What Are You Optimistic About?

This is the Edge Annual Question put to various experts. “As an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic. Science figures out how things work and thus can make them work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever better put.”

Mobile Web in 2006

Wap Review writes: “2006 is the year that the mobile web and mobile data entered mainstream consciousness. The year saw a flurry of mobile site launches by major media and internet companies like Time, Newsweek, Weblogs, Inc , Gawker Media and virtually every daily newspaper in the country. Most major online news, sports, travel and finance sites now have a mobile web presence, many of which were launched or redesigned this year. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL did total redesigns of their mobile portals with Google and Microsoft in particular rolling out loads of new and well done features.”

2007 Search Predictions

John Battelle writes:

1. Thanks to Google’s dominance in search and media and a complacent DOJ, Microsoft will buy a better position in online media. Acknowledging that it can’t build it, Microsoft will shop its way into a dominant position.

9. Speaking of the content business, it will face a major test as two forces converge to undermine the pageview model: Ajax, on the one hand, and ad blockers on the other. Both will be addressed with alarm and alacrity by industry efforts. By the end of the year, new metrics will emerge to help publishers and marketers understand audience engagement.

13. Mobile will finally be plugged into the web in a way that makes sense for the average user and a major mobile innovation – the kind that makes us all say – Jeez that was obvious – will occur. At the core of this innovation will be the concept of search.

User Controlled Pages

Fred Wilson writes: “If you want to allow users to truly control a page, if you want them to treat the page like it is their own page, you must let them put code onto their page. If you don’t, eventually sophisticated leading edge users are going to move on.”

2007 India Tech Predictions

From iLeher (Madhur). Among them:

1. Broadband growth in India will continue to disappoint by not showing an exponential growth.

7. Mobile payment and mobile ticketing will hit mainstream.

8. We will find Indians spending more time playing games (mobile, PC and console).

TECH TALK: The Best of 2006: 8. Biofuels

Energy has never been too far away from any of our minds. Vinod Khosla discussed the advantages of using biofuels in general and ethanol in particular:

To me, it seemed ethanol and other biohols could eventually replace all our gasoline needs and they would not need subsidies to outcompete fossil fuels. Just because ethanol gets subsidies doesnt mean it needs them. Biohols were the only kind of alternative energy that I believed met two essential criteria: They would scale to solve a material problem, and they could economically compete with fossil fuels without subsidies.

When it comes to technology, the best way to change the world is not by revolution but by evolutionary steps. Change must follow from step to step, from innovation to innovation, as technology matures, each step justifying its economic viability and attracting investment. So while ethanol may not be ideal, Im convinced its the best first step on the biohol trajectory. Ethanol offers one thing no other oil substitute can: a clear path from where we are to where we hope to be.

There are other scenarios we can imagine say, wind-driven hydrogen generators powering our cars but they are just that: blue-sky flights of imagination from academics and dreamers with no notion of reality. Then there are those tunnel-vision skeptics who refuse to believe that there is a trajectory to energy independence. I invite those folks to sit on the sidelines and watch the show or to go work on a better solution. Twenty-five years ago such doubters were dismissive of personal computing, the Internet, and biotechnology.

Ethanol is the first step on the biohol trajectory for three reasons. The first is economic: Ethanol can be produced and sold cheaper than gasoline. Most ethanol facilities can produce their fuel for about $1 a gallon almost half the production cost of gasoline. And innovative producers like E3 Biofuels claim to make it for 75 cents a gallon. Its true that American ethanol today benefits from agricultural subsidies for corn farmers. I would like to eliminate ethanol subsidies gradually in conjunction with the removal of tariffs on imported ethanol. For kicks, we might consider removing the substantial direct subsidies to oil, too. Free markets demand level playing fields.

Tomorrow: Education in India

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