Vinton Cerf, Biz Stone, John Battelle, and Martha Stewart number among the 750 members of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), which judges the annual Webby Awards.
These Academy members have drawn up a list that highlights the major challenges facing the Internet and encourages policymakers, businesses, and advocates to embrace these challenges as a call to action.
As the Internet enters its fourth decade, the IADAS believes the next five years must see improvements in privacy protection, copyright law, net neutrality, the open web and Internet security.
Take a look through our slideshow (below) explaining each of these challenges, their implications, and directions that some have already taken on the road to constructive solutions that promote a vibrant Web. Vote for the issue you find the most pressing, and share your thoughts for creative solutions in the comments.
The Challenge: Now more than ever, we share much of our private lives through online networks like Facebook and Twitter. We also choose to store more and more of our digital data in the cloud or on our cellphones. While information collected about our digital preferences can personalize the Internet for each of us, there is the concern that our data could be harvested and sold like crops or even used against us. What Must Be Done: The IADAS believes that "the industry must take steps to demystify the privacy debate by establishing global standards, providing transparent policies, and educating consumers on its practices." For example, Business Insider argues that "a company like Facebook, with its unprecedented grasp of our social data, should be accountable to the public." Rising To The Challenge: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for one, works "to extend your privacy rights into the digital world" by promoting "the development of privacy-protecting technologies."
The Challenge: Copyright law lags considerably behind the technology curve. Audio, video, ebooks and online articles can be cloned and shared at the touch of a button, but policies of ownership online are murky at best. What Must Be Done: The IADAS calls for new and better copyright laws. "For the Internet to fulfill its potential, new and modernized copyright laws must reflect the current relationship between technology and creativity," the IADAS states. For example, Anil Dash writes that flagrant copyright infringement seen in mass YouTube remixes can be viewed as a collective political statement similar to civil disobedience and should encourage a political restructuring online that is "easy to participate in" and is "defined by communities of interest." Rising To The Challenge: The nonprofit Creative Commons organization "encourages develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation."
The Challenge: Net neutrality proponents believe that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all web traffic equally. Vint Cerf, regarded by many as "the Father of the Internet," has written strongly in favor of this principle, which promotes competition and innovation by allowing individuals to choose the best content and services. "Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity," Cerf writes. What Must Be Done: "Industry leaders and policymakers need to come together and identify solutions that will guarantee fair treatment of all Internet traffic," according to the IADAS. "However, these solutions must also provide ISPs with enough flexibility to efficiently manage their networks and services." Rising To The Challenge: The World Wide Web Consortium advocates for an equal and open Internet for all. The organization's stated goal "is to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web."
The Challenge: "We create the Web," Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, writes in Scientific American, "by designing computer protocols and software; this process is completely under our control. We choose what properties we want it to have and not have. It is by no means finished (and it's certainly not dead)." But with the advent of social networks and personalized mobile devices built on their own platforms, the Web is in danger of becoming a fragmented environment. The IADAS cautions that mobile apps and social networks tend to limit the Web's "interactivity" and its "communal power." What Must Be Done: "If the Internet as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, we must do a better job of maintaining interconnectivity," the IADAS says. Jonathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, suggests "new technologies and social structures" that users can employ to take control of and reshape their Internet. Rising To The Challenge: The Open Web Foundation works toward the standardization of web technologies and the laws that govern them. With support from companies like Facebook Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, the OWF promotes an Internet that functions as an inclusive community, as opposed to a series of gated ones.
The Challenge: Storing data online is extremely convenient and efficient, but that ease can come at a price. As individuals worry about their Facebook or banking data falling into the wrong hands, companies work to avoid attacks on their digital infrastructure (like the one that the Chinese officials ordered against Google in early 2010) and governments around the world continue to grapple with consequences from Wikileaks's release of classified documents. What Must Be Done: The responsibility for greater Internet security rests on all of our shoulders. "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," writes the IADAS. Rising To The Challenge: The Information Security Forum provides businesses with strategies for securely storing digital data.