TECH TALK: Web 2.0: Emerging Meme

There has a growing buzz in the developer and entrepreneur community about the emerging meme of Web 2.0. As a sold-out conference with the same name starts in San Francisco this week, we will look at what people are saying about these new ideas and the resulting early services. In fact, some of the conference discussion topics provide a glimpse of tomorrows world:

  • Computing and Operating Systems: Over the past year the idea of the Web as an operating system has been widely debated, but not well understood. It’s true that the Web has become the locus of many traditional PCbased computing tasks. But what’s next, and how might Microsoft respond? Will Google declare its intent in this space, and what are the opportunities for new businesses?

  • Media and entertainment: It’s been predicted for more than a decade, but 2005 is the year convergence is happening, with a vengeance. What are the implications for the business models of incumbents and startups alike? What are the roles of new platform companies like Google, of distributors like Comcast, and content companies like NBC Universal?

  • Communication and mobile: The open web model is spreading to the mobile world, but can it conquer the carrier’s walled gardens? We’ll ask the hardware and content companies, the VOIP providers, and the major incumbents where the mobile web is heading.

  • The Web 2.0 meme is built on people participation and recombination. It is the realisation of the dream of building Lego-like services from smaller building blocks. The possibilities are immense. Just as the world of content was transformed with Web 1.0 starting in 1994, the way software is developed and services are crafted is now changing. As the Web enters its second decade, it is about to get an upgrade which will make it look very different from what we see around us today.

    Web 1.0 was about browsing and searching. Everyone with content made available their information on the Web. First, it was directories that helped people find the things they were looking for. Now, it is search engines. Paid search and contextual advertising have emerged as revenue streams for both the big search engines as well as the content sites.

    Web 2.0 promises to be different. It is currently being driven by user-generated content, APIs and mash-ups. And this is just the beginning. What is interesting about the Web 2.0 discussion and services is that it opens up the services field for almost anyone with imagination and programming expertise. The imagination is for thinking up new ways to combine the APIs that others are making available. That then has to be converted into software and a platform that others can not only access but also build upon.

    It is as if someone waved a magic wand and the sense of gloom of the past few years that had descended on the software developer community disappeared. Instead, there is increasing optimism on what can be done and a feeling that the real Web powered by the people and for the people is upon us. It is a time for innovation with a belief that the best ideas will be richly rewarded.

    This also has significant implications for emerging markets like India. For the most part, India has not seen a wide variety of services on the Internet in the first decade. Even though there are an estimated 25-30 million users in India, services that make a big difference to daily life are few and far between. Indian companies have the opportunity to leapfrog by picking the best ideas from the emerging Web 2.0 meme.

    Tomorrow: The Past Year

    TECH TALK Web 2.0+T

    Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.