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The Net

Artwork: Chip Taylor
The Death of IE6
Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 is a problem: Its bugs and its incomplete support for Web standards have been thorns in Web designers' sides for years. They'll breathe a sigh of relief when IE6 finally drops off the list of most used browsers.

New Browsers
Microsoft's answer to the growing threat of Firefox is Internet Explorer 7, a completely redesigned version of its Web browser. The final version will be out later this year, but the beta editions we've seen so far look greatly improved over the glitch-ridden IE6. Version 2 of the open-source Firefox will release later this year, offering faster page rendering and improved RSS features. A beta version of the new Firefox is available now.

Socially Acceptable Searching
Search engines will use social-network features to deliver better results. For example, you'll be able to access searches that your friends have conducted--say, to help you find the best restaurants or the best dry cleaner in a particular city. In addition, community-based question-and-answer search forums such as Windows Live QnA will become much more useful for finding the information you want.

WiMax in the Wild
The wireless technology WiMax has been "coming soon" for some time, but it looks like it's finally here: Sprint is using it as the basis for the fourth-generation wireless data network (4G). Let's hope the other cell phone networks follow Sprint's lead and roll out similar services.

Online Movie Search
Imagine this: You want to watch a movie, so you type its name into a media search engine. The results tell you that you can rent the movie online for $5 from Amazon, or buy and download the movie for $10 from Barnes & Noble online. A couple of clicks later, you're downloading and watching the movie. We're looking forward to a media search engine that works with online movie and music services so we can pick the best deals.

The End of Adware
The good news: Adware, including annoying cookies and pop-up ads that track what you do and where you go online, will soon disappear. The bad news: Bigger, nastier, and more skillfully hidden pieces of spyware will continue to take adware's place, since using spyware is a faster way for crooks to rake in larger amounts of money.

Better Spyware Spotters
Most modern antispyware programs work by looking for the signatures of known spyware programs, but the next generation will be more flexible, able to look for and to block specific suspicious behaviors. Behavior-based analysis, such as that already in the OSFirewall in Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite or Novatix's Cyberhawk antiviral software, are an increasing part of today's security products, but the technology is nowhere near accurate enough now to rely on by itself.

Online Identities
Wablet--which describes itself as caller ID for the Web--is an intriguing new service, currently in private alpha testing, that allows you to create multiple identities online. You could have, for instance, one for conducting business and another for talking with friends, each with different IM accounts and contacts. You determine who can (or can't) get in touch with you, and you control how much information you reveal about yourself.

Truly Visual Web Search
Image search engines such as Google Images rely on the names of image files to search. But new tools like the forthcoming Riya work differently: You upload an image, and the engine searches for images that look the same. You could, for instance, upload a face, and it would look for similar faces. The service isn't launched yet, but it looks interesting.

Cheap Mobile Data
Currently you can get speedy mobile Internet, but it'll cost you, as most carriers charge $80 or more for access to their EvDO wireless data networks. That's going to change, though: Sprint recently announced that it soon plans to offer services that can transfer up to 1GB of data for less than $20 a month.

A Review of Reviews
You should read PC World reviews first, but it never hurts to get a second opinion: Viewscore is a new Web site that combines gadgets' review scores from a variety of sources to create an overall review score. At the moment, it pulls from only a handful of sites (not including ours), but the technology seems promising.

The Real 802.11n
For some time we've been reviewing devices that use the draft version of the 802.11n wireless networking standard, but the standard itself hasn't been finalized. Owing to conflicts in the group producing the standard, a final version won't surface until the middle of 2007 at the earliest. And we won't see products that use it until the end of 2007 or early 2008.

Amateurs and Pros, Working as One
Today, people get much of their news on the Web from professional media outlets, and then they talk about the news in amateur blogs. But the two worlds will soon begin to commingle, thanks to sites like Newsvine.com, whose amateur members submit stories of their own alongside articles the site pulls in from professional sources, and NewAssignment.net, which will provide a forum for members to suggest topics and then assign stories to professionals to cover.

Fiber Everywhere
Fiber-optic broadband service is currently available in 17 states, providing up to 50-megabits-per-second downloads and 5-mbps uploads to the lucky few subscribers who happen to have access. But companies such as Verizon are continuing to pull more and more fiber, and the latest equipment could enable even faster access. How does 200 mbps down/20 mbps up sound to you?

A Shield for Your Browser
Wouldn't it be nice if your browser could detect malicious code on a Web site and rewrite it on the fly to make everything safe for you while preserving the information on the page? Microsoft's BrowserShield aims to do just that. The task is pretty easy with static pages, but with all the dynamic Web content out there, a more complex version is needed.

The End of Installed Software
Web applications--programs that mimic desktop apps but work entirely within a browser--will become more powerful, and will begin to focus on productivity rather than entertainment. In other words, you'll be able to use such a program to get work done. Future examples could include Coghead.com, which will allow customers to create their own business applications to address issues such as inventory management.

Special Report: Tomorrow's Technology

The Future of Your PC The Future of Robots
The Future of Cell Phones The Future of Privacy
The Future of the Web The Future of Nanotech
The Future of OSs The Future of You
The Future of Fun 100 Fearless Forecasts
Incredible Tech: Lies Ahead A Look Back
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