Without a doubt, the most significant media disruptor in recent history has been the internet, and it’s reasonable to consider the last 10 to 15 years the “internet era.” If the long history of disruptions has taught us anything it is that we need to ask, what era will be next? 

Even if we can’t predict the future, we need only look around us in digital media and technology to guess and stay informed of what’s down the road. As we have seen how quickly prominent companies have fallen, foresight is sure to pay dividends for marketers, publishers, and generally everyone who interacts with the world around them.

It’s a time for bold statements. It’s a time for stretching the imagination to glimpse at our future “beyond the internet.”

What’s next?

Our world and lives are constantly being reshaped by technology. It’s clear that improvements to infrastructure, communications, and transportation technology will shift how we use our time and space, and get from place to place.

With Google and others developing self-driving automotive tech, high-speed rail becoming very common (in some parts of the world), and commercial spaceflight advancing to make point-to-point hyper-speed travel in the future practical, imagine how our “media time” will change in these scenarios. What types of programming will we consume? Think of the types of messaging we will accept with the new hyper-local contextual engagement that will be possible.

What we use

Our future will be mobile. Why would we continue to use desktop computers? And, why keep all your content and data in one place? Everything will be on the cloud, accessible via your handheld device.

It is not surprising that with the uptake of technology in this Internet era, computers’ move into the mainstream has been met with our innate desire to take things with us, to be tethered and wedded to them at all times. Just look at this study on people’s emotional connection with their smartphones.

Within the next 10 years desktop computers will be replaced. WIth the range of cheaper tablets already flooding the market, we’ll go from office to home and back toting mobile devices, connecting to networks and screens.

Beyond the internet

How did you use the Internet to access data and content 10 years ago and how do you now? Back then, you typed a URL into a browser and you went to a website. Now, with your smartphone or tablet you go right to an app to consume content. More app-like experiences are the future.

I think the Internet as we know it will go away. Of course the structure and the networks will still enable communications, but what we call the World Wide Web will no longer exist.

See the Windows 8 interface (and the Surface RT version). Microsoft is clearly betting on the zeitgeist, creating a whole app-centric ecosystem. Check out the new RockMelt browser, or other new tablet-friendly, tiled mosaic experiences. These are our new dashboards to find, interact with and create content. Think of how long you still spend each day using a PC and ask why we don’t demand elegant interfaces that are similar to those on our tablets and phones. Some media companies (Quartz, Mashable, and others) are already pointing the way forward.

The media around you 

The world will be filled with screens, as in the fantastical picture Corning painted. Connectivity and access will be freed from keyboards or styli, through eye-tracking and gesture technologies being developed by companies such as Leap Motion and PredictGaze

What this means for digital marketing and media of course remains to be seen, but throughout history, development of media and technology have changed and been changed by how commercial interests and the public interact – just look at films and television.

As Bruce Kasanoff wrote so poignantly recently: “Broaden your thinking. Don’t be limited by what you think is possible…Look out your window and think: When I click on that (a tree, mailbox, sign or product)…I want this (it becomes mine, it answers my question, it tells me about itself, it gets saved to my file) to happen.”

The era beyond the internet will be exciting and full of opportunity for brands, publishers and all of us. We can sit back and let it happen or we can help prepare for the changes to come. All it takes is a little imagination.