I was fortunate to attend the Web
(November 7-9, 2006, in San Francisco) again this
year and to have this opportunity to sum up my experience and
(Actually, it was the "Web 2.0 Conference" but just became
to avoid confusion with the all new Web 2.0 "Expo"
planned for April! The story we were told is that there were 750
attendees this year with "5000" more turned away due to lack of space,
so a new venue was created at Moscone to hold a much larger audience.)
I enjoyed it quite a bit this year but wasn't quite as enthralled
as last year. Web 2.0 is now quite a bit more "mainstream," while AJAX
and mash-ups were exceptional new concepts last year. Contrast that
with this year's general obsession with YouTube being bought by Google,
and you get the idea. Just the same, it was still very exciting and
informative to see and hear the leaders of the industry.
To me, this year's summit is best represented by a bounty of aphorisms
springing forth from the speakers' mouths. While often repetitive,
these pithy statements distilled the key messages coming out of the
conference I think. I jotted them down when I could and am pleased to
conference started with a series of simultaneous workshops, so you had
to decide what sounded best and miss the others. I first attended "The Next Internet Infrastructure
featuring a panel discussion with Marc
, Amazon Senior Evangelist, Chad Dickerson
Yahoo Developer Network, and Jonathan
(By the way, speaker
bios are online
if you want more info on anyone.)
There was a lot of talk about Identity, and it's still a big issue.
Microsoft's Passport failed the first time around due to privacy
concerns, and Liberty
hasn't achieved the hoped-for critical mass. Along
with Identity goes Reputation, and these were the focus areas
discussed. Of note, Yahoo recently opened up APIs for their browser-based
, meaning any subscribing site
can provide instant login access for Yahoo's 1/2 billion
registered customers. Quotes of note:
- Openness is its own reward.
- Put your APIs out on the 'net, and then see what people do
with them. (You will be surprised!)
- Integrate first, then do the deal.
(With open APIs from Yahoo, Google, and Amazon, it changes the model
considerably. Start-ups used to have to negotiate or buy software up
front. Now you can build something fabulous -- hopefully -- then make
the deal to monetize it further when your idea takes off.)
Next was a panel led by Danny
Kolke, CEO of Etelos,
on "The Revolution of the
SMB Application Marketplace." Gist of the discussion was
that 50% of small/medium businesses aren't even online today, so there
is a huge untapped market opportunity. However, the market must be
served by easy to use
applications, and remember, the data belongs to the customer (a
I was interested to hear Don Tapscott's talk
on "How the Net
Generation Changes Marketing and Management" (and not just
because I have a 15 year old son!). Tapscott is an excellent speaker
and true thought leader, and his take on the first generation to grow
up attached to the 'net was fascinating. This line of research is a
work in progress for him and his team, but he has already distilled a
valuable list of "norms" for the new generation:
- Freedom of choice ("Choice is like oxygen")
- Freedom to customize (and to change your mind)
- The new scrutinizers -- they read reviews and research
online before purchasing
- Freedom to schedule (think Tivo)
- Search for integrity (highly tuned "BS" detectors)
- Relationships and Collaboration. They are willing to share
information, and really want a 2-way relationship with their brands.
- Experience, entertainment, fun, playfulness -- melding of
activities and multi-tasking. (If you have a teenager, you've probably
seen them learn, study, play, communicate, shop, and entertain at the
- Speed and Immediacy
The last workshop I attended was sponsored by Level 3 on Networking Strategy and Evolution.
This was sparsely attended, as it coincided with the Launch
Pad (where new startups make their debut), so I had good
opportunity to interact and learn. I enjoyed especially speaking with Andrew Parker, CTO
and Ezra Davidson,
EVP BD at SyncCast.
While their focus is moving large media files around, it's not much
different from our focus on moving large binaries, such as the Solaris
Operating System. Andrew discussed how the BBC plans to make
all their content available on the Internet via P2P immediately after
broadcast, starting next Spring. Ezra talked about moving 6 GB media
files around, which are even larger than our operating system images. I
asked him "the secret," since files over 2 GB in size may not download
correctly on older infrastructure. He said their biggest issue was with
the servers. So they tuned their web servers and provide their own
download manager. Seems simple enough -- if you control the server and
the client (and hope nothing goes wrong with the plumbing in the
middle), you can succeed in delivering such large files.
Late in the afternoon, the full conference kicked off with a BIG name, Eric Schmidt, CEO of
Google. Talk turned quickly to YouTube, as you might imagine. According
- Video became a "fundamental data-type" on the 'net over the
- Put the needs of the users first. Let them own their data;
let them move their data.
- Would you rather host your application (and livelihood) on
your desktop or in a 24-hour data center?
- Don't bet
against the Internet!
He made an interesting comment on how they develop their strategy --
ask questions. They started the year with "29 questions," then sent
teams out to look for the answers. Then develop the strategy...
Next up, Joichi Ito
gave a quick but deep dive into the World of Warcraft and "socially
driven gaming." Take-away here is that the lines are blurring between
"virtual" and "reality". Hard to argue -- we see Sun holding
news conferences now in Second Life.
was up next to introduce his new social-networking site, Vox. Memorable quote:
"Open Data is as important as Open Source." While Vox can suck in blogs
from other sites (and competitors), it also has an Export function. So
we see a recurring mantra here -- "users own their data."
Jack Ma, CEO
of hugely successful Chinese site Alibaba, offered some valued
insights into doing business in China. Success is about understanding
the Chinese culture -- it's not about technology or (U.S.) brands. He
was asked how he deals with the government; he
was measured and pragmatic in his response. He's in business
to make money, so he cooperates with the government, plain and simple.
Day Two started off with Jeff
Bezos, CEO of Amazon. I had heard about Amazon's roll-out of web
services but hadn't really grasped their strategy until now,
and I was impressed! Bezos explained their web services platform is now
a core of their business strategy and the third revenue center behind
selling their own goods and making a marketplace for other sellers. It
quickly dawned on me how similar this sounded to Sun's grid offerings,
though interestingly the word "grid" never left his mouth. He
talked of this new paradigm of "developing for the data center"
(echoing Eric Schmidt) and a new era of "computers talking to
computers" (i.e. Web 2.0 services).
A bit later, he was asked directly about Sun's services and why
Amazon's seems to be taking off more quickly. He mentioned "easy to
use," "pay by the drink," and "service the long tail." He alluded
to Sun's approach which was more focused on negotiating and
signing a contract up-front. (I don't know how true that is - I had
heard you can get on Sun's grid with a credit card. But I did
get the impression that Amazon's approach is really gaining momentum.)
Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen
talked a lot about buying Macromedia in an effort to move away from
being a "peripheral player" on the Internet. A big announcement was
their decision to open
source the Flash ActionScript Virtual Machine in conjunction with the
Mozilla Foundation, pushing even further the ubiquity of
Flash by allowing the VM to be embedded directly in the browser. But,
he was clear their business model is not around everything being open
source, pointing out there is a clear line between "open standards vs.
from MorganStanley presented, "The State of the Internet, Part 3 -- The
World's Information is Getting Organized and Monetized." Unfortunately,
she was given 10 minutes to cover 40 slides that are jam
packed with really useful data. Fortunately, the
slides are online.
CEO of SalesForce.com, illustrated how far we've come in a year,
introducing his concept of Enterprise Mash-Ups and the
evolution of the "killer app" to the "killer platform." He spoke of the
"elastic database" and using the salesforce DB and data center as a
foundation to build great value-add mash-ups for salesforce customers.
I mentioned Don Tapscott
earlier. He came back for a "main stage" appearance to talk about his
forthcoming book, "Wikinomics
-- How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything." Here we see the
"business web" evolving to a "computational platform,"
quickly approaching a state whereby no company can innovate
fast enough by itself. This plays on another recurring theme of the
conference, "Harvesting the collective intelligence." Interestingly, I
think this somewhat echoes Sun's prescient motto, "The Network
is the Computer."
CEO of ask.com, and Steve
Berkowitz, Senior VP of Online Services at Microsoft, had
some interesting thoughts when given their opportunity to
discuss a "common enemy," Google (of course). They talked about a much
greater need to tailor and personalize search as we move our web
interactions from "products" to "experiences." One zinger was the
statement, "Google is the Model-T of search." In other words, like the
Ford Model-T, Google is the first search engine that really works for
the masses. When you're the first, it's OK to be "vanilla" (like the
first Model-T, where your color choices were black, or black). But to
stay relevant, customers will soon demand personalization and
differentiation, and they see a big opportunity there to "disrupt"
I frankly didn't find Ray
Ozzie's much-anticipated appearance too interesting (maybe
cause it was late in the day, or maybe because he's such a honcho at
Microsoft now that he really needs to watch what he says!). He talked
about scenario based design and building properties focused on the user
-- nothing earthshaking.
That ended Day 2, and off for more eating. A quick aside...
Did I mention the incredible volume of food at this event? Yikes, I
know I put on a few pounds, as they insisted on feeding us at every
opportunity. There was full breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not to
mention copious snacks at the morning and afternoon breaks! Each meal
had its corporate sponsor, of course, so my personal thanks to all of
them for helping us to totally overdo it in the food department.
Day 3 kicked off with Marten
Mickos, CEO of MySQL, and further elaboration on the
foundational role of data in Web 2.0:
- Data happens everywhere
- Open source your data
- The data is the platform
He proposed creating the "Skype of data" and a "DNS for SQL servers"
whereby everyone's data gets connected into one global DB. Hmm, I
suspect there might be some privacy concerns, but perhaps the benefits
could outweigh the risks.
and Ethan Diamond
from Yahoo demoed their new email application that integrates chat into
the client. They echoed the theme: Applications are dead, but
Next up venture capitalists Roger
McNamee, Elevation Partners, and Ram Shriram
(founding board member of Google) told us all how to get rich (well,
not exactly). When asked where the biggest opportunities lie, they
spoke of "time management" in particular. Of those 100 emails that
arrived in your inbox since you went to lunch, which are the 2
important ones? If you can solve that problem and help people manage
their time in the face of the onslaught of information overload, you'll
do well. A few further words of advice:
- What matters is the size of the pie, not the slice. (I
guess that's another way of saying 20% of something is better than 100%
- Figure out if you want "dumb money" vs. "smart
money". (So do you just take $$$ or do you want the
intelligence and experience the VCs can offer as well?)
I mentioned "Harnessing
Collective Intelligence" earlier, and this was the topic
for a panel discussion including Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. We
saw an incredible slide that showed the top 10 web properties by visits
and the size of their staffs. I don't remember the exact numbers but
they were all in the thousands except for one -- Craigslist, 20
employees! That is the epitome of harnessing collective
intelligence. For example, why hire people to moderate postings and
eliminate spam when you can simply empower the users to do it for you?
- The system learns from the users.
- Let the users tell you what features they want
- Spend your money on features rather than marketing and see
- "Come out from behind the mirrors" (I found that statement
provocative -- it's a direct reference to the one-way mirrors we sit
behind when conducting focus groups and usability studies.)
- Understand the difference between UGC (user generated
content) and collective intelligence.
from Google had a succinct message, "It's all about speed!" She showed
how changes on Google that caused pages to load half a second
slower would severely impact usage rates. The good news is that the web
provides an "instant feedback loop" on these types of changes, so you
can (and they did) change back quickly. She also noted that
"AJAX = Speed."
The day ended with a rare public appearance by David Filo,
co-founder of Yahoo. By that time, I'll admit I was getting
tired of seeing the parade of 30-something billionaires (OK, so I'm
jealous), and I didn't catch any new themes in that discussion.
If you've come this far, you'll have picked up the recurring themes of
this year's Web 2.0 Summit. It's all about the users, the users' data,
the web's transformation into a platform, and experiences over
applications. I'm sure there's more than enough collective intelligence
to go around -- we just have to harvest it and focus it back into
winning experiences for our customers.
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