I mentioned that I think darknets, alternets, and virtual worlds are going to take off. I'd like to do two things: expand on what that means, and talk about how the legal system is going to explode. The second is, unfortunately, a fifty-page essay in the making. So I'll concentrate on the first.
What does it mean, this explosion of alternate communication substrates?
It means we're going to have a thousand different ways of expressing ourselves, and a thousand different widths and breadths of data density.
For example, a darknet whose architecture is built around trading large files anonymously will have a very different use and UI than a virtual world built around propagating social space. Both will have their niche in the data-centered world of tomorrow, but generally they make poor substitutes for one another.
This is going to become a clearer and clearer division as darknets and virtual worlds hook into each other, in an every-changing froth of live data. A service worth subscribing to will be the continual upgrades to the meta-architecture, allowing your particular instance of a particular darknet or virtual world to hook up to another, ever-changing darknet or virtual world. Using the net itself will be free: you pay for information on how to connect with the places you want to connect to.
You won't be an expert in "C++". You'll be an expert in "TrawlCrawler File Space". You won't be an expert in "Microsoft Office". You'll be an expert in "BrightCanvas Virtworld". Your expertise will be in how to build, share, and mine data in that virtual world, and it'll be fully as specialized as the difference between C++ and MS Office.
At least, that's what I think.