July 16, 2024

Predictions for 2010

Here are our predictions for 2010. These are based on input from Ari Feldman, Ed Felten, Alex Halderman, Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Tim Lee, Paul Ohm, David Robinson, Dan Wallach, Harlan Yu, and Bill Zeller. Please note that individual contributors (including me) don’t necessarily agree with all of these predictions.

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

(2) Federated DRM systems, such as DECE and KeyChest, will not catch on.

(3) Content providers will crack down on online sites that host unlicensed re-streaming of live sports programming. DMCA takedown notices will be followed by a lawsuit claiming actual knowledge of infringing materials and direct financial benefits.

(4) Major newspaper content will continue to be available online for free (with ads) despite cheerleading for paywalls by Rupert Murdoch and others.

(5) The Supreme Court will strike down pure business model patents in its Bilski opinion. The Court will establish a new test for patentability, rather than accepting the Federal Circuit’s test. The Court won’t go so far as to ban software patents, but the implications of the ruling for software patents will be unclear and will generate much debate.

(6) Patent reform legislation won’t pass in 2010. Calls for Congress to resolve the post-Bilski uncertainty will contribute to the delay.

(7) After the upcoming rulings in Quon (Supreme Court), Comprehensive Drug Testing (Ninth Circuit or Supreme Court) and Warshak (Sixth Circuit), 2010 will be remembered as the year the courts finally extended the full protection of the Fourth Amendment to the Internet.

(8) Fresh evidence will come to light of the extent of law enforcement access to mobile phone location-data, intensifying the debate about the status of mobile location data under the Fourth Amendment and electronic surveillance statutes. Civil libertarians will call for stronger oversight, but nothing will come of it by year’s end.

(9) The FTC will continue to threaten to do much more to punish online privacy violations, but it won’t do much to make good on the threats.

(10) The new Apple tablet will be gorgeous but expensive. It will be a huge hit only if it offers some kind of advance in the basic human interface, such as a really effective full-sized on-screen keyboard.

(11) The disadvantages of iTunes-style walled garden app stores will become increasingly evident. Apple will consider relaxing its restrictions on iPhone apps, but in the end will offer only rhetoric, not real change.

(12) Internet Explorer’s usage share will fall below 50 percent for the first time in a decade, spurred by continued growth of Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

(13) Amazon and other online retailers will be forced to collect state sales tax in all 50 states. This will have little impact on the growth of their business, as they will continue to undercut local bricks-and-mortar stores on prices, but it will remove their incentive to build warehouses in odd places just to avoid having to collect sales tax.

(14) Mobile carriers will continue locking consumers in to long-term service contracts despite the best efforts of Google and the handset manufacturers to sell unlocked phones.

(15) Palm will die, or be absorbed by Research In Motion or Microsoft.

(16) In July, when all the iPhone 3G early adopters are coming off their two-year lock-in with AT&T, there will be a frenzy of Android and other smartphone devices competing for AT&T’s customers. Apple, no doubt offering yet another version of the iPhone at the time, will be forced to cut its prices, but will hang onto its centralized app store. Android will be the big winner in this battle, in terms of gained market share, but there will be all kinds of fragmentation, with different carriers offering slightly different and incompatible variants on Android.

(17) Hackers will quickly sort out how to install their own Android builds on locked-down Android phones from all the major vendors, leading to threatened or actual lawsuits but no successful legal action taken.

(18) Twitter will peak and begin its decline as a human-to-human communication medium.

(19) A politican or a candidate will commit a high-profile “macaca”-like moment via Twitter.

(20) Facebook customers will become increasingly disenchanted with the company, but won’t leave in large numbers because they’ll have too much information locked up in the site.

(21) The fashionable anti-Internet argument of 2010 will be that the Net has passed its prime, supplanting the (equally bogus) 2009 fad argument that the Internet is bad for literacy.

(22) One year after the release of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive, the effort will be seen as a measured success. Agencies will show eagerness to embrace data transparency but will find the mechanics of releasing datasets to be long and difficult. Privacy– how to deal with personal information available in public data– will be one major hurdle.

(23) The Open Government agenda will be the bright spot in the Administration’s tech policy, which will otherwise be seen as a business-as-usual continuation of past policies.


  1. I’d like to add a latecomer prediction that the US economy will continue to face falling employment and harsher conditions (especially for those on the bottom of the heap) which will maybe just start to turn around near the end of 2010. This single issue will be big enough and bad enough to drive most of the other issues out of mind.

  2. Most of these predictions seem relatively unambitious when compared to last years. A lot of them seem like “much noise will be made about X, but nothing major will happen in the end,” which is often a safe bet. Here are some individual reactions:

    (5) I hope Bilski turns out like you predict. Given its conservative, pro-business make-up, I personally think the Court won’t be quite as bold as you describe. Perhaps I’m just being cynical, though.

    (15) It seems like the death of Palm has been a recurring theme for years, but they always seem to manage by putting out just-okay products. I think the success of the Pre will give them enough momentum to continue that trend.

    (18) We can only hope and pray for this.

    (22) I don’t see this happening. Perhaps I’m being too cynical again, but transparency is somewhat antithetical to typical government incentives. Taking a safe approach, my guess is that the administration and the press will make a big deal about it, the agencies will have a lukewarm response, and there might be a marginal improvement.

  3. I notice that last year’s FTT predictions tended to be more accurate when predicting things which will stay the same or not happen. I think this is true in general as well.

    Based upon that, I would be more certain about these predictions:
    1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 17, and 20.

    • Experience with past years’ predictions tends to support your rule of thumb. Predictions of inaction, even where conventional wisdom expects action, tend to do well.

      Often, an annual prediction is often wrong not because the predicted event doesn’t happen but because it happens later, after the year is over. That’s why we sometimes repeat failed predictions. For example, last year we predicted that IE market share would drop below 50%. That hasn’t happened yet but seems likely to happen at some point. We repeated the same prediction this year — we’ll see whether it happened by the end of 2010.

      The general lesson, I guess, is that trends tend to unfold more slowly than expected.

  4. Minor quibble: not all 50 states have sales taxes.

    I understand what you mean, and agree with the spirit of your prediction, but you may want to reword anyway.

    Anyway, the predictions look really solid across the board. I think this is the first time I’ve been able to agree with more than 75% of them since I started following this feature 3 years ago.

  5. I disagree with Yoni, it always helps to be vocal about DRMs inherent pointlessness. Maybe if we’re loud enough long enough, tech illiterate corporate bozos will get the hint and start making better, more open products instead of more and more black boxes with PCBs liberally slathered with epoxy…

  6. Ken Houghton says

    I admire your optimism, but the Supreme Court hasn’t endorsed the Fourth Amendment in any other area, so why would you believe they’ll apply it to the Internet?

    If there’s a betting line on “most likely to be wrong,” this one should have 2:5 odds.

    • Seems unlikely, in this era of paranoia about terrorism, that there’s going to be a whole lot of decisions in favor of a more expansive interpretation of civil liberties.

  7. Congrats, this prediction almost beat YOU to the punch on day 6 of 2010:

  8. Jenna McWilliams says

    Nice post, nice blog. It makes me kinda sad to see the authors list populated by such an overwhelming majority of guys, though. The thundering silence from the world’s female tinkerers storms on.

    • I’m all in favor of hearing from female tinkerers. If you want to suggest potential guest bloggers (also the first step to potential permanent bloggerhood), please email me privately (my_last_name at cs dot princeton dot edu).

      • Jenna McWilliams says

        brb gathering up female tinkerer/bloggers

        you just stay RIGHT THERE while I get them.

    • Sadly, CITP suffers from computer science’s lack of female students. While all the other science, technology, engineering, and maths disciplines have seen an increase in female graduates in recent years, computer science alone among them has seen a decline. This is undoubtedly a bad thing for CS.

  9. Come’on Ed, I think you guys can let go of the #1 prediction, which you repeat every year. It’s just not that relevant anymore.

    • Prediction #1 is a Freedom to Tinker tradition. Sure, it’s conventional wisdom now, but it seemed bolder when we first made it. And there are still people out there who don’t believe it.

  10. (1) It is true, DRM is doomed without strong enforcement. In many cases, it is to the disadvantage of the publisher anyway. On my page, I would be able to help publishers sell downloads if my user could have a quick and easy way to listen to a sample before they go to an online store.

    I think the Android/iPhone clash in 2010 will get very intense and iphone sales will fall off if they do not add another service provider like Verizon to help them compete better against the new generations of phones.

    (20) A large percentage of the user on Facebook are only doing because they do not understand that it will probably not help their business and it can waste resource try to build content on Facebook. Many of the business user will start dropping out in 2010 but personal users will remain strong.