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TECH TALK: Web 2.0 Conference: Observations (Part 2)

October 20th, 2004 · No Comments

Abe Fettig wrote about three trends that permeated the Web 2.0 conference:

RSS. Publishers want to know how to make money off it, which means not just advertising but being able to track readership. Lots of people and companies, including the new Rojo.com, are thinking about the problem of being able to wade through hundreds or thousands of feeds and find the most important stories. I’m not yet sure how I feel about this. My instincts say that humans are incredibly good at filtering out unimportant information, and that many users will only want to subscribe to a few feeds. So for a lot of people it might be perfectly reasonable to just skim through every new message, and ignore the ones they aren’t interested in. I could be wrong on this, and time will tell. In any case, I came away with the feeling that nobody is really sure how the average net user is going to use RSS. Lots of startups are making bets, though.

Wikis. Web 2.0 had a wiki, Ross Mayfield from SocialText did a workshop on using Wikis in the enterprise, Joe Kraus introduced his new company, which is selling a Wiki. It’s interesting to see the life cycle of a technology like Wikis. They’ve been around for almost ten years with a limited but enthusiastic following, gained credibility with big projects like wikipedia, became a standard tool for software projects, and now all of a sudden there are two start-ups selling commercial software, and betting that wikis are going to take off in the enterprise.

Web APIs. The theme of the conference was “the Web as Platform”, and a lot of the sessions touched on APIs. All the big sites – Amazon, Google, Ebay, PayPal, etc. – are opening up some functionality through web services. These companies seem to have put some thought into providing web services that enable developers to use their platform without giving away their sources of revenue (although it will be interestingn to see their reaction when people start to use the APIs in unpleasantly unexpected ways). Amazon’s services in particular look cool – I’ll have to find come time to play with them.

Mark Mahaney wrote about his lasting impressions:

Peter Norvig, the director of search quality at Google Labs, unveiled three initiatives that Google is currently working on — statistical machine translation, named entities, and word clusters. The goal of these is to improve the understanding of meaning in written words. To the uninitiated — including us — statistical machine translation means language translation (as far we can tell). Peter demo’ed Arabic to English and Chinese to English language translations that appeared fairly accurate….well, at least, the English phrasing appeared generally correct.

Representatives from Yahoo!, MSN, Ask Jeeves, and Amazon.com’s A9 search unit appeared to agree during a panel that two of the most important innovation focus areas for search now are integrated desktop search and personalization. In general, the representatives from these companies expressed a high level of confidence in the future growth drivers for search advertising – term coverage, pricing, search traffic, etc.

Idealab CEO Bill Gross launched a new search engine at www.snap.com , which contains some significant new features, such as refined subset search functionality, the ability to sort search results by click-thru rates, flexible payment structures for advertisers (pay per click, pay per transaction, pay per action, etc…), and substantial metrics transparencyThe simple take-away for us is that no one company has a monopoly on search innovation.

Tomorrow: Observations (continued)


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