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Communications revolution lays ahead for the internet in 2005.

Byline: ANDREW SPARROW

I know it's almost three weeks into the New Year, but as a lawyer I think a few words on what 2005 might bring to pass for the internet should still be admissible.

So what follows may by New Year's eve be viewed as remarkably prescient or wholly misjudged, but what is of note is that ten years after the medium crept into the consciousness of the general public, there are still new things to record in commentary.

As far as the music industry is concerned, this year will probably be a watershed year - determining which way online music will go.

The increasing array of legal download sites and the latest technologies to be adopted by some of the major record labels will begin to roll back the devastating effect of the illicit download market.

It will, however, be the technology and commercial innovation which will turn the attitude of consumers and not legal action using relatively new laws available to the industry.

The internet will stop being a part of the telephone network.

Instead this year more and more, the telephone network will become a part of the internet.

Voice Over IP technology chops up phone calls into bits of data and sends them across the net instead of dedicated and expensive phone lines.

It's likely that this year will see the start of greater adoption of the technology.

Firefox, the free web browser that is increasingly challenging the grip of Microsoft will make more significant impact.

The system is offered free over the net and its codes and technology are all accessible as an open-source programme.

It often takes dramatic events to prove shifts in the nature of media.

Some 14 years, ago CNN became the primary source for breaking stories in the Gulf War, changing how news was presented and ending the supremacy of the traditional networks.

The Asian tsunami disaster has proved a similar landmark for the web blogs, the citizen journalists.

They have the telling advantage of location, speed and freedom free from fixed print times and bureaucracy which constrain the traditional media.

This year has already borne sad witness to another element of the internet's potential.

Finally, the boldest prediction of all.

The year will afford early evidence that the net will become the basic communications infrastructure for almost anything.

So, a major change in music distribution, a revolution in telephone technology, the birth of a new form of news gathering, and the start of a realisation of the net's almost limitless potential for communication.

That's my prediction for the next 346 days.

Grand statements, I know, but then what other known aid to our everyday existence has the same capacity to shape our lives and alter the world's career?

Andrew Sparrow is founder and Principal Partner of Lecote Solicitors, the Birmingham based Internet and New Media law firm.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 18, 2005
Words:478
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