What this year’s Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco noticably lacked in sponsors, exhibitors, and schwag, it more than made up for in smarts. Today was the last day of the show, and I’m away with my mind packed with thoughts from the six stunning keynotes.
Tim O’Reilly was in typical fine Tim O’Reilly form, equating the danger of vendor lock-in in today’s tech world with the perils of Wall Street lock-in. As the full realization of the Internet as operating system begins to play out on the mobile device stage, he warns both us and vendors that “the choices you make can lock you into one future or another,” and also, “if you invent for the world that exists now, you are behind the curve.” Not exactly naming the implicit battling warlords of the show (Apple and Adobe), he reminded us of the danger when, just like on Wall Street, vendors “trade for their own account against developers.” His bottom line, as always: “When you create more value than you capture, you do create more value for yourself. Gain strength working together.”
Bit.ly scientist Hilary Mason demonstrated, in her talk called A Data-driven Look at the Real-time Web, how bit.ly continues to impress upon us that we really had no idea how much value URL shorteners could create. She had two product announcements from bit.ly:
1 — bit.ly fugu – Search your history and create your own personal analytics around your data
2 — http://bitly.tv — “What the world is watching now” — which looks like an awesome realtime video aggregator (because really, together with TED’s great Open TV announcement and SlideShare’s new support for video making it the single place to gather all your business content, the Expo was all about video this year).
Then Jeff Pierce from IBM Research took the stage to remind us that mobile email use differs from desktop email use, and that we need to rethink mobile email clients.
Next up was Jared Friedman of Scribd, who passionately fanned the Apple-Flash fire in announcing that Scribd is bailing entirely on Flash and “betting the company” on HTML5. “Why do you need a special application just to read a document?” said Friedman. “Text is like the glue that holds the Web together — you can’t just live without it. And now with HTML5 you don’t have to.” According to Friedman, HTML5 is nothing short of the open Web standard that finally makes it possible to achieve Scribd’s simple vision: to make it really easy for people to publish whatever they’ve written on the Web.
Finally for the keynotes at the Web 2.0 Expo, the very smart Steve Blank, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Stanford and Berkeley, entertained us with some perspective from history in diving into four stories about key players in the history of the tech sector. By then, my mind had hit saturation, but I’m fairly sure these are all lessons to bear in mind as we all watch how today’s technology games play out in the future.
June Cohen’s Web 2.0 Expo talk — Ideas Worth Spreading: TED’s Transition from Conference to Platform — just ended and it was so incredible I have to immediately commit these thoughts to a post.
TED has realized its incredible value not only as a conference but as a platform. Largely through capturing videos of their incredible sessions and then making them available worldwide for free viewing afterwards, they’ve been able to harness the power of an amazing viral spread of enthusiasm.
Cohen used the example of Hans Rosling’s incredible talk jettisoning him into unlikely-internet-stardom, so from a content standpoint TED has a goldmine — and they want to share it. This is where the technological and philosophical elements come in.
Technologically, they facilitate this worldwide viral spread in part by making sure the videos are subtitled into multiple languages. Not only are the videos subtitled, but the full transcripts are available. One excellent feature Cohen pointed out was that you can click a word in the transcript and the video automatically scrolls to that point.
And if technology and awesome content weren’t enough, TED is pursuing a fully open philosophy. “In pursuing the strategies of openness, all of the unintended consequences have been explosively positive,” says Cohen, while announcing TED Open TV Project — a network of partners that can use TED talks for free and build broadcasts around them. The bottom line for TED? “TED has evolved from a conference to a media company to a platform for spreading ideas.”
Definitely staying tuned to — and rewatching — this one.