July 14, 2024

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.

2005 Predictions Scorecard

Last January, I offered predictions for 2005. It’s time now to review those predictions, to see how I did.

(1) DRM technology, especially on PCs, will be seen increasingly as a security and privacy risk to end users.

The SonyBMG fiasco fulfilled this prediction.

Verdict: Right.

(2) Vonage and other leading VoIP vendors will start to act like incumbents, welcoming regulation of their industry sector.

We did see Vonage embrace 911 regulation (only to back away from it later). But that’s about all.

Verdict: Mostly wrong.

(3) Internet Explorer will face increasing competitive pressure from Mozilla Firefox. Microsoft’s response will be hamstrung by its desire to maintain the fiction that IE is an integral part of the operating system.

Firefox did make headway, and Microsoft was held back initially by a desire to hold back IE updates until the next version of Windows was issued.

Verdict: Mostly right.

As blogs continue to grow in prominence, we’ll see consolidation in the blog world, with major bloggers either teaming up with each other or affiliating with major news outlets or web sites.

We did see plenty of consolidation: TPM Cafe, Pajamas Media, Huffington Post, and so on.

Verdict: Right.

(5) A TV show or movie that is distributed only on the net will become a cult hit.

Readers informed me that this one was already true (Red vs. Blue). Perhaps I wasn’t predicting that this would happen, but that I would learn about it.

No verdict.

(6) The Supreme Court’s Grokster decision won’t provide us with a broad, clear rule for evaluating future innovations, so the ball will be back in Congress’s court.

The Court didn’t give us a bright-line rule, but Congress has kept its hands off, presumably on the theory that the Court’s decision is the best result that is feasible.

Verdict: Mostly right.

(7) Copyright issues will be stalemated in Congress.

Many bills were introduced, but no major bills came close to passing.

Verdict: Right.

(8) There will be no real progress on the spam, spyware, and desktop security problems.

Verdict: Right.

(9) Congress will address the spyware problem by passing a harmless but ineffectual law, which critics will deride as the “CAN-SPY Act.”

No such bill was passed.

Verdict: Wrong.

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

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

Verdict: Right.

(11) New P2P systems will marry swarming distribution (as in BitTorrent) with distributed indexing (as in Kazaa et al). Copyright owners will resort to active technical measures to try to corrupt the systems’ indices.

There was talk about such systems, but no good ones were developed, so copyright owners didn’t have to respond to them.

Verdict: mostly wrong.

(12) X-ray vision technology will become more widely available (though not to the general public), spurring a privacy hoohah.

There was some discussion about airport security machines that can see through clothes, but they weren’t widely deployed and the privacy discussion was fairly minor.

Verdict: Mostly wrong.

The final score: five right, two mostly right, three mostly wrong, one wrong. Obviously my predictions weren’t sufficiently outrageous. Next: predictions for 2006.

[A few readers made their own predictions for 2005 in the comments on last year’s predictions post. I’ve re-opened comments there to allow discussion of the reader predictions.]

Predictions for 2005

Here is my list of twelve predictions for 2005.

(1) DRM technology, especially on PCs, will be seen increasingly as a security and privacy risk to end users.

(2) Vonage and other leading VoIP vendors will start to act like incumbents, welcoming regulation of their industry sector.

(3) Internet Explorer will face increasing competitive pressure from Mozilla Firefox. Microsoft’s response will be hamstrung by its desire to maintain the fiction that IE is an integral part of the operating system.

(4) As blogs continue to grow in prominence, we’ll see consolidation in the blog world, with major bloggers either teaming up with each other or affiliating with major news outlets or web sites.

(5) A TV show or movie that is distributed only on the net will become a cult hit.

(6) The Supreme Court’s Grokster decision won’t provide us with a broad, clear rule for evaluating future innovations, so the ball will be back in Congress’s court.

(7) Copyright issues will be stalemated in Congress.

(8) There will be no real progress on the spam, spyware, and desktop security problems.

(9) Congress will address the spyware problem by passing a harmless but ineffectual law, which critics will deride as the “CAN-SPY Act.”

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

(11) New P2P systems will marry swarming distribution (as in BitTorrent) with distributed indexing (as in Kazaa et al). Copyright owners will resort to active technical measures to try to corrupt the systems’ indices.

(12) X-ray vision technology will become more widely available (though not to the general public), spurring a privacy hoohah.

2004 Predictions Scorecard

A year ago, I offered seven predictions for 2004. Today, as penance for sins committed in 2004, it’s my duty to exhume these predictions and compare them to reality.

(1) Some public figure will be severely embarrassed by an image taken by somebody else’s picture-phone or an audio stream captured by somebody else’s pocket audio recorder. This will trigger a public debate about the privacy implications of personal surveillance devices.

The Abu Ghraib images seem to fit the bill here: pictures taken by a phonecam that severely embarass a public figure. When I made this prediction, I had in mind pictures or recordings of the public figure in question, but what the prediction as written wasn’t too far off.

Verdict: mostly right.

(2) The credibility of e-voting technologies will continue to leak away as more irregularities come to light. The Holt e-voting bill will get traction in Congress, posing a minor political dilemma for the president who will be caught between the bill’s supporters on one side and campaign contributors with e-voting ties on the other.

E-voting technologies did lose credibility as predicted. The Holt bill did gain some traction but was never close to passing. Republicans did feel some squeeze on this issue, and it became a bit of a partisan issue. (Now that the 2004 election is past, there is more hope for e-voting reform.)

Verdict: mostly right.

(3) A new generation of P2P tools that resist the recording industry’s technical countermeasures will grow in popularity. The recording industry will respond by devising new tactics to monitor and unmask P2P infringers.

P2P tools did evolve to resist technical countermeasures, for instance by using hashes to detect spoofed files. The recording industry is only now starting to change tactics. The big P2P technology of the year was BitTorrent, whose main innovation was in dispersing the bandwidth load required to distribute large files, rather than in evading countermeasures. Indeed, BitTorrent made possible a new set of countermeasures, which the copyright owners adopted near the end of the year.

Verdict: mostly right.

(4) Before the ink is dry on the FCC’s broadcast flag order, the studios will declare it insufficient and ask for a further mandate requiring watermark detectors in all analog-to-digital converters. The FCC will balk at the obvious technical and economic flaws in this proposal.

The studios did seem to want a watermark-based system to close the analog hole, but they were held back by its total infeasibility. My main error here was to misjudge the time scale.

Verdict: mostly wrong.

(5) DRM technology will still be ineffective and inflexible. A few people in the movie industry will wake up to the hopelessness of DRM, and will push the industry to try another approach. But they won’t be able to overcome the industry’s inertia ? at least not in 2004.

DRM technology was nearly useless, as predicted. We’re starting to hear faint rumblings within the movie industry that a different approach would be wise. But, as predicted, the industry isn’t paying much attention to them.

Verdict: right.

(6) Increasingly, WiFi will be provided as a free amenity rather than a paid service. This will catch on first in hotels and cafes, but by the end of the year free WiFi will be available in at least one major U.S. airport.

Even some New Jersey diners now offer free WiFi. The Pittsburgh airport has offered free WiFi for nearly a year. And some airline clubrooms offer free WiFi that is accessible from nearby terminal areas.

Verdict: right.

(7) Voice over IP (VoIP) companies like Vonage will be the darlings of the business press, but the most talked-about VoIP-related media stories will be contrarian pieces raising doubt about the security and reliability implications of relying on the Internet for phone service.

VoIP got plenty of attention, but these companies were not “darlings of the business press”. Security/reliability contrarian stories didn’t get much play. This prediction went too far.

Verdict: mostly wrong.

Overall score: two right, three mostly right, two mostly wrong, none wrong. I’m a bit surprised to have done so well. Obviously this year’s predictions need to be more outrageous. I’ll offer them later in the week.

[UPDATE (1:15 PM): I originally wrote that the first prediction was wrong. Then an anonymous commenter pointed out that Abu Ghraib would qualify. See also the incident in India referenced in the comments.]

Predictions for 2004

Happy New Year! This time of year, journalistic convention requires even micro-pundits like me to make predictions for the upcoming year. This goes for the rest of you bloggers too – let’s see your predictions!

Like everybody else’s predictions, some of my predictions are obvious, some will be hilariously wrong, and all of them will be conveniently forgotten later. Also like everyone else, I’ll look back at the end of 2004 and wonder how I left out the year’s biggest story. But here goes anyway.

(1) Some public figure will be severely embarrassed by an image taken by somebody else’s picture-phone or an audio stream captured by somebody else’s pocket audio recorder. This will trigger a public debate about the privacy implications of personal surveillance devices.

(2) The credibility of e-voting technologies will continue to leak away as more irregularities come to light. The Holt e-voting bill will get traction in Congress, posing a minor political dilemma for the president who will be caught between the bill’s supporters on one side and campaign contributors with e-voting ties on the other.

(3) A new generation of P2P tools that resist the recording industry’s technical countermeasures will grow in popularity. The recording industry will respond by devising new tactics to monitor and unmask P2P infringers.

(4) Before the ink is dry on the FCC’s broadcast flag order, the studios will declare it insufficient and ask for a further mandate requiring watermark detectors in all analog-to-digital converters. The FCC will balk at the obvious technical and economic flaws in this proposal.

(5) DRM technology will still be ineffective and inflexible. A few people in the movie industry will wake up to the hopelessness of DRM, and will push the industry to try another approach. But they won’t be able to overcome the industry’s inertia – at least not in 2004.

(6) Increasingly, WiFi will be provided as a free amenity rather than a paid service. This will catch on first in hotels and cafes, but by the end of the year free WiFi will be available in at least one major U.S. airport.

(7) Voice over IP (VoIP) companies like Vonage will be the darlings of the business press, but the most talked-about VoIP-related media stories will be contrarian pieces raising doubt about the security and reliability implications of relying on the Internet for phone service.