Purpose - One of the reasons for confusion over the exact nature of the "Information Society" is that it is a moving target. The paper aims to elaborate a view of information society as involving the transformation of the social world through the use of new information technologies. This has evolved through a number of quite distinctive stages, over just a few decades. Understanding this is important for thinking about future prospects - whether we are interested in what technologies will be commercially successful, or in what the policy challenges of new systems are liable to be. Design/methodology/approach - The study reviews major trends. It illustrates the analyses of evolving information society by use of some historical narrative and vignettes of future possibilities, alongside the more conventional analysis. It presents a context within which these emerging issues may be examined. Findings - Three distinctive stages of information society evolution are identified, and future prospects discussed. Critical problem areas are identified. Research limitations/implications - The approach demonstrates the limits of simple extrapolation from one stage to the next. Practical implications - Elements of a future stage of information society, and some of the key problems of transition to this stage are outlined. The innovation, social action and political choices that are aimed at these problems will shape many key features of this society. To date, information technology has been fairly free of the controversies that have flared up around other technologies. But it remains to be seen how far privacy (and other) concerns will be outweighed by consumer and social benefits, and security applications, that can be realised through the new technology. Opportunities to counter terrorism and crime may be stacked up against the vulnerability of complicated systems. Originality/value - Articulating a fresh perspective on information society, this paper is relevant to analysis of commercial, social and political dimensions of emerging information technologies.