March 11, 2014, 10:10 AM

Consumers will use the web more and in different ways in 2025

Will they be happier with their digital lives a decade hence? A new Pew Research Center report poses positive and negative scenarios.

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The Internet is, without question, becoming more deeply ingrained in the daily life of U.S. consumers, and that has great implications for the future, according to a Pew Research Center report released today that explores what the digital lives of U.S. consumers will be like in 2025.

Pew researchers and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center surveyed more than 1,500 experts and technology builders and asked open-ended questions about how technology would impact life to develop the findings for their “Digital Life in 2025” report. Pew says the most commonly cited predictions were that networked computing environments will be “immersive” and “invisible,” that “smart” or web-connected devices will be pervasive and that 20th century business models, including in publishing, education, finance and entertainment, will be further disrupted.

Experts’ predictions skew positively and negatively. One positive scenario is this: “Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.” Countering this is: “People will continue—sometimes grudgingly—to make tradeoffs favoring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.”

“These experts are convinced that the spread of connectivity will yield changes that people will really appreciate and changes they might hate,” says Lee Rainie, co-author of the report.

With the report, Pew also released its latest statistics on how U.S. adults use the web, including:

  • 58% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone as of January 2014, up from 45% in December 2012.
  • 87% of U.S. adults used the Internet as of January 2014, up from 81% in December 2012.
  • 73% of U.S. adults used social media as of September 2013, up from 69% in August 2012.
  • 70% of U.S. adults accessed the Internet with a broadband connection as of September 2013, up from 62% in August 2011. 
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