Thursday, April 19, 2007

Web2.0 Expo Motifs

So I've just returned from the Web2.0 Expo in San Francisco and have a lot of thoughts to catch up on. I'll try to hit the main points, the consistent motifs, that I saw appearing throughout the conference here and then expand on the more interesting ones later.

A lot of the general points were touched on by Dion Hinchcliffe's talk which, though often too dumbed down for the audience (we didn't need to hear that Tim B-L invented the Web in the intro), did have lots of good lessons in it. These he summarized as follows:

  1. The Web is the new "platform". One of the keys to building a successful Web2.0 business is to recognize that there is rather complicated ecosystem growing and that your product should try to be a stable part of it. eBay and Amazon are probably the best examples of this. By providing their web services, their business operates on the Web platform (as opposed to a particular operating system for example). This lets them get their products into everyone else's business quite easily - to everyone's benefit. Becoming an eBay retailer is extremely easy in comparison to building your own eBay-like service and makes you and eBay money. So.. supply your product via web services to enable commensal relationships to form.
  2. Data is where all the value is. The content is what matters - even if all of your software failed, the value of any of these companies is really in the content that they are gathering from "the people formerly known as the audience". Capture as much as you can and use it wisely.
  3. The perpetual beta. This is fundamental to essentiall all software now, but it is most relevant to social software where changes need to be made quickly in response to the changing needs, whims of the users.
  4. Agile development of both software and the business. The Flickr story is a great example of this. They didn't set out to build a photo-sharing site at first, it simply fell out of another project but they were able to recognize its value and rapidly change direction.
  5. Mobile. Particularly outside of the western world, many many more people have mobile devices than they do computers. In the west, people are more and more connected at all times ( I saw tons of the strange cyborg like creatures who like to where the in-ear blue tooth phones at the conference). Clearly, if you can mobilize you need to do it (and it will be getting easier to do so).
  6. Rich user experience. There are good (and bad) reasons why the Web is flocking to ajax like bears to honey. People like its products (e.g. Google maps). Too bad its still such a pain! I'm guessing the ajax toolkit vendors are going to do very well this year, because everyone wants to do it, but very few can really do it well without help.
  7. Collective intelligence. I think we all know about this idea now. If you don't, read the Wisdom of Crowds and get back to me.

Lets see, what else:

  • Everyone and their mother seems to love Ruby on Rails
  • RSS is king for data distribution and, to a growing extent, data integration. Lots of interesting aggregator services appearing.
  • Trust mechanisms exist and need to be used (but I think will be improved when Web identity is better understood). ("Autority travels upwards on the web").
  • OpenId might just work..
  • Almost no one is using anything from the semantic web initiative, but the one exceptions is very exciting. Apparently Joost is using RDF for internal data integration with the aim of enabling external developers to easily add functionality to their prouduct. With the billionaire creators of Skype on the bandwagon, things get much more interesting!
  • Everything about Web2.0 originates in the satisfaction of an invidivual, personal need. All of the cool W.o.C. type things occur only as a result of cleverly aggregating individual, selfish contributions. Passive Altruism reign supreme. This was nicely described by Thomas Vander Wal's talk on social tagging. He described the products of 4 stages of a successful tagging enterprise, 1) satisifying personal need to organize, 2) serendipitous browsing through other user's collections, 3) useful search through the aggregate, 4) a mature system that engenders the formation of new social groups (e.g. rounded square phenomenon in flickr).
  • Internationalization. Only 33% of the blogs on the Internet are written in English..

Phew! Lets stop there for now. Such a rich conference, thanks very much to
Scientist Solutions for sending me!

If I can, I'll be adding more thoughts on identity, security, the mechanical turk, hyper-locality,, the number 150, and the meaning of fun.

Back to the day job..