Towards a Future Internet

The Internet Futures project will produce a single preferred vision of a 'Future Internet' for Europe by researching possible social, psychological, technological and economic options for its further development and their likely socio-economic impacts.


Dr Ian Brown

Tel: +44 (0)1865 287213



Towards a Future Internet Report

Over the past decade the Internet has become a vital part of everyday life for the majority of Europeans and over two billion people across the world. This is likely to expand to seven billion by 2020 as the sophistication in mobile phone technology transforms them into Internet access devices. Furthermore, the growth of connectivity of Internet-enabled devices, eg the Internet of things, will increase this substantially. This explosion in connectivity will redefine the very nature of the Internet and, most importantly, the fabric of social, cultural, political and economic institutions globally.

The permeation of the Internet in all socio-economic dimensions of our lives has led to an increasing dependency which inevitably breeds deep potential vulnerabilities. These are both technical, eg security and resilience, and legal, eg privacy and trust, which brings into focus the urgency for governance and regulation. On the other hand, it is also true that the Internet's bottom-up evolutionary development and relative lack of protection and regulation has made possible the flourishing of innovative applications and unprecedented possibilities, with huge societal and economic repercussions.

This study aimed to investigate the links between technological, social and economic trends related to the future Internet, explore the future needs of Internet users, and outline the principles that should guide its future development.

The study identified four pervasive forces which will impact the future Internet:

  1. Stakeholder conflicts

  2. Changing infrastructure and socio-technical context

  3. Governance and regulation

  4. User focus and inclusion

Together, they point to a key question: "How can we guide the evolution of the Internet so that it best serves the needs of society?"

Study Methods and Future Scenarios

The study addressed this question through several foresight techniques - environmental scanning, an online Delphi survey of experts and scenario analysis - to identify and analyse trends, drivers of change, future needs, technological options and likely socio- economic impacts. With input from the Delphi results, trend analysis and workshop discussions, we constructed and refined four scenarios of plausible future socio-economic conditions with differing needs:

  1. "Smooth Trip": the rise of the Internet economy as a whole life and work style, a middle road in contrast to more disruptive scenarios.

  2. "Going Green": Internet technologies are used to combat growing environmental challenges.

  3. "Commercial Big Brother": a heavily commercialised consumer platform.

  4. "Power to the People": a forum for democracy and freedom, based on free production and exchange of knowledge.

At expert workshops in Brussels, Cambridge, MA (MIT) and Tokyo (Keio University) we used the scenarios to stimulate wide-ranging discussions about the main trends and drivers of future Internet needs.


This is a European Commission DG INFSO project SMART 2008/0049.


Project Lead


  • Dr Colin Blackman (Expert)

  • Professor Jonathan Cave (Expert)

  • Simon Forge (Expert)

  • Dr Karmen Guevara (Expert)

  • Lara Srivastava (Expert)

  • Professor Motohiro Tsuchiya (Expert)

  • Malte Ziewitz, Oxford Internet Institute (Research Assistant)





  • Presentations from final workshop

    Towards a Future Internet on 23 Nov 2010 10:25AM

    Here are the team presentations from yesterday’s final project workshop: Colin Blackman Rafael Popper Lara Srivastava Simon Forge Ian Brown View more presentations from Ian Brown.

  • Mike Nelson’s view of the future Internet

    Towards a Future Internet on 22 Nov 2010 11:05AM

    Prof. Mike Nelson gave a great keynote speech this morning at our final workshop in Brussels. He left conference participants with some recommended reading: David Bollier (2010) The Promise and Peril of Big Data, Aspen Institute The Digital Due Process [...]

  • Final Report available for comment

    Towards a Future Internet on 18 Nov 2010 22:24PM

    The Final Report for the study is now available. Thanks to all those who have participated in the study at workshops and in the Delphi survey. Comments below are most welcome.

  • Draft final report available for comment

    Towards a Future Internet on 22 Oct 2010 12:05PM

    The draft final report of the study is now available for comment. The report is essentially in two parts — a short and readable main report summarising the main findings, with supporting material available in Appendixes. More detailed material [...]

  • Provisional programme for final TAFI workshop

    Towards a Future Internet on 22 Oct 2010 11:57AM

    We are pleased to announce the provisional programme for our final public event in Brussels on 22nd November, 25 Avenue de Beaulieu, Brussels, DG Information Society and Media. You can register here. 10.15 am Registration and coffee 10.30 Welcome Ian [...]

  • Delphi survey results: how experts think the Internet will develop

    Towards a Future Internet on 28 Sep 2010 15:16PM

    Detailed reports on Round 1 and Round 2 of our Delphi Survey are now available. The first elicited expert views on a wide range of social, economic, political and technological aspects of the Internet over the next 20 years. The second asked for views on [...]

  • 75 billion yen to NGN by NTT East

    Towards a Future Internet on 23 Sep 2010 15:05PM

    Last March Nikkei (Nihon Keizai Shinbun) reported that NTT East will invest 75 billion yen (around 76 million US dollars) to NGN (Next Generation Networks) in fisical year 2009. NTT-E is planning to match its optic fiber service area with NGN cover area [...]

  • 2008 Broadband Stats in Japan

    Towards a Future Internet on 23 Sep 2010 15:05PM

    The MIC (Ministry of Interior and Communications) of Japan released recent data on broadband services in Japan. It says that there were 30.11 million broadband subscribers at the end of December, 2008, and the number of FTTH subscribers was 14.42 million, [...]

  • Mid-term Report from the Panel on ICT Vision Made Public

    Towards a Future Internet on 23 Sep 2010 15:05PM

    Japanese government’s study group published an interim report on ICT vision. English Press Release Japanese Press Release The final version of the report will be published in June this year.

  • Final Public Workshop, 22 November 2010, Brussels

    Towards a Future Internet on 23 Sep 2010 15:05PM

    Mark your diary for the final Public Workshop on 22 November. The aim is to present the results of the study, Towards a Future Internet, and promote discussion about its findings.  The agenda is being finalised but will include: Guest speakers (to be [...]

  • Interim Brussels workshop

    Towards a Future Internet on 28 Aug 2010 04:01AM

    In June we held our interim project workshop in Brussels. You can now read our report of the proceedings.

  • MIT workshop report

    Towards a Future Internet on 14 Jun 2010 10:03AM

    Here is a short report on the expert workshop we held at MIT earlier this year. Many thanks to the participants for their time and for contributing their notes on the event.

  • Tokyo expert workshop

    Towards a Future Internet on 8 Jun 2010 13:15PM

    Image: Mac Funamizu Our third and final expert workshop happened last month at Keio University in Tokyo. It followed the format of March’s event at MIT, with twenty invited experts from east Asia analysing our draft future scenarios and their [...]

  • Interim report published

    Towards a Future Internet on 17 May 2010 12:32PM

    We have now completed our interim report. This contains a wealth of information on the project so far, including the results from the first round of our online Delphi survey and our nearly-finalised scenarios. We look forward to your comments!

  • MIT workshop slides

    Towards a Future Internet on 18 Mar 2010 17:42PM

    Our MIT expert workshop went very well earlier this week. Thanks again to our participants: David Clark, Karen Sollins, William Lehr (all MIT CSAIL), John Wroclawski (University of Southern California), Karmen Guevara, Chris Marsden (University of Essex), [...]

  • Talking net neutrality at EuroCPR

    Towards a Future Internet on 1 Mar 2010 17:36PM

    I’m looking forward to the 25th annual European Communications Policy Research Conference in Brussels later this month. My colleague Dr Alison Powell will be presenting the paper we have co-authored with Alissa Cooper on US and UK discourses of [...]

  • The State of the Internet

    Towards a Future Internet on 1 Mar 2010 10:26AM

    Jesse Thomas animated this short databurst about today’s Internet: JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.

  • MIT expert workshop

    Towards a Future Internet on 1 Mar 2010 09:33AM

    Later this month MIT are kindly hosting our second expert workshop. Twenty invited participants from across the Americas will be analysing future Internet trends and technology based on the draft scenarios we are developing around Europe’s future [...]

  • Fighting over the Future of the Internet

    Towards a Future Internet on 12 Jan 2010 16:00PM

    Interesting short article from Dave Clark in IEEE Computer: Fighting over the Future of the Internet. For much of the Internet’s life, it has coevolved with the PC. The relative maturity of the PC could thus lead to the erroneous assumption that the [...]

  • Trends in connectivity technologies and their socioeconomic impacts

    Towards a Future Internet on 8 Jan 2010 15:51PM

    Lots of goodies from RAND Europe today. Here is another just-published report, summarising their study on Policy Options for the Ubiquitous Internet Society: This report has discussed and linked together technologies, connectivity technology trends, [...]