September 22, 2020

2006 Predictions Scorecard

As usual, we’ll start the new year by reviewing the predictions we made for the previous year. After our surprisingly accurate 2005 predictions, we decided to take more risks having more 2006 predictions, and making them more specific. The results, as we’ll see, were … predictable.

Here now, our 2006 predictions, in italics, with hindsight in ordinary type.


(1) DRM technology will still fail to prevent widespread infringement. In a related development, pigs will still fail to fly.

We predict this every year, and it’s always right. This prediction is so obvious that it’s almost unfair to count it.

Verdict: Right.


(2) The RIAA will quietly reduce the number of lawsuits it files against end users.

Verdict: Right.


(3) Copyright owners, realizing that their legal victory over Grokster didn’t solve the P2P problem, will switch back to technical attacks on P2P systems.

They did realize the Grokster case didn’t solve their problem; but they didn’t really emphasize technical countermeasures. They didn’t seem to have a coherent anti-P2P strategy.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(4) Watermarking-based DRM will make an abortive comeback, but will still be fundamentally infeasible.

The comeback was limited to the now-dead analog hole bill, which backed the dead-on-arrival CGMS-A + VEIL technology. Watermarking still looks infeasible for copy protection.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(5) Frustrated with Apple’s market power, the music industry will try to cozy up to Microsoft. Afraid of Microsoft’s market power, the movie industry will try to cozy up to Washington.

The music industry was indeed frustrated by Apple’s market power. But they drove a hard bargain with Microsoft, shackling Zune’s most interesting features. The movie industry did cozy up to Washington, but no more than usual, and probably not due to Microsoft-fear.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(6) The Google Book Search case will settle. Months later, everybody will wonder what all the fuss was about.

No settlement, but excitement about the Book Search case has definitely waned.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(7) A major security and/or privacy vulnerability will be found in at least one more major DRM system.

Verdict: wrong.


(8) Copyright issues will still be stalemated in Congress.

Another easy one.

Verdict: right.


(9) Arguments based on national competitiveness in technology will have increasing power in Washington policy debates.

This didn’t happen. We thought the election would make economic health more salient; but the election focus was elsewhere.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(10) Planned incompatibility will join planned obsolescence in the lexicon of industry critics.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(11) There will be broad consensus on the the need for patent reform, but very little consensus on what reform means.

The main policy division, predictably, was between the infotech and biotech sectors.

Verdict: right.


(12) Attention will shift back to the desktop security problem, and to the role of botnets as a tool of cybercrime.

This should have happened, but commentators mostly missed the growing importance of this issue. Botnets were implicated in the spam renaissance.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(13) It will become trendy to say that the Internet is broken and needs to be redesigned. This meme will be especially popular with those recommending bad public policies.

This trend mostly didn’t materialize, though there were wisps of this argument in the net neutrality debate.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(14) The walls of wireless providers’ “walled gardens” will get increasingly leaky. Providers will eye each other, wondering who will be the first to open their network.

Verdict: mostly right.


(15) Push technology (remember PointCast and the Windows Active Desktop?) will return, this time with multimedia, and probably on portable devices. People won’t like it any better than they did before.

Push tried to bring the TV model to the Net, so it seemed logical that as TV moved onto the Net it would become more push-like. But this didn’t happen, at least not yet.

Verdict: wrong.


(16) Broadcasters will move toward Internet simulcasting of free TV channels. Other efforts to distribute authorized video over the net will disappoint.

Verdict: mostly right.


(17) HD-DVD and Blu-ray, touted as the second coming of the DVD, will look increasingly like the second coming of the Laserdisc.

The jury is still out, but this prediction is looking good so far.

Verdict: mostly right.


(18) “Digital home” products will founder because companies aren’t willing to give customers what they really want, or don’t know what customers really want.

Outside of promotional efforts in the trade press, we didn’t hear much about the digital home.

Verdict: mostly right.


(19) A name-brand database vendor will go bust, unable to compete against open source.

Verdict: wrong.


(20) Two more significant desktop apps will move to an Ajax/server-based design (as email did in moving toward Gmail). Office will not be one of them.

There seemed to be a trend in this direction, but I can’t point to two major apps that moved. But Google did introduce Office-like products in this category.

Verdict: mostly wrong.


(21) Technologies that frustrate discrimination between different types of network traffic will grow in popularity, backed partly by application service providers like Google and Yahoo.

These technologies didn’t develop, perhaps because of the policy stalemate over net neutrality.

Verdict: wrong.


(22) Social networking services will morph into something actually useful.

This one is hard to categorize. The meaning of “social networking” changed during 2006; it now refers to sites like MySpace and Facebook that are primarily webpage hosting services. That’s a useful and popular function; but it’s the term rather than the technology that morphed.

Verdict: mostly right (I guess).


(23) There will be a felony conviction in the U.S. for a crime committed entirely in a virtual world.

Commenters noted at the time that this prediction was poorly specified. Which didn’t matter, because it was wrong no matter how you interpret it.

Verdict: wrong.

Overall scorecard for 2006 predictions: four right, five mostly right, nine mostly wrong, five wrong. That’s more wrong than right, by a narrow margin, showing that our risk-taking strategy worked.

Stay tuned for our 2007 predictions.

Comments

  1. ‘(12) Attention will shift back to the desktop security problem, and to the role of botnets as a tool of cybercrime.

    This should have happened, but commentators mostly missed the growing importance of this issue. Botnets were implicated in the spam renaissance.’

    Yes, this is interesting — I wonder why the importance of this has been overlooked? Maybe it’s just “old news” by now, and not worth the column inches. It certainly _should_ be big news, IMO — the scale of the botnet/spam problem at this stage is staggering (and very worrisome).

    re (14) — a recent thread on the geowanking mailing list suggests this is wrong, with Verizon announcing a very solidly-locked-down walled-garden for geolocating apps on their network.

  2. “(7) A major security and/or privacy vulnerability will be found in at least one more major DRM system.”

    What about bypassing HD-DVD’s AACS protection?

  3. Andrew,

    We meant a security vulnerability for the user, which we haven’t seen with AACS.

    I’ll have a post about the AACS situation in a few days.

  4. “(7) A major security and/or privacy vulnerability will be found in at least one more major DRM system.”

    Sony’s CD rootkit DRM?

  5. the_zapkitty says:

    mtg Said:

    “Sony’s CD rootkit DRM?”

    That was technically the year before… Ed indicated that further disasters would erupt, and they may yet, but no other DRM infliction appears to have gotten caught doing the Big Brother routine.

    Apparently we’ll have to give the corporations a few more months before we find out which was the latest to let some salesrep fast-talk them into doing something stupid 🙂

  6. That was last year.

    “3) Copyright owners, realizing that their legal victory over Grokster didn’t solve the P2P problem, will switch back to technical attacks on P2P systems.

    They did realize the Grokster case didn’t solve their problem; but they didn’t really emphasize technical countermeasures. They didn’t seem to have a coherent anti-P2P strategy.

    Verdict: mostly wrong.”

    I’m less sure about this one. Renewed focus on technical attacks in general did happen; the extent to which you consider them to be specifically “on P2P systems” would be at issue.

    * Increased p2p-hostile “traffic shaping” or similar behavior by broadband providers is a fairly p2p-targeted and “technical” attack, but the question is the extent to which the proviers’ policies are being influenced by **AA agendas.

    * A renewed focus on DRM-as-panacea, between AACS and similar and attempts to mandate technology to plug the “analog hole”, has occurred, but DRM is a more general “technical attack” not specifically directed at P2P systems. To the extent that the intent is to delay or stop the first availability of something over P2P, it might be considered as such.

    * There’s been a lot of salting of P2P networks with DRM-laden files lately that either don’t work or enable a few free viewings and then demand your money. The extent to which this is deliberate pollution by the **AA rather than clueless users sharing files they happen to have in a restrictive format is unknown. There’s also been a sharp increase in 2006 in the prevalence of malware-infected and other bogus files on P2P. Again, the extent of **AA involvement is unknown. To the extent that pollution of P2P filespace with unusable/dangerous files and files that beg for money is being intentionally perpetrated by the **AA, though, they are attacking P2P with technological means (as opposed to legal). This includes any encouraging of third parties to share “sampler” files that run a few times on a given machine and then lock out playback on that machine pending funds transfers to **AA members, which obviously constitutes a massive bait-and-switch.

    Another way to evaluate this claim is to see what the big developments in P2P software have been, and the major trends, and consider those that appear to “defend” the P2P against something that would degrade it. To the extent that the defended-against threats are (directly or indirectly) being fostered by the **AA they are technically attacking P2P, though maybe without much fanfare.

    Those developments have been, in 2006:
    * Protocol encryption (BitTorrent, increasingly many clients, and Coming Soon to ED2K and others) — defense against traffic shaping and specific blocking policies (e.g. at educational institutional housing). Often these policies (esp. explicit blocking policies) are at **AA behest, as at university dorm networks.
    * Marking of DRMed file formats (.wm* etc.) with a $ symbol in search results and similar features, and filtering features based on “license” — Limewire, Shareaza, and others. These are defenses against pollution with nonworking or pay-to-use files. Many major p2p apps upgraded in the past year to include functionality along such lines.
    * Built-in antimalware functionality — Shareaza 2.2.3.0 and possibly others. Defense against pollution of an even nastier sort.
    * Other antipollution functions, aimed at detecting and blocking bad clients that engage in “bait and switch” spamming and the like. Gnutella is particularly prone to this because it started out with a poor trust model; hosts can respond to a search query with a URN (including file hash) and respond to requests for a URN by uploading a file with a different hash. This allows a host to respond to *every* query with echoes of responses by other hosts that it sniffs, thus seeming to have a load of legitimate files with known-good hashes, and then when *any* file is requested (by hash) from it, serving a copy of *a single* file (usually with advertising content). Most clients won’t reject such a file as bad at all, as long as the download’s (separate!) validation passes (which just proves that the file it started uploading was sent uncorrupted, not that it was the same as the file that was requested). Now suspicious behavior (like appearing to have every file known to man) is grounds for auto-ignoring nodes.

    “(4) Watermarking-based DRM will make an abortive comeback, but will still be fundamentally infeasible.

    The comeback was limited to the now-dead analog hole bill, which backed the dead-on-arrival CGMS-A + VEIL technology. Watermarking still looks infeasible for copy protection.

    Verdict: mostly wrong.”

    I thought I recalled a big hype-bubble roughly midyear about some music-fingerprinting technology offering? Touted for detecting infringing music on the ‘net? This may have been fingerprinting music by existing features of the music rather than purposely-added watermarks though. Image watermarking online is on the rise, at least human-visible watermarks (often translucent logos, or just explicit copyright notice overlays; the human-visible watermarks at Google Earth are particularly notable as somewhat overdone and distracting).

    “(12) Attention will shift back to the desktop security problem, and to the role of botnets as a tool of cybercrime.

    This should have happened, but commentators mostly missed the growing importance of this issue. Botnets were implicated in the spam renaissance.

    Verdict: mostly wrong.”

    Except to the extent that all the greater-desktop-security-in-Vista hype growing throughout 2006 qualifies.

    “(15) Push technology (remember PointCast and the Windows Active Desktop?) will return, this time with multimedia, and probably on portable devices. People won’t like it any better than they did before.

    Push tried to bring the TV model to the Net, so it seemed logical that as TV moved onto the Net it would become more push-like. But this didn’t happen, at least not yet.

    Verdict: wrong.”

    Not to the extent that feeds are a push technology. 2006 seems to have been the Year of the Feed(tm), with everyone and his brother now having an RSS or Atom feed, and everywhere that already did now having zillions of feeds instead of just one. That’s even outside the blogosphere, and 2006 was the Year of the Blog(tm) too, with a veritable explosion of blogging and blogs increasingly a mainstream (and influential) thing. OTOH there’ve been notable blog failures, mostly technical failures rendering particular sites increasingly unusable (gripe2ed and Corante got hit hard, and many major blogs started randomly losing comments, giving bogus error messages to legitimate requests sometimes consistently, and otherwise failing in technological ways — including FTT). These may be growing pains and scaling issues though.

    “(21) Technologies that frustrate discrimination between different types of network traffic will grow in popularity, backed partly by application service providers like Google and Yahoo.

    These technologies didn’t develop, perhaps because of the policy stalemate over net neutrality.

    Verdict: wrong.”

    Mustn’t have been monitoring the P2P scene closely then. 2006 was the Year of Protocol Encryption and Obfuscation(tm) in P2P. But there wasn’t name-brand involvement by the likes of Google and Yahoo, or even the bigger companies in the VoIP space. Perhaps in 2007?

    (And there’s always things like encrypted VPN tunnels and proxies. Even traffic shaping targeting p2p by looking for large numbers of inbound and outbound connections runs into problems when there’s only one two-way conversation with a remote machine that just happens to be proxy and the connection just happens to be carrying a largish volume of encrypted traffic of unknown content. An SSL connection to download a big chunk of paid content such as HL2’s game cache files from Steam or a bunch of iTunes from ITMS looks identical at the routing/gateway level, and blocking or “shaping” either would be suicidal.)

    “(23) There will be a felony conviction in the U.S. for a crime committed entirely in a virtual world.

    Commenters noted at the time that this prediction was poorly specified. Which didn’t matter, because it was wrong no matter how you interpret it.

    Verdict: wrong.”

    Some things point toward this happening soon though. Online gambling bans, major cases complaining of copyright infringements and even thefts in virtual worlds showing up elsewhere in the world …

  7. For “Planned Incompatibility”, substitute “Defective by Design“, and you might have had something. I don’t know if it was THAT popular, though.

  8. the_zapkitty says:

    Neo Said:

    “That was last year.”

    ?… Are you referring to the Sony debacle?

    If so, the Mark Russinovich broke that story on 10/31/2005…
    http://blogs.technet.com/markrussinovich/archive/2005/10/31/sony-rootkits-and-digital-rights-management-gone-too-far.aspx
    … so technically it was a 2005 story, and actually impacted holiday CD sales for 2005.

    FTT’s followup on the Sunncomm/Mediamax self-installing music CD malware started on 11/12/2005… http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=925
    … although the FTT crew had had go-rounds with SuncMax prior to that, of course.

    The backlash against the corporations played out over 2006, but Ed had predicted that yet another DRM would self-destruct as part of his 2006 forecast.

    And it may happen yet… wonder if Ed will renew the prediction for 2007? 😉

  9. It’s really interesting to ask why so many of the predictions were wrong. I think the implication is that a lot of trends did NOT materialize in 2006. It was an exceiting year for computers in some ways, but not in many others.

  10. I’m afraid you have no future as a pundit in the USA — far too many right predictions.

  11. Charlie Strauss says:

    (7) major security hole in a DRM..

    I’d count you as right on this one actually. Sony’s rootkit based DRM did introduce a major security hole into Windows computers. There were no wildfire exploits of this but the whole itself was a critical vulnerability and impossible to remove without serious damage to your system.

    Also if you want to bend the rules a bit and call those Software restore disks that Windows users have to suffer with when they buy pre-installed Windows OS a form of DRM then there’s the ACER certificate backdoor that has been shipped on all Acer computers since 1998 that was just discovered. (the signed ActiveX program allows a web page to run any program on the computer).

  12. I’ve been a professional technology market analyst/forecaster in various capacities for about 15 years. I have found that most rational predictions are correct but typically take 2x-3x longer than predicted.

    I don’t know how long you’ve been doing this – but it might be a REALLY interesting exercise to see how many of your 2005 predcitions came true in 2006…and so on s far back as you go.

  13. Andy Roon says:

    I found several articles on Google News and now on Tech Republic that proclaim ‘The Internet is Broken!’…It didn’t happen in 2006, but that makes you no less prescient. Many thanks for a wonderful blog.