TECH TALK: Web 2.0 Conference: Preamble

The good thing about the Web and bloggers is that one can virtually attend conferences. Of course it is not a replacement for being there the networking that takes place at these events is almost as important as what the speakers talk. But in case one is unable to attend, then now we have alternatives. So, it was with the Web 2.0 conference which was held in San Francisco from October 5-7. It looked like the place to be but it isnt easy going from Mumbai to the US for a 3-day event! So, I decided to do the next best thing read about the event from multiple sources on the Web and summarise the learnings here. [I had written a blog post with some links earlier.]

The two key people behind the conference were Tim OReilly and John Battelle both well-known names in the IT world. Tim OReilly set the tone as he described what to expect:

I’m talking about the emergence of what I’ve started to call Web 2.0, the internet as platform. We heard about that idea back in the late 90s, at the height of the browser wars, but that turned out to be a false alarm. But I believe we’re now starting the third age of the internet — the first being the telnet-era command line internet, the second the web — and the third, well, that tale grows in the telling. It’s about the way that open source and the open standards of the web are commoditizing many categories of infrastructure software, driving value instead to the data and business processes layered on top of (or within) that software; it’s about the way that web sites like eBay, Amazon, and Google are becoming platforms with rich add-on developer communities; it’s about the way that network effects and data, rather than software APIs, are the new tools of customer lock-in; it’s about the way that to be successful, software today needs to work above the level of a single device; it’s about the way that the Microsofts and Intels of tomorrow are once again going to blindside established players because all the rules of business are changing.

John Battelle added:

Time and again as I report in this space, I’m struck by how different this time round is from the late 1990s. For example, [when] I spoke with Jeff Weber, who runs USAToday’s digital publishing efforts, and we had a robust conversation about publishing models, new and old. I was part of the first wave of “new media” in the 90s, and we were convinced that the world was changing, but wrong in the timing and execution. Now, a whole host of “lightweight publishers” have sprung up, and they are challenging and undermining the entire cost structure and business model of old line publishers. This time, it’s real. Weber pointed out to me that Yahoo News, which is twice as big as, and has just 11 employees. Then there’s craigslist, with more traffic than nearly anyone, and only 20 or so employees. How do they do that? They’ve got a very Web 2.0, lightweight business model, that’s how (and Yahoo aggregates content, then creates interfaces, of course). Over and over, in so many aspects of industry, we see this happening – travel, finance, media, entertainment, retail. It’s exciting, and it’s fun.

The next Web has been creeping upon us. Through the hiatus of the past few years, entrepreneurs and once-maligned Internet dotcoms have been working to put together a new Web around us. It has many elements which were mostly unheard of a few years ago web services, RSS, blogs, wikis, social software, and the like. It is about machines interacting with other machines to make a better experience for us. Underlying this new Web is commodity hardware and open-source software and a lot of innovation, which goes by the name of lightweight business models. The Web is becoming a platform.

Tomorrow: Observations

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.