The Next 25 Years

Mark DuBois, Executive Director of the Web Professionals Organization, shares his thoughts on the next 25 years of the world of the web and technology trends. Mark was asked to take over the organization in April 2016 and has been running it ever since as Executive Director. Click here for Mark’s reflections on the first 25 years of the organization.

I will be the first to say that trying to predict the future of what technology trends and the web will look like is difficult. So take all of this with a grain of salt. These are all my opinions based on 30+ years experience on this stuff. I will start by saying that the web is about documents. When I say document, I don’t mean text-based materials. I use the word document to refer to a package of knowledge—in other words, an association of images, words, videos, sounds that come together as an element of knowing or understanding.

We will always need packages of knowledge from the past to inform how we behave in the present and future. If you don’t know how to build a fire, it would be handy to have a “document” informing you how to do so. And there will be a continued need to access documents in whatever form they may be in. 

When Tim Berners-Lee created the first Hypertext Markup Language prototypes, what did he try to do? His focus was on making information available to anyone on any device at any time. In my way of thinking, that’s where the mission remains today. When I started working with web technologies in 1992, there was no CSS, no formatting of text (except by the browser), and no behaviors like JavaScript. There will probably be other stuff that we haven’t even thought about that will happen in the next 25.  We will remain focused on the fact that we’re dealing with documents—we will need to archive them and make sure they are available. We will try to meet that original requirement for people to access documents on any device, at any time. 

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With the web, ideas can cross generations. You can access websites and content on your phone, tablet, Chromebook, laptop, and desktop—you name it. There are all sorts of different ways, but to me, documents are the key. And I think if we focus on documents, there is always going to be a need for archival retrieval of documents. In my mind, that’s the core purpose of the web.

In the next 25 years, there is probably going to be a much greater need for document retrieval—and not just here on Earth. Whether we have some kind of colony on the moon or Mars or more space stations floating around, we will still have documents and need ways to retrieve them. And given the distance that could be involved, retrieval is not going to be instantaneous. Your tweet could take up to 10 minutes to get somewhere—and things may have changed by then, right? The point is that there will still be a great need for web professionals—in the next 25 years and beyond.

Additionally, in the next 25 years, it is possible that 100% of planet Earth will have internet access thanks to technology like SpaceX’s Starlink. Anyone with an internet-connected device will be able to create and consume content, even with an inexpensive internet-connected phone. We are already seeing in real-time the impact of this, as Ukraine has benefited from Starlink satellites. 

Remote working will also continue to play a massive role in the global economy. Because of this interconnectedness, it will continue to be easier than ever before to work with people around the world. Over the past several years, a lot of companies and organizations have figured out that employees don’t actually need to be together in a physical office. They are saving tons of money by not paying for office space, utilities and more. And employees are usually happier working remotely. They can spend more time with their children and less time sitting in traffic traveling to and from work. The whole nature of work is changing, and we’re never going back to the way it was. 

We’re past the revolution phase, where we have a world wide web and so forth. We’re now into the evolution phase, where it’s just going to keep growing. As much as I hate to use the term, the next version will be Web 3.0. However, even as things improve, we’re going to take a step back for every two steps forward. For example, look at blockchain—it’s like we’ve taken a big step backwards in terms of robust user interfaces and accessible interfaces. But that’s going to happen repeatedly, as things evolve over time and new technology trends emerge. 

technology trends

One of my big passions has always been security. And we keep making the same security mistakes that we have in the past, which must change. Security is so important because of the vast amount of data that is being created each and every day. And this data is gold to those who wish to get their hands on it. The information that’s in your documents needs to be reliable and secure. And combatting things like deep fakes in the coming years will be increasingly difficult and require entirely new tools and approaches. In the coming years, two-factor authentication will not be powerful enough to protect highly sensitive information. 

Another interest of mine is accessibility, which I think is going to remain a big issue and one of the most important technology trends. Although interfaces are improving, they’re not there yet. For example, Apple’s Siri feature often resembles a drunk elf when you try to dictate something to her. So those areas still need improvement in the coming years. 

It used to be that you had a little bit of knowledge. And you could make a career in a corporation, because you were a keeper of that knowledge. Today, the best way to make a career is to be the one who is able to curate the content and distribute the knowledge to others. Keeping information secure and accessible is a big part of this. 

The whole merging of artificial intelligence with documents is going to require things like blockchain, to make sure that information is valid. The whole point behind blockchain is that you’ve got an audit trail—and that audit trail cannot be changed. And if you apply it in terms of documents, to me, that’s a way of dealing with some of this AI-generated deep fake stuff that I guarantee is out there.

We Support Web Professionals in Adapting to Technology Trends 

Part of our mission is to continue to develop and support a thriving professional community who are connected to the internet and prepared to meet the next technology trends. We take a big-picture look to make sure this community remains vibrant and sustainable to reach the next level and help others for years to come. We will continue to work with students, teachers, and working professionals to meet their needs. In the web industry, you need to know how to run a business, bring value to clients, and execute on your promises. We are preparing current and future generations to do just that. As we mentioned in the article about the past 25 years, our mantra continues to be “Community, Education, Certification.”

To be frank, we don’t know where this is all going. We have always made our certifications good for two years because of how fast the industry changes. We at the Web Professionals Organization are in it for the long haul. We will continue to evolve and adapt to whatever the web industry will look like next year, in five years, and in 25 years. Many associations that began around the time we were founded are no longer around. We are okay making mistakes and being wrong about the future—but we will always adapt. We look forward to what the next 25 years hold for the web industry. If you are reading this and would like to be a part of tomorrow’s technology trends, reach out to us today.

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