6 October 2009
Recently, senior staff at the Internet Society engaged in a scenario planning exercise to reveal plausible courses of events that could impact the health of the Internet in the future. The results of the exercise were subsequently reviewed with the Internet Society Board of Trustees. While obviously not intended to be a definitive overview of the landscape or all potential issues, we believe the results are interesting and, we hope, thought-provoking.
We are sharing them in the hope that they will inspire thought about possibilities for the future development of the Internet, and involvement in helping to make that happen in the best possible way.
Scenario planning is a methodology used widely in business and increasingly in other sectors to allow organizations to anticipate how the future could turn out. It is particularly useful in an environment of great uncertainty. Scenario planning is neither guesswork nor statistical analysis. It is a structured process to help organizations break free from ties to “the official future” to consider other possibilities that they may confront. The stories that result from this process are intended to reveal plausible courses of events, not probable ones. While they are imaginative, they are intended to make the organization aware of possibilities that could have an impact. The organization then uses the stories as a springboard to help identify robust courses of action that will position it well for any of the possible futures.
Scenarios always start from a question about the future. In this case, the focal question for the exercise was: “Will the world embrace or resist the open Internet model?” with a second-level question to narrow the field: “What model will be more successful? Command and control? Or, distributed and decentralized?”
Internet Futures Scenario Matrix
These two questions defined four quadrants, which led to four very different stories about how the world might develop over the next eight to ten years. Each of the stories are linked below, along with factors that could drive towards these scenarios being realized, and factors that could work against the Internet from moving in that direction.
All of these stories contain some element of the Internet that exists today, as you would expect. And the Internet of tomorrow will almost certainly not look exactly like any of the stories. But you will see that each of the four scenario stories presents a different and plausible direction that the Internet might evolve towards. We believe that the Internet of 2015 will contain some of the characteristics of all four stories.
We Need You to Participate
The challenge for the Internet Society, and for everyone who cares about the Internet is to think about the possibilities and tendencies they prefer or want to avoid, and what they can do in their circumstances to help the Internet to evolve in a positive direction.The Internet Society community actively works to try to ensure that the Internet of the future will look most like the story called “The Common Pool”. We hope you will join us in our efforts.
The Internet Society hopes that you find this material helpful, and we look forward to engaging with you in a wide discussion of how we can ensure that the Internet of the future truly is for everyone.
Internet Futures Scenarios
- Common Pool Scenario
- Boutique Networks Scenario
- Moats and Drawbridges Scenario
- Porous Garden Scenario
The Internet Society welcomes everyone to get involved in the future of the Internet: