In the late ’90s when I was studying abroad in Europe, one of my communications professors assigned a term paper that was to focus on our predictions of the Internet’s future. Until a recent spring-cleaning — a purging of sorts — at my parent’s house, I had all but forgotten about my eight-page attempt to make sense of the emerging web and its potential impact.
Tucked away with dozens of other college essays and class notes was the paper titled, “The World Wide Web: Just Another Fad.” A fad? Really. Could I have been that naïve? As I read about what my “crystal ball” had in store for cyberspace, I thought about how dim-witted I was to right such a thing. To think that I only used the Internet back then “once or twice a week to send emails to friends and family back home,” as noted in the paper, seems almost unbelievable by today’s standard.
In addition, I quoted a research article by Brill (1997), who wrote, “While some media professionals worry that the Internet will usurp traditional media, most agree the Internet is not yet what it needs to be…It appears unlikely that online newspapers will soon replace existing media” (p. 3, 4).
I can’t help but laugh when I read that line. We now know the implications of the Internet — while many are yet to be seen — that even scholars couldn’t have predicted. Today, we’re witnessing what some thought was unlikely.
The new medium has provided countless channels for people, who traditionally turned to newspapers or television for news, to consume information, and the resulting impact on the newspaper and broadcast industries has been seismic.
I will make no such predictions about the future of those industries.