It is a truism that people overestimate what can happen in two years and underestimate what can happen in five. When you think about the web, it's really remarkable what's happened to it in the last five years. Facebook was a month old in March of 2004.
What will the web look like in five years? Many indications -- what new companies are getting start up funding to what the leading lights are saying in their public statements and blogs -- point to an increasingly service-oriented internet. Essentially, rather than having to come to our website to read Sandusky Register news, a service-oriented internet would make our news available across a variety of sites and platforms.
Similarly, you, as a user, will increasingly exist across sites and services -- what I mean is, your profile and data will be less and less unique to individual sites and services, your information will be shared and syndicated across the 'net.
There's a lot of good stuff about that. It means you won't have to write your bio 87 times. It means content recommendation engines can be a lot more effective because the data available to them is wider and deeper -- in other words your Netflix recommendations are going to get more accurate. And it means that advertising will become better at showing you stuff that you actually want.
It also means that somewhere there's going to be a record of most everything you do. Google already keeps a record of all your searches for the last two years, last I checked. But the idea that your ISP would track everything you do has not caught on very effectively in the US. Still, not only are more and more companies starting to track you, they're also starting to share their tracking data.
So too, are the standards governing your rights to your own information evolving. More enlightened companies are either being transparent about tracking (Netflix and Amazon tell you why they recommend something) or even allowing you to control their data about you.
In my own experience, there seems to be a generational divide when it comes to people's reaction to these developments. The over 35ish crowd is disturbed not just by how much information is tracked about them but by how willing younger people are to expose their personal details. On the other hand, the youngish set is so comfortable putting info online they don't bat an eye at Google's more big brotherish habits. There's also some indication that events are going to make the young a little more paranoid and the less young a little less over time.
And how the law will evolve is a whole 'nother question.
I am reminded of some reactions to early modern architecture. As the first few houses were built whose walls were primarily glass, there was a sense, among some, that glass houses were moral. Essentially, you couldn't get away with doing anything naughty inside them.