The Internet’s Top Challenges

Internet co-inventor Vinton Cerf, Martha Stewart, Arianna Huffington, John Battelle and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone are among the Webby award judges who shared their idea of what are the Internet’s top challenges. No real surprises, and I would add the reappearance of the major incompatibilities between platforms – especially in mobile – that remind me of the early days of the web, when a website had to be coded carefully for incompatible browsers like Netscape and Internet Exporer.

Protecting Privacy
The Internet’s great trade-off is that while you get access to the rest of the world, the rest of the world gets access to you. The data collected can add value to the online experience through customized content and advertising – but such an extensive record of personal information can pose risks to consumers. The industry must take steps to demystify the privacy debate by establishing global standards, providing transparent policies, and educating consumers on its practices.

Modernizing Copyright Laws
Is it ok to copy an album and give it to a friend? How many paragraphs should one quote from an online news article? Will we ever be able to pass along an e-book to a colleague? As the Web enters its third decade, the answers to these questions remain unclear. The Internet’s power as a medium through which creators can distribute their work continues to grow, yet the current copyright laws are hopelessly out of date. For the Internet to fulfill its potential, new and modernized copyright laws must reflect the current relationship between technology and creativity.

Ensuring Net Neutrality
Ensuring that all Internet traffic is treated equally – meaning that data from Amazon.com and data from a teenager’s blog move along the pipeline at the same speed – is a worthy and complicated goal. Industry leaders and policymakers need to come together and identify solutions that will guarantee fair treatment of all Internet traffic. However, these solutions must also provide ISPs with enough flexibility to efficiently manage their networks and services.

Maintaining the Open Web
From commenting on articles and sharing videos to crowd-sourcing and user-generated content, the Internet’s interactivity and communal power is what makes it such a vibrant and useful medium. While social networks and mobile apps offer rich, interactive, and customized experiences, many of their features are often sheltered from the rest of the Web. If the Internet as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, we must do a better job of maintaining interconnectivity.

Strengthening Internet Security
Until recently, there has been little examination of the consequences of storing large amounts of proprietary information online. The recent spate of high-level incidents – from WikiLeaks to China’s hacking of the Internet – has made the perils of weak online security a tangible issue. Everyone, from governments and businesses to universities and individuals, must re-evaluate how they share, store, and publish sensitive information on the Internet – take steps to ensure it is protected.

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I am an entrepreneur and researcher passionate about understanding the social implications of digital technologies.
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