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Paris 2018

Social networking sites are buzzing; the debut of Google Friend Connect promises to add to that buzz. And so, the race is on to make social networks much more open and portable, according to Kim Hart in her recent blog post,”The All-Things-Social Craze.” But as important is the power of the most global of social networks -the Internet, itself. The earth is flattening, and our sense of community now transcends geographic boundaries. History and environmental lessons on-demand, mash-ups-our modern-day trip diaries-the reach of the Internet has triggered a curiosity in us, a desire to share thoughts and experiences. Simple tools give us the ability to zoom in on a small town or bit of countryside we’ve always wondered about. Or, even more granularly, take us to a street-view, giving us the experience of being a virtual pedestrian. But let’s take it to the next level. It’s 2018, and I’ve got a bit of shopping to do. Not at the local mall, though. I’ve heard of this chic new store, but it’s not in Los Gatos, where I live; it is in Paris. No worries. I zoom into the south bank from my laptop (or just as easily from my cellphone), and make my way along St. Germain. I find the store and enter. And I’m transported to an immersive web experience, a generation beyond what Second Life provides. As I’m browsing, someone from the store comes to my aid. Just as if I was there in person. Questions answered, purchase made.Or, I’m part of a French book club with members scattered across continents. IM and email are so passe-.We pick a cafe in the Latin Quarter, take in the background sights and sounds, and begin our discussion. Speaking of books, the new site from the library of congress is just a prelude to what’s possible. I’m not saying that we’re going to stop going to shops and cafes-there is a time and place for everything. But the possibilities for new forms of interaction beyond MySpace are limitless. And the experience promises to be even more significant than when newbie Internet users in the ’90s learned to step outside the confines of AOL. So what does this mean for the network? It’s becoming more human, richer in bandwidth, secure, and able to effortlessly handle the sometimes conflicting demands of data, voice, and video. Just as we look at the network as a utility, technologies such as TelePresence are becoming universal, having migrated from the boardroom to be part of our daily interaction, be it wired or mobile. The network is getting smarter, context aware, supporting handoffs between one application and another. In 1998, there was no Google, no Second Life, no MySpace, and most of us were limited to dial-up and sending SMS messages. If the past ten years are any indication of the next ten, I may see you in Paris earlier than either of us imagine.

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