Divine divination for the year ahead

Welcome to 2005! As this is the crystal ball column, I was looking for predictions about the coming year. I was tempted by molybdomancy (divining from the shapes created by dripping molten lead into cold water) but in the end decided to go with the traditional goat’s entrails. So, here’s what 2005 has in store for us…

1. Phishing: You thought 2004 was bad! 2005 is going to be a phishing nightmare. As a consequence, banks and other financial institutions are going to have to rethink how they communicate with their customers online.

2. Spyware: You thought 2004 was bad! 2005 is going to see an explosion of spyware. I’d make sure there’s some flexibility in your budgets because you are going to have to spend money on this problem. However much you think it will cost, it will not be enough.

3. Old spam: 2005 will see spam growth slow compared with what we saw in 2004. The volume of spam will cruise along at an average of 80 per cent to 85 per cent of all Internet SMTP traffic. The bad news is that the spammers will get smarter and more creative in their attempts to end-run your filters.

4. New spam: Watch out for non-commercial spam becoming a bigger percentage of the total spam volume. Already we’ve seen a noticeable increase over the last few months in political and religious spam, and this trend will accelerate over 2005.

5. Stupid legislation: The government will continue to try to enact ridiculous laws regarding any aspect of the online world in response to lobbyists with deep pockets. It appears to have learned nothing from CAN-SPAM in 2004. 2005 will be much the same.

6. The Motion Picture Association of America: Talking about lobbyists with deep pockets, the MPAA will continue down its path of blind futility of trying to plug a hole in a dyke that was completely demolished years ago. It does not learn fast, and 2005 will not teach the association much.

7. Cyberterrorism: Despite the fact that there haven’t been any cyberterrorist acts to speak of, the same mythical beast still will get lots of column inches and political posturing. Even so, 2005 is unlikely to see the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division becoming useful or effective.

8. Copyrights and software patents: Despite a lot more pressure and much discussion in 2005 based on logical, well-constructed valid arguments, there will be no movement toward rationalizing the copyright system or the patent system regarding software.

9. Novell Inc.: There’s a very good chance that in 2005 we’re going to see Novell arise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of its own marketing burnout with solid positioning in the Linux market.

10. Microsoft Corp.: 2005 will be more of the same: The company will continue to fight with the European Union but the battle won’t really inconvenience Microsoft very much.

Future thoughts to backspin@ gibbs.com.