From internet to splinternet

It just ain't the global web anymore

It started with certain sites being blocked to protect regimes and minimize dissent. But it wasn’t long before we saw the blackout of the Internet in whole nations, for days. Now we’re heading for the splintering of the Internet into multiple networks with so much bureaucracy involved, we’ll likely run out of red tape.

In 2016 there were 75 Internet shutdowns globally. Within a year it rose to 108 and in 2018 almost 200 disruptions took place. Governments wanted to safeguard themselves from their citizens, but increasingly states are also worried about cyber attacks that could cripple them.

The good old, global, always-on web we came to know is still with us, but now there’s more. Rumors have surfaced, of multiple layers of connectivity between preferred nations, based on diplomatic alliances and strategic interests. Hard evidence remained elusive, until now.

Japan has successfully trialed its own ‘walled garden web’ for the last two days. A VPN-like Internet routing solely between Japan and the U.S. was also put to the test. It managed full functionality for 36 hours, before global Internet traffic began to seep through on the two-way private network. And the EU, without Britain, has been toying with something called ‘privatnet’. Needless to say, it stops at the Channel.

Similar to North Korea’s red button that can trigger a nuclear war, expect more and more countries to figure out how to flip the switch and change which splinternet their residents (and visitors) are able to connect to. It’s like the Chinese WiFi Curtain, but on steroids.

As if businesses don’t have enough on their plates with digitalization and AI and ethics and trust; in the future they’ll have to consider bargaining, bartering or building their own splinternets as well. Joe Citizen also won’t be happy. Want to know the next trillion dollar idea? Personal Internets that allow you to connect to whomever, wherever, whenever you want. Brace yourself, it’s coming!

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.