7 Emergent Internet Technologies from 2002

by Jon


In April 2002, Tim O’Reilly wrote of “the emergent Internet operating system” as an open collection of Web services. On December 2, 201o I wrote about how Chrome is an operating system in a browser, because, “Soon the largest operating system will be the Internet itself.” (By the way, the Chrome Store may open December 7, 2010.) This is different than ChromeOS, which is an operating system that resides on your local workstation, but relies heavily on Web apps to get things done. What we are talking about is that the Web apps and the structure that allows you to access them (The Internet) is the operating system.

In the 2002 article O’Reilly predicted the rise of the following seven technologies:

  • Wireless
  • Next generation search engines
  • Weblogs
  • Instant messaging
  • File sharing
  • Grid computing
  • Web spidering


In 2002 802.11 B was the primary wireless protocol. O’Reilly mentions only PCs and “computing devices”, but much of what we would consider ‘wireless’ today is smart phones which run on 3G and 4G networks, but at home, work, and around major municipalities Wi-Fi has gone from B to G to N to WiMax and antenna design keeps getting more sophisticated in order to keep pace with all of the interference created by the ubiquitous-ness of the wireless world.

Search Engines

“Next generation search engines,” are really just search engines now. We don’t put up with anything but Google and Bing anymore, which are now the next generation of O’Reilly’s 2002 ‘next generation’. Search engines can now predict and suggest things to us, are used as spell checkers, but mostly as additional, exterior brains. We don’t need to remember things, we just need to remember what to search for-let the search engines do the rest.


“Weblogs” or blogs as they are now called have moved from being online journals to online platforms. They’ve separated website setup from website content. In the same way that XHTML separates content from structure (HTML, PHP, and CSS for example), blogging platforms like WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, and Tumblr allow people to hit the ground running. However, content is still king and just because it is less work doesn’t mean that content is better.


Instant messaging was the next big thing after web email (think Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail since Gmail hadn’t hit the market yet) and it was mostly used by adolescents. But by the time corporations starting adding it to everything from Lotus Notes to Passageways instant messaging lost its cool and just became a tool. Facebook and Gmail both have it, but only as part of a complete tool set of which not having instant messaging would seem incomplete.

File Sharing

Back then (in the Napster days) and still to this day file sharing services like Bittorrent allow an efficient way for files to be transferred across a network. Instead of one server hosting all of the files, many workstations and/or servers host pieces or complete files that can be shared, thereby sharing resources and reducing hardware strain and bottlenecks. Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks can even be used to redirect DNS traffic.

Cloud Computing

‘Grid computing’ or ‘distributed computing’ is now most often referred to as ‘cloud computing’ most likely because Microsoft Visio represents the Internet as a cloud in it’s network diagrams. From Microsoft to Oracle to IBM to HP to Dell, all the big players want in on the future of computing. It’s a hearkening back to the days of big iron mainframes and terminals with Amazon Elastic Compute (EC2) and Microsoft Azure ready to fuel your netbook running ChromeOS.

The Dark Web

‘Web spidering’ has now become a given. It’s how search engines work, but what I think O’Reilly was hinting at was that there is much more to the Web (HTTP port 80) than we know about and much more to the Internet than the Web. Some estimates say there is up to ten times more material on the web than is currently searchable (or public, which is essentially the same thing because if you can’t find it, it’s not public). This is probably the least of O’Reilly’s predictions.

So what does the future hold? Where do we go from here? Cloud computing, increased wireless activities, and more mobile computing through slates, tablets, smart phones, and netbooks will fuel the always-connected society we have developed around the Internet and make us a smaller planet. Maybe it will lead to less wars and more peace. Maybe.

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