving to be true. As a footnote, I only later picked up a copy of The Cluetrain Manifesto, which started as another list of vision written in Boulder. It's thinking has since influenced me too, but any relation to this list is purely coincidental. Perhaps there's something in that Colorado mountain air...


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