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.