On Tuesday, the Web 2.0 Expo invades San Francisco. The largest Web 2.0 conference there is--the organizers are expecting 7,000+ attendees--will inhabit the Moscone exhibit hall through Friday. Unlike smaller, more intimate conferences, there will be too much at the Expo for any one person to absorb it all. So herewith are a few things worth paying special attention to:
Keynotes to attend
Amit Mital from Microsoft will be talking up Live Mesh (see "What's in Ray Ozzie's Mesh?") at 5:00 PM Wednesday. It looks like this product will be the talk of the show, but there are other keynotes we're going to be sure to check out.
Mozilla Foundation chairman Mitchell Baker will give a talk called "Opening the Mobile Web" on Thursday at 9:50 AM. This will be especially interesting if she addresses the fact that Mozilla is not building a version of Firefox for iPhone or for Android, due to licensing incompatibilities between these companies and Mozilla's open-source project.
I'll be very curious to hear what Yahoo CTO Ari Balogh has to say in his talk about open platforms at 10:00 AM Thursday. Yahoo has many products based on open platforms, and is also trying to develop new platforms of its own, such as Fire Eagle, that it's opening up to developers.
Dan Lyons, aka Fake Steve Jobs, takes the floor at 9:35 AM Friday. Worth going to for entertainment value.
Matt Mullenweg, creator of Wordpress, will be giving a short talk at 10:15 AM on Friday. He is always worth listening to; unlike some young entrepreneurs, his vision goes far beyond the product he's in charge of, which bodes very well for the company's future and for blogging in general.
Web 3.0? Really?
Is Web 2.0 obsolete? Expect hallway conversations about "Web 2.5" and "Web 3.0," the next "versions" of the online innovation roller coaster we're now on. Web 2.5, according to News.com Editor-in-Chief Dan Farber, will see the continued emergence of platform-as-a-service, in other words the growth of Web application engines like Salesforce.com's AppForce, Google's new App Engine, Amazon's suite of platforms known as Amazon Web Services, and so on. Web entrepreneurs start building their Web apps on top of these new platforms, things will change for users: We'll see tighter integration between data among different apps, more reliability and better performance from apps, and possibly even more rapid innovation.
Web 3.0 is generally agreed to be the "Semantic Web;" in other words services that "know" what the information they're holding is about. PowerSet, for example, is building semantic search--it searches for what pages mean, not just what they say. The Semantic Web is not just an exercise in artificial intelligence, though; the emergence of rich and agreed-upon data structures, like microformats, across sites and service make it possible to build apps that "understand" the data they are working on more than current Web apps do.
At Demo 2008 earlier this year we saw the release of several Web applications based on Flash (and the Flash runtime, AIR). At Web 2.0 Expo, we expect to see even more rich apps on this platform. The outlook for Microsoft's Flash competitor, Silverlight, is not good.
We're also tracking the ongoing migration of user data from personal and local devices to the Web, or the "cloud." Web-based backup is becoming cost-effective now, not just for small amounts of data but also for personal media files. Live access to personal data--not just backup--is the next thing, and with the growth of online productivity suites, like Google Docs, and online media applications, like photo editor Picnik, users are already getting accustomed to putting their most important personal files online, often with no copies at their homes.
Rush to the exits
It may not be overt at Web 2.0 Expo, but one thing I will be looking for is signs of increasing merger activities among Web 2.0 companies. With a troubling economy upon us, and with the maturing of Web 2.0 ideas (if not business models), entrepreneurs and their funding sources will be looking more aggressively for the exits (financial, that is), while the bigger companies seek to consolidate their Web offerings by roping in the products from startups or from complimentary Web-focused companies. Cases in point: the recent acquisitions of Farecast and Sphere (by Microsoft and AOL, respectively), and the partnership between Google and Salesforce.com.
Web 2.0 Expo is a partner with CNET Webware.com, which will be honoring the Webware 100 winners at the Expo.