April 24, 2014

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Predictions for 2006

Each January, I have offered predictions for the upcoming year. This year, Alex and I put our heads together to come up with a single list of predictions. Having doubled the number of bloggers making predictions, we seem to have doubled the number of predictions, too. Each prediction is supported by at least one of us, except the predictions that turn out to be wrong, which must have slipped in by mistake.

And now, our predictions for 2006:

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

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

(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.

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

(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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(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.

(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.

(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.

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

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

(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.

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

(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.

(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.

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

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

Comments

  1. Peter Mogensen says:

    “as email did in moving toward Gmail”

    Hmm… Not having fallen for the temptation to use GMail… But isn’t there an problem with such server-based email applications, that they cannot securely support S/MIME unless there’s a client-side app. handling the keys ? (which I suppose there isn’t)

    I mean… I would not hand over my private key to Google, and I’m pretty sure it’s even illegal for me to do so, since it’s an official issued key.

    So has “email” really moved to Google, or is it just giving that impression?

  2. Lewis Baumstark says:

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

    Ideas like this renew my faith that everything will be all right in the end.

    The cynic in me, however, comes up with prediction #13 for 2007: Communications companies will quietly push through laws to criminalize use of such applications.

  3. Seth Finkelstein says:

    #7, #8, #9 are like predicting “There will be a scandal in Washington, a celebrity will be caught doing something outrageous, and pundits will bloviate about how it all has deep cultural significance.”

    #22 is like predicting there will be peace on Earth and goodwill towards all :-)

    #23 – there is no such thing as “a crime committed entirely in a virtual world”. I think you mean “a crime which will involve property rights connected to an online game”.

  4. Jonathan Shapiro says:

    “(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”

    I was wondering how, in the opinion of the authors (& others), this prediction squares with the recent demise of Overpeer. [Background on Overpeer here] Did Overpeer simply use the wrong technical approach? Were content owners not yet ready to pay for Overpeer’s services? Something else?

  5. Toon Moene says:

    #7 is not a prediction – it’s what we meteorologists call
    a “hindcast” – a description of something that happened
    in the disguise of a forecast.

    [ Or you must mean something else than Sony's rootkit "DRM" ]

  6. Wayland says:

    I predict that you will get 80% or so of your predicitions correct.

    Linking to your blog.

  7. Ed Felten says:

    Toon,

    We didn’t mean Sony’s rootkit DRM. That’s why we said “one more” system.

  8. Ed Felten says:

    Jonathan,

    The demise of Overpeer does reflect a move away from technical measures. We’re predicting a pendulum swing back toward technical measures in general. I wouldn’t predict a return of Overpeer-style spoofing, though.

  9. Tanner Lovelace says:

    Hmm… Not having fallen for the temptation to use GMail… But isn’t there an problem with such server-based email applications, that they cannot securely support S/MIME unless there’s a client-side app. handling the keys ? (which I suppose there isn’t)

    You mean like the Gmail S/MIME Firefox extension?

  10. Steve R. says:

    The oracle is suitably ambiguous, this should result in a predictably high success score in January 2007 confirming the oracle’s prescient capabilities.

    #10 Planned incompatibility is the rising star.

    #18 The pursuit of content protection has frustrated the introduction of HD technology and has probably already “cost” more that the “losses” that would have occurred had this technology simply been implemented as open an open standard. (See #10)

    #16, 17, 18 Should the “analog hole” be closed, I would suggest that this blog open a predictive office-pool based on how long it takes for the proverbial black box to be introduced into the marketplace to circumvent the “analog hole”. Instead of picking the normal elapsed days, the pool should be based on elapsed seconds.
    ——————————————————————————————-
    Easy prediction that the oracle seems to have overlooked (maybe the crystal was cloudy).

    24. The news media (on the whole) will continue to regurgitate press releases from the RIAA, the movie industry, and software manufactures lamenting that pirating is driving them into bankruptcy and that more must be done to protect them.

    25. The court system will continue to consider corporations as unfortunate victims of abuse and the consumer as the perpetuator requiring extreme discipline.

  11. Foolish Jordan says:

    I don’t understand #21. What does it mean to discriminate networks?

  12. Quarthinos says:

    I think by discriminating networks they mean what AOL did: If your IP isn’t from AOL, you can’t get at AOL-only content.

    The military has legions of unclassified computers that have this kind of thing as a first line of defense.. If you’re not from the .mil domain, you just can’t find the computer. (Not using out-of-the-box IP stacks, anyway.)

  13. Ed Felten says:

    Foolish Jordan,

    Thanks for pointing out the ambiguity in #21. I rephrased it to clarify what we meant.

  14. Louie Lindenmayer says:

    No predictions about Open Document and the battle for Massachusets? I’d predict that some company would be exposed for their back-room manipulations trying to hold onto their monopoly…

  15. Barry says:

    If watermarking DRM (#4) makes any sort of comeback, it either won’t be pushed by the major media companies or will be done purely for show to keep up the pretense that DRM is about copy prevention rather than control over the consumer.

    That’s unfortunate, though, because watermarking is really the only concept so far that acts against illegal copy distribution (however weakly it might accomplish that) while still respecting the fair use rights of the consumer.

  16. Discriminatory Bob says:

    Even worse, I think #21 means that the network providers are trying to extract money from the content providers, and denying their customers access to those corners of the Internets from which cash doesn’t flow.

    See Techdirt’s recent article at http://techdirt.com/articles/20060105/1537208_F.shtml

    –Bob.

  17. Peter says:

    What do you mean by #4? SACD and DVD-Audio both include watermarking which compliant players are required to detect in unencrypted streams. If there’s a watermark that says the data came from an encrypted source, compliant players must stop playing. And TiVoToGo apparently embeds your “Media Access Key” in shows you transfer off of your TiVo.

  18. Steve R. says:

    Thanks for the link. I was unaware of the implications of #21. I can see this as quickly becoming a major consumer concern.

  19. V says:

    17. More likely Blu-ray and HD-DVD will both be released in a vicious format war while most people continue to buy normal DVDs. Part of this is because they’re universal. The other part is because nobody is quite sure what makes either technology such a huge improvement for your average consumer who doesn’t own an HD TV. THEN it can go laser disc.

    20. I laughed when I read about Office Live and Windows Live. AJAX does great things with systems that are BUILT TO BE USED ONLINE, such as web based email and services like Google Maps. Most of us don’t feel a need to pay subscription costs for software we’re used to just owning, especially when it doesn’t work the minute your ISP decides to die on you.

  20. sandman777 says:

    I agree with Discriminatory Bob.
    They will use both software and hardware to accomplish this task. All the while saying that it is being done in the name of “Trusted Computing” and the “security” of their network.

    See this and other eff articles.

    http://www.eff.org/Infrastructure/trusted_computing/20031001_tc.php

  21. Dan Wallach says:

    (15) Push technology — to some extent, RSS and podcasting can be defined as push technologies are are quite successful.

    (18) “Digital home” products — again, to some extent, are already here and are quite successful, if you consider products ranging from DVRs to game systems. The unsuccessful part will probably be the Swiss Army Knife devices that try to be all things to all people.

  22. mono says:

    Great Lis(z)t.

    “There will be broad consensus on the the need for patent reform, but very little consensus on what reform means.”

    - Reforms are great. If at least just for the sake of changing things. ;)

    About Blue-Ray and the Second Laser Disc: Being a teenager, I loved the idea of the Laser Disc (High-Res stuff and different angles). But I found out, that no one really used or even had such device (admired the department store’s LD-Demos). Well, Blue Ray and HD won’t add revolutionairy featurism but more space per disc, resulting in a) more content (hopefully) or b) more codec-quality (dvd is enough for me at home, really).

  23. Brambles says:

    What about Spyware? Do you see any serious breakthrough coming in 2006? Perhaps a court ruling in Utah or some enforcable rules from the legislation?
    BTW, have a happy new year.

  24. Steve R. says:

    #1, #5, #10, #16, #17, & #18

    Rob Pegoraro writes in the Washington Post (1/7/2006)
    ————————————————————————————
    The entertainment industry’s insistence on perfect copy protection has succeeded in keeping many other products out of sight and limiting the utility of others that do reach store shelves. For instance, computers running the next release of Microsoft’s Media Center edition of Windows will be able to receive digital cable signals, but most buyers will need new monitors with encrypted digital connections to see any high-def video. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/07/AR2006010700155_2.html
    ————————————————————————————–
    Not only does the Entertainment industry trespass on our computers with DRM, but it is now seeks to impose a technology that forces the consumer to $$buy$$ additional but unnecessary hardware. Most monitors can already display High Definition. The entertainment industry (to protect its profits) is effectively DISABLING your ability to use your monitor to its full advantage.

    At this point in the product cycle, the “cost” of this DRM technology to the consumer is an abstraction. Since there are no injured parties yet, there is little in the way of discussion. Once consumers realize that existing hardware has been disabled, the outrage may begin. The ideal situation would be to boycott so that the entertainment industry cannot recapture its development costs.

  25. Nathan Jones says:

    V Says: “17. More likely Blu-ray and HD-DVD will both be released … while most people continue to buy normal DVDs.”

    The worry is that studios will find a way to push the format(s) hard enough that there is just enough adoption for them to say “we’re gonna stop making DVDs now”. But that’s more a 2007/2008 thing. And I agree that people largely won’t see the benefits. People may also be more aware of the more aggressive DRM planned for these formats.

  26. LWN: Welcome to LWN.net says:

    [...] Ed Felten has put up a set of 2006 predictions on the Freedom to Tinker site. “(19) A name-brand database vendor will go bust, unable to compete against open source.” [...]

  27. Peter O says:

    Hum. I know its hard to come up with predictions like these, and you are definitely deserving of respect for having the guts to predict anything at all (in writing), but I feel like a lot of these are too general to really come to anything (see Seth’s comment for examples). What I mean is that at the end of the year, they will be very debatable, which in my mind weakens the prediction. I don’t think that doubling the set was a good thing, I felt last year’s predictions were more solid. That said, here’s what I’m willing to offer my guesses on:

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

    Yep.

    (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.

    This is really interesting, and difficult. It’s obvious the music execs don’t like being fixed at 99 cents per song, but the question of where they will turn for help is tough to predict. My gut says they are going to have a showdown with Apple first over variable pricing, because we know these people like to have as little change as possible. But what’s really hard about this is that with all the industries MS has gotten into so far, it’s sort of a wonder they haven’t gotten into music licensing. I’m going to guess the recording industry will prefer to stick with its current partners, e.g. Real, Yahoo, etc.

    As for part 2, I think the movie industry is already cozy with Washington. I doubt this relationship will change much this year.

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

    Another difficult prediction. Google knows they are right, and knows the book industry just wants a cut of the profits from what they are doing. The book industry knows it doesn’t have a legal argument, and no doubt is dying to settle. I think Google is going to try to force this to court, so they can win.

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

    Well, duh :)

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

    Again this year, indeed.

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

    I disagree. I think the problems with the patent office have been visible for a while now, and people have either decided to care or not at this point (for most, this means not). BTW I assume you mean “broad consensus in Washington.”

    (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.

    I disagree with this as well. I understand the net neutrality issue may come to a head this year, but I don’t think this is how it will be characterized. In the interests of sticking my neck out just as far, I think it will be more of an argument for capitalism and free markets than anything.

    (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.

    I don’t think any providers are going to open their phones or networks up this year. See Verizon and Hotelling’s law.

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

    I think that what Apple and Google are doing is actually going to be a more successful approach. I think the major advantage of TV-on-the-computer is that you get all the extra versatility of the computer, like skipping commercials, pausing, etc. For the people that want this, they already have capture cards.

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

    More like the second coming of DVD- and DVD+. I’m glad I get to write this down somewhere: Neither blu-ray nor HD-DVD will win. Every device will be able to do both.

    (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.

    Yeah, I agree here. What customers want, although they don’t know it yet, is industry standard communication protocols so device X works with device Y. There’s so much expense here, the number of people willing to invest in an entire system all at once is pretty small (rather than doing it piecemeal).

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

    I agree. The database market is pretty saturated, and the open source solutions are getting really good.

    (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.

    I really hope this doesn’t happen. I’m not very old, but I can just see myself talking about “the good old days.” I am going to predict the opposite, only because I don’t think the neutrality issue will be mature enough to reach this point by the end of 2006, but this may happen down the line. (To be very specific, it’s the part about being backed by service providers that makes me think this won’t come true.)

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

    Newscorp bought MySpace, and Friendster has monkeys calling the shots. I don’t think so.

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

    I think this is an ambitious prediction, but I agree with you. There certainly is a lot more money rolling around in these spaces. I just saw a poll that something like 15% of readers of this one blog make more than $1K/year playing a particular game (NWN, SL). The figures are starting to get into the millions, which is probably enough to start putting personal safety and whatnot at risk.

    Much fun. See you Jan 1 2007!

  28. Anonymous says:

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

    Do you mean what the french ISP named “Free” ? I.e. give to all subscribers that have enough ADSL bandwith, that is receiving at home 85 digital, unencrypted, not crippled, MPEG video stream that you can receive on any standards-compliant video software (even open-source like http://videolan.org/ which Free recommends), keep private copies, transcode to watch them on your portable device etc.

    All this is already reality for millions of french homes. But if the DADVSI outlaws all this we’re doomed. Videolan authors explains in english and french here : http://www.videolan.org/eucd.html

  29. Anonymous says:

    Why do you think “(2) the RIAA will quietly reduce the number of lawsuits it files against end users”? It seems these lawsuits are quite effective. The only drawback is that RIAA gets some negative publicity. However, other means to fight P2P networks (like DRM) are hardly better.

  30. Ned Ulbricht says:

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

    In June 2003, Declan McCullagh wrote in a CNET article, “Senator OK with zapping pirates’ PCs

    During a hearing that Hatch convened Tuesday on the “national security risks” of P2P networks, he asked a witness, “Can you destroy their set in their home?” referring to a home PC.

    Randy Saaf of MediaDefender, a secretive Los Angeles company that works with the recording industry to disrupt P2P networks, replied by saying “nobody” is interested in that approach.

    “I am,” Hatch said. “I’m interested in doing that. That may be the only way you can teach someone about copyright…That would be the ultimate way of making sure” no more copyright is infringed.

    Hatch suggested that Congress would have to amend laws restricting computer intrusions. “If it’s the only way you can do it,” Hatch said, “then I’m all for destroying their machines…but you’d have to pass legislation permitting that, it seems to me, before someone could really do that with any degree of assurance that they’re doing something that might be proper.”

    Orin Kerr, a former Justice Department prosecutor who is an associate professor at George Washington University law school, says Hatch’s idea “would not only be a bad idea, but an extremely bad idea. The cure would be worse than the disease.”

    If Hatch’s proposal were to be written into law, Kerr said, it would have to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal computer crime statute. “It would give an exception to copyright owners who are taking reasonable steps to disable acts of copyright infringement,” Kerr said. “The trick is that all of these (disruption or disabling) offenses are crimes under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.”

    I suspect that the fallout from the Sony BMG, First4Internet, SunnComm problem will make it politically infeasible to amend the CFAA to exempt media corporations in 2006.

  31. Brian Thomas says:

    Ed:

    Here’s something that I think you didn’t predict last year:

    http://www.it-director.com/article.php?id=13089&msu=rss

    The UK’s Office of Fair Trade has published a list of contract terms that it considers onerous and wishes to discourage.

  32. Phillip Rhodes' Weblog says:

    I’m such a trend-setter!…

    Well, not really, but this is a little amusing. After my recent couple of blog posts about the status and future of the Web, I see an interesting article at Freedom To Tinker .
    in which they issue their “Predictions for 2006.” Item number 13…

  33. Class V says:

    Well done! Since I do not see the Trackback feature here, just wanted to give you the heads up that I linked to your post on my blog.

  34. Ed Felten says:

    Anonymous,

    You ask why I predict the RIAA will file fewer suits against end users. Here’s my reasoning:

    They started filing suits to send a message that infringing file sharing is illegal and will not be tolerated. The first few rounds of suits were successful at sending that message. Now they have reached a point of diminshing returns, where further suits do relatively little good, and only increase the risk of bad publicity due to, e.g., suits against grandmothers who don’t own computers. But they can’t stop filing suits, because that would send the opposite message, that they were acquiescing to widespread file sharing. So expect them to file fewer suits, but not to stop filing suits altogether.

  35. John. says:

    “(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 way things are going, the real second coming will occur before the HD-DVD/Blu-ray mess is sorted out.