Predicting how agents will develop into the future is not an easy task at all. Not only because the agent-technique is still in its early years, but also because most of the factors and parties that are involved in the developments around it influence each other mutually. This makes it quite impossible to predict now how the state of affairs will be over - say - five years, and how the "environment" (e.g. users, suppliers, Internet, computer technology) will have responded to the agent-technique and many other developments (including its own).

The ultimate test of agent's success will be the acceptance and (mass) usage of them by users. The road to this success is most likely to be laid by developers and suppliers. Apart from them, it may be expected that many commercial companies and organisations will join in on this as well, as there are many interesting opportunities for them. Agents will enable all to offer personalised and "smart" services, delivered around the clock and (probably) at low(er) prices.
However, there are a few important points that need to be settled before this can really be done well. Solid standards need to be established for such things as the used agent communication language, some sort of list of standard agent queries and responses needs to be drawn up, etcetera. Furthermore, rules and possibly even laws are needed to regulate (unwanted) agent behaviour and to be able to deal with various (future) legal issues (e.g. who is responsible for an agent's actions?). Seeing that these standards emerge and that the juridical issues are dealt with, is mainly a task for the most important "players" in the agent area (e.g. companies, researchers). The role of the government in all of this will be mostly supportive, but - because of the fact that the government is also a party that can greatly benefit from agents in many ways - it can be an active one as well.



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"Intelligent Software Agents on the Internet" - by Björn Hermans