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Shaping the Internet’s future

As does every technology, the Internet has grown, evolved, and adapted to new technologies and new uses. As a global infrastructure, the Internet is also shaped by economic and policy forces. A key part of the Internet Society’s work is to understand and anticipate how these various factors might affect the Internet’s future, and work to ensure changes do not undermine the key attributes that have allowed the Internet to thrive over the past three decades.

The Internet is changing.

From the underlying infrastructure to the way users engage, the Internet is evolving in many ways. The Internet Society’s 2017 report foresaw a hyperconnected Internet economy, one in which no sector of the economy or part of society would be untouched by technology. Among the other questions it posed, the report also asked if this technology-driven disruption would favour the existing Internet economy players, or usher in greater competition and entrepreneurship. In the 2019 report, the Internet Society explores the evolving Internet economy further. It examines the growing presence the Internet platforms have in the Internet economy, and what the implications might be for society, innovation, competition, and the economy, as well as the Internet’s broader architecture.

In the 2019 report, the Internet Society asks whether the Internet economy is consolidating and, if it is, what the implications might be. From the dominance of Facebook in social messaging, Google in search and Amazon in online shopping, the largest Internet platforms are capturing fundamental human interactions. This dominance, and the finances and reach that accompany it, enable the platforms to extend their influence and reach into new market spaces, from autonomous vehicles, to AI, to cloud services and beyond. This leverage is built on unprecedented network effects, vast troves of user data, business agility, and regulatory freedom that few other companies enjoy.

In this report, the Internet Society recognises the incredible convenience these platforms provide the Internet user. At the same time, the Internet Society also recognises the concerns that are being voiced about this dominance, and about the responsibility these companies have to society and economy. The 2019 report explores these issues by examining five key trends and themes that emerged from extensive engagement with the Internet Society community, and surveys and interviews with experts, thought leaders and influencers.

When we started this project, our ambition was to provide clear answers and recommendations. Instead, it raised an even longer set of questions.

This report marks the start of a new conversation. One where we need your help. In 2019 we will be conducting a deeper dive into the topic of consolidation.

Shaping Future News

The Global Internet Report: Consolidation in the Internet Economy
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Shaping the Internet's Future 26 February 2019

The Global Internet Report: Consolidation in the Internet Economy

The 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future focused attention on the significant potential of the Internet...

Future Thinking: Alissa Cooper on the Technical Impact of Internet Consolidation
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Shaping the Internet's Future 12 February 2019

Future Thinking: Alissa Cooper on the Technical Impact of Internet Consolidation

Alissa Cooper is a Fellow at Cisco Systems. She has been serving as the Chair of the Internet Engineering...

Future Thinking: Chris Yiu of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
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Shaping the Internet's Future 9 January 2019

Future Thinking: Chris Yiu of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

Chris Yiu is a senior policy fellow for technology in the Renewing the Centre team at the Tony Blair...

Future Thinking: Orla Lynskey on Data in the Age of Consolidation
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Shaping the Internet's Future 7 December 2018

Future Thinking: Orla Lynskey on Data in the Age of Consolidation

Orla Lynskey is an associate professor of law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her primary...

Future Thinking: Payal Malik of the Competition Commission of India
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Shaping the Internet's Future 27 November 2018

Future Thinking: Payal Malik of the Competition Commission of India

Payal Malik is the Economics Adviser and Head of the Economics Division (Chief Economist) at the Competition Commission of India....

Future Thinking: Natali Helberger on the Impact of Consolidation on Media Diversity
Future Thinking: Natali Helberger on the Impact of Consolidation on Media Diversity Thumbnail
Shaping the Internet's Future 1 November 2018

Future Thinking: Natali Helberger on the Impact of Consolidation on Media Diversity

Natali Helberger is a professor of Information Law at the University of Amsterdam's (UvA) Faculty of Law. She researches...

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2019 Global Internet Report

Consolidation in the Internet Economy

2017 Global Internet Report

Paths to Our Digital Future