June 13, 2024

2008 Predictions

Here are the official Freedom to Tinker predictions for 2008, based on input by Alex Halderman, David Robinson, Dan Wallach, and me.

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

(2) Copyright issues will still be gridlocked in Congress.

(3) No patent reform bill will be passed. Baby steps toward a deal between the infotech and biotech industries won’t lead anywhere.

(4) DRM-free sales will become standard in the music business. The movie studios will flirt with the idea of DRM-free sales but won’t take the plunge, yet.

(5) The 2008 elections will not see an e-voting meltdown of Florida 2000 proportions, but a bevy of smaller problems will be reported, further fueling the trend toward reform.

(6) E-voting lawsuits will abound, with voters suing officials, officials suing other officials, and officials suing vendors (or vice versa).

(7) Second Life will jump the shark and the cool kids will start moving elsewhere; but virtual worlds generally will lumber on.

(8) MySpace will begin its long decline, losing customers for the first time.

(9) The trend toward open cellular data networks will continue, but not as quickly as optimists had hoped.

(10) If a Democrat wins the White House, we’ll hear talk about reinvigorated antitrust enforcement in the tech industries. (But of course it will all be talk, as the new administration won’t take office until 2009.)

(11) A Facebook application will cause a big privacy to-do.

(12) There will be calls for legislation to create a sort of Web 2.0 user’s bill of rights, giving users rights to access and extract information held by sites; but no action will be taken.

(13) An epidemic of news stories about teenage webcam exhibitionism will lead to calls for regulation.

(14) Somebody will get Skype or a similar VoIP client running on an Apple iPhone and it will, at least initially, operate over AT&T’s cellular phone network. AT&T and/or Apple will go out of their way to break this, either by filtering the network traffic or by locking down the iPhone.

Feel free to offer your own predictions in the comments.


  1. hi all! please visit / buy software at my store

  2. Bush will start a war with Russia over Kosovo conflict in order to stay in power.

  3. In related news, a new study has revealed that the average IQ of net.users has dropped another 16 points in the past 12 months…

  4. google take over the world!

  5. @spudz:

    “A big change is coming. Vista’s poor uptake suggests that Windows has finally jumped the shark. Will the big winner be Linux? MacOS? Something else entirely? Or will OS become increasingly irrelevant due to virtualization and Java and the like?”

    I think XP is the winner in this one.

  6. As Rob mentioned, (11) has already happened. I have another Facebook related prediction.

    Prediction: A social network (Facebook) will become the site of automated distributed social engineering. A hacker will exploit the fact that many individuals’ friend lists are visible in order to write a worm that constructs a plausible identity and tricks an individual into accepting a friend request from the false identity. Many vanity users will accept such requests and through them the worm will gain access to many of their friends (with the trust gained by the ‘you have X friends in common with so-and-so’ notice). Because of the distributed nature of the attack – because each false identity is created to target a small cluster of people – it will take a while to notice the scale of the problem. In that time much private data will be exposed.

  7. #12 is a terrifically interesting idea.

  8. Re: #13 — why would there be a major flap *now*, 12 years after Jennicam?

    But the real elephant in the living room is the OS software we’ll be using after 2008.


    A big change is coming. Vista’s poor uptake suggests that Windows has finally jumped the shark. Will the big winner be Linux? MacOS? Something else entirely? Or will OS become increasingly irrelevant due to virtualization and Java and the like?

  9. @Gerv

    G4) As above, beat me to it. Anyone reading the Aussie news lately would be thinking Gerv cheated a bit on that one. Given the number of times the Labor opposition bashed John Howard for clueless IT policy, to be implementing the same bad policy (with even more so) is pretty sad. It does seem rather difficult to find a good PMG in this day and age (especially when they are supposed to also be experts in IT, Arts, Sport, Broadband, Digital Economy, and any other wankwords that happen to be going around).

    The entire Labor Party got themselves MySpace pages presumably because that’s where the newbies pop up on the Internet and they plan to increase the speed of most current Internet connections by a factor of 40. Someone should tell them that the election is over and they won, time for common sense to kick in.

  10. Fnord Prefect says


    “G4) In at least one major Western democracy, it will be impossible for Joe Public to get an entirely unfiltered Internet feed just because he wants one.”

    That country is Australia, and it happens at the end of January 2008.

    Anyone trying to restrict peoples freedoms (of any sort, not just the ‘net) using the rallying cry of “won’t somebody think of the CHILDRUN!!!111!!eleven!!11!” needs to be hit in the face with a rock.

  11. This morning I ran across this set of infosec-related predictions which I thought made a lot of sense, by Gene Schultz: http://www.high-tower.com/blogs/gschultz/?p=18 . Subsequent posts are elaborating on each one.

    A few interesting ideas: he sees voting machine security as improving, more stealth rootkits, increased focus by attackers on Linux and Mac systems, and success at “taking down the internet” for a few hours. A couple of these overlap with my predictions.

  12. My prior post was a bit abrupt. I was late in in leaving for an appointment. To follow-up a bit, Time Lee on Newfangled DRM Even Better At Punishing Paying Customers. At some currently unknown point the paying customer who is screwed will have economic/media power who will become an advocate (poster child) for exposing the maliciousness of DRM technologies.

    As Tim points out, individuals are beginning to experience the effects of this ticking time bomb. 2008 may well be the year that the “poster child” emerges.

  13. Gerv’s 2008 Predictions:

    G1) Someone will sue an open source company, organisation or individual of significant community visibility for patent infringement over a specified patent implemented in their open source software, in a USA jurisdiction. A large fuss will ensue.

    G2) A commercial product (software or otherwise) will ship using OpenStreetMap as its primary data source.

    G3) The first lawsuit will be brought against a product developer for violating one of the new parts of GPLv3 or LGPLv3. The plaintiff will win, either in court or by settlement.

    G4) In at least one major Western democracy, it will be impossible for Joe Public to get an entirely unfiltered Internet feed just because he wants one.

    G5) The unstoppable kingdom of Christ will continue to advance, like a seed growing in secret. (Hey, everyone includes an easy one, right? 🙂


  14. I have a somewhat perverse prediction.

    This forum, as well as other forums, have pointed out how DRM technologies are reducing interoperability between equipment. So far, all we have have had are sporadic failures that have yet to catch the media’s attention. href=”http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1158″>AACS Updated, Broken Again

    My prediction, the emergence of a poster child that will capture the attention of the media on how DRM is a ticking bomb.

  15. #14 — I fail to see why either AT&T or Apple would be threatened by VOIP on the phone. They’d get to charge data rates in that case, which are always significantly higher than voice rates.

  16. (3)
    Gradually both biotech and infotech are spreading through Asia and India as the US lead in these industries is diminished. I predict that US patent reform will gradually become less of an issue anyone cares about and what will matter is where the international treaties go.

    I predict that Obama will achieve a substantial majority, enough that the margin for error on dodgy voting machines will not be significant.

    When you realise that a giant purple penis can walk into the IBM office and negotiate a software deal, you have to understand that Second Life can’t jump the shark. The necessary sense of shark jumping perspective is simply not available.

    In a chat-room style MUD, everyone hangs around near the place where the newbies pop in. For the Internet as a whole, MySpace is where the newbies pop in, they can’t lose until a new newbie entry point turns up.

    Cellular data is kicking butt in Australia (at least, if you are in a capital city). Prices have halved in less than a year, allocated monthly mobile data allowance is up around the 4Gig mark (for affordable plans) and a new round of “special offers” are popping up which look like pushing the price down even more. The best I’ve seen is Vodafone with 5G monthly mobile data allowance for $35 per month — better price than most ADSL or cable plans. My prediction is that is can’t go much further than this in terms of lower price but what will happen is many users switch from ADSL to wireless.

    Will only happen if the porn industry feels threatened, which they don’t.

  17. On that GPLv4 thing I should have included software-as-service, I think that’s another area the new license is supposed to address.

    A new kind of botnet will come into existence (or at least, be discovered), without a visible control channel. It will be designed to be autonomous and evolve slowly. Stealthy, many variants will remain below the radar of bot hunters.

    Blu-Ray will announce a new copy protection technology requiring a firmware upgrade to existing players for new disks.

  18. Lots of people will oooooh and aaaaaah and geek out over the miraculous potential for Wimax. Many companies will flirt with Wimax development. It still won’t roll out anywhere in the U.S.. Indeed, given the nature of Wimax, I’d half expect and up and coming nation like Brazil to roll it out before we do.

  19. If the Republicans lose the Presidential election, voting machine fraud will suddenly become a grass-roots Republican issue, with talk radio and conservative bloggers going on and on about how the Democrats “stole” the election.

    I’ll also predict a major botnet-based DOS attack against some important piece of net infrastructure which causes significant internet disruptions and lots of news coverage.

    More relevant to “freedom to tinker”, I predict that GPLv4 will encounter a major test of its relevance to DRM and/or Trusted Computing.

    At least one major “social networking” site/service will be threatened by a decentralized, open-source alternative that does not depend on a set of centralized servers but uses a network of peers and super-peers.

  20. The facebook one was too easy – add on Allan’s first comment, and it’s already happened twice! http://www.news.com/8301-13577_3-9843175-36.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=TheSocial

  21. I do believe a number of these are “Gimme” predictions – obvious and easy calls – but I expect that’s the intention, just to let the list start easy and then get to the tougher stuff.

    I think the whole e-voting thing will generate a lot more *TALK* of reform leading up to the election, as more security research will show more problems. I also expect nothing to happen as a result of this talk, but another very close Presidential election will happen, and the talk will grow and much weeping and gnashing of teeth will go on in grand, glorious displays of rhetoric, but all such talk will break down in the end to zero movement. There just aren’t enough people who care about doing it right, and unless Stalin wins the election via write-ins, not enough people will care post election to keep pushing for fixes. My follow-up prediction on this, of course, is that Stalin will *NOT* win, so nothing will come of the talk.

    A MySpace decline will be tough to even tell if you are right, as inertia will keep many people there, and MySpace will claim users who have accounts, even if those accounts are inactive and the users no longer touch them. This prediction can be extended a few years into the future, though, really. MySpace will decline in importance as some new social network site fad will catch on in 2008, but that site, too, will fade away in 18-24 months as the next fad catches on. This will continue until some social site provides an easy, open means of keeping friends lists in place across social network sites. The other sites will resist using this friends lists initially, but users will push them to get this transportable contacts mechanism jiggered in. Eventually most social sites will support such a mechanism, and the initiator of transportable contacts over social sites (the TCoSS API?) will fade away, leaving nothing but the standard API.

    Sorry to say so much – I’m cursed with saying too much when I type.

  22. Not so much a prediction, as a storm warning…


    Around the beginning of last month, in IP Law & Business,
    reporter John Bringardner wrote that Chicago patent attorney Ray Niro
    has offered a $5,000 bounty to discover the identity of an anonymous
    blogger known as “Troll Tracker”.

    The article, “A Bounty of
    $5,000 to Name Troll Tracker
    ” (4 Dec 2007), quotes Mr. Niro:

    “I’ll offer $5,000 to anyone that can provide information
    that leads me to the identity of Troll Tracker,” Niro says, announcing
    the bounty publicly for the first time here in IP Law &
    . “I view these people [anonymous bloggers] as
    know-nothings,” he says, “afraid to reveal their

    The news spread far and fast. The news was translated into Swedish,
    Spanish and Russian. For instance, one report was “Патентные тролли предлагают награду $5000 за информацию о блогере” (7 Dec

    On December 12, 2007, Stephen Albainy-Jenei posted a followup, “Raymond Niro Responds to Patent Troll Tracker”:

    The “reward” for Troll Tracker’s identity is now $10,000.


    …This is a storm warning. Unless this is stopped, then others
    will follow Mr. Niro’s example.

    Over the past several years, computer security people have seen the
    emergence of “The Cybercrime Economy”. Mr. Niro’s bounty,
    and others like it, will increase demand for computer intrusions.

  23. Mitch Golden says

    Ed –

    You made the same mistake you frequently point out in others! As with music, at the moment (effectively) DRM-free video sales are the *norm* for video, since the CSS on normal DVDs is an entirely dead letter. (Not to mention that there’s no RM on VCR tapes.) Presumably, what you mean by the movie studios taking the plunge is *online* DRM-free video sales.

  24. (4)
    Movie studios won’t flirt with the idea of DRM-free sales, just as music labels didn’t flirt with it. But other companies will come and sell DRM-free movies. Apple might do it, or maybe we will see a semi-legal service like allofmp3.com selling movies.

  25. Sam Sandqvist says

    Re (14)… this has already been done with the iPod touch. See e.g. http://gizmodo.com/339042/first-ipod-touch-voip-call

    It will be ported to the iPhone soon, I’m sure.

  26. Didn’t mean to post anon…that was me.

  27. Analyst-reported Linux market share continues downward trend.

    Fancy-pants Internet marketing consultants rebrand selves as fancy-pants customer service consultants.

    Microsoft buys Yahoo and Facebook.

    Deployments of “sanitary sealed” virtualized MSFT Windows on enterprise desktops

    Dell continues Linux laptop sales, and concentrates on high-end models. HP and Lenovo join in.

    explanations, plus how I did on 2007

  28. Joshua Rubin says

    Prediction: There will be a spate of news stories about the security of automotive computer systems (anti-theft, navigation, engine control, braking) following high profile accidents or lawsuits. Nothing will happen, as copyright and trade-secrecy concerns will prevent anybody from studying the systems.

  29. Allan Meek says

    > (11) A Facebook application will cause a big privacy to-do.

    Would the recent Robert Scoble/Plaxo incident (http://techdirt.com/articles/20080103/124455.shtml) qualify as this?