The web is a completely different place now than it was in 2000. And it's dramatically different to what it looked like 40 years ago, when it was first invented.

The net is straining under the weight of cyberattacks, multimedia content and new mobile applications. In response, computer scientists are re-thinking every aspect of the internet's architecture, from IP addresses to routing tables to overall internet security.

There are many views about how to fix the internet's architecture, but there's widespread agreement about many aspects of the future web. Here's our list of 10 sure-fire bets for what the internet will look like in a decade.

1. More people will use the internet

Today's internet has 1.7 billion users, according to Internet World Stats. This compares with a world population of 6.7 billion people.

There's no doubt more people will have internet access by 2020. Indeed, the National Science Foundation predicts that the internet will have nearly five billion users by then. So scaling continues to be an issue for any future internet architecture.

2. The internet will be more geographically dispersed

Most of the web's growth over the next 10 years will come from developing countries.

The regions with the lowest penetration rates are Africa (6.8 percent), Asia (19.4 percent) and the Middle East (28.3 percent), according to Internet World Stats.

In contrast, North America has a penetration rate of 74.2 percent. This trend means the internet in 2020 will not only reach more remote locations around the globe but also will support more languages and non-ASCII scripts.

3. The internet will be a network of things, not computers

As more critical infrastructure gets hooked up to the internet, the web is expected to become a network of devices rather than a network of computers.

Today, the internet has around 575 million host computers, according to the CIA World Factbook 2009. But the NSF is expecting billions of sensors on buildings and bridges to be connected to the internet for such uses as electricity and security monitoring.

By 2020, it's expected that the number of net-connected sensors will be orders of magnitude larger than the number of users.

4. The internet will carry exabytes - perhaps zettabytes - of content

Researchers have coined the term 'exaflood' to refer to the rapidly increasing amount of data - particularly high-def images and video - that is being transferred over the internet.

Cisco estimates that global traffic will grow to 44exabytes per month by 2012 - more than double what it is today.

Increasingly, content providers such as Google are creating this content rather than Tier 1 ISPs. This shift is driving interest in re-architecting the internet to be a content-centric network, rather than a transport network.

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NEXT PAGE: A wireless and greener web

  1. We predict what the web will be like in a decade
  2. A wireless and greener web
  3. Will always-on be a thing of the past?

Forty years since its invention, the net is straining under the weight of cyberattacks, multimedia content and new mobile applications. There are many views about how to fix the internet's architecture, but there's widespread agreement about many aspects of the future for the web.

Here's our list of 10 sure-fire bets for what the internet will look like in a decade.

5. The internet will be wireless

The number of mobile broadband subscribers is exploding, hitting 257 million in the second quarter of 2009, according to Informa.

This represents an 85 percent increase year-over year for 3G, WiMAX and other higher speed data networking technologies.

Currently, Asia has the most wireless broadband subscribers, but the growth is strongest in Latin America. By 2014, Informa predicts that 2.5 billion people worldwide will subscribe to mobile broadband.

6. More services will be in the cloud

Experts agree that more computing services will be available in the cloud. A recent study from Telecom Trends International estimates that cloud computing will generate more than $45.5bn in revenue by 2015.

That's why the National Science Foundation is encouraging researchers to come up with better ways to map users and applications to a cloud computing infrastructure.

They're also encouraging researchers to think about latency and other performance metrics for cloud-based services.

7. The internet will be greener

Internet operations consume too much energy today, and experts agree that a future internet architecture needs to be more energy-efficient.

The amount of energy consumed by the internet doubled between 2000 and 2006, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. But the net's so-called Energy Intensity is growing at a slower rate than data traffic volumes as networking technologies become more energy-efficient.

The trend towards greening the internet will accelerate as energy prices rise, according to experts pushing energy-aware net routing.

8. Network management will be more automated

Besides weak security, the biggest weakness in today's web is the lack of built-in network management techniques.

That's why the National Science Foundation is seeking ambitious research into new network management tools. Among the ideas under consideration are automated ways to reboot systems, self-diagnosing protocols, finer-grained data collection and better event tracking.

All of these tools will provide better information about the health and status of networks.

Broadband speed test

NEXT PAGE: Will always-on be a thing of the past?

  1. We predict what the web will be like in a decade
  2. A wireless and greener web
  3. Will always-on be a thing of the past?

Forty years since its invention, the net is straining under the weight of cyberattacks, multimedia content and new mobile applications. There are many views about how to fix the internet's architecture, but there's widespread agreement about many aspects of the future of the web.

Here's our list of 10 sure-fire bets for what the internet will look like in a decade.

9. The internet won't rely on always-on connectivity

With more users in remote locations and more users depending on wireless communications, the internet's underlying architecture can no longer presume that users have always-on connections.

Instead, researchers are looking into communications techniques that can tolerate delays or can forward communications from one user to another in an opportunistic fashion, particularly for mobile applications.

There's even research going on related to an inter-planetary net protocol, which would bring a whole new meaning to the idea of delay-tolerant networking.

10. The internet will attract more hackers

In 2020, more hackers will be attacking the internet because more critical infrastructure such as the electric grid will be online.

The web is already under siege, as criminals launch a rising number of web-based attacks against end users visiting reputable sites. Symantec detected 1.6 million new malicious code threats in 2008 - more than double the 600,000 detected the previous year.

Experts say these attacks will only get more targeted, more sophisticated and more widespread in the future.

More than anything else, computer scientists who are working on redesigning the internet are trying to improve its security.

Experts agree that security cannot be an add-on in a redesign of the web. Instead, the new internet must be built from the ground up to be a secure communications platform.

Specifically, researchers are exploring new ways to ensure that the net of 2020 has confidentiality, integrity, privacy and strong authentication.

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See also: 25 years on: Did 'Neuromancer' predict the internet?

  1. We predict what the web will be like in a decade
  2. A wireless and greener web
  3. Will always-on be a thing of the past?