Here are some notes taken from John Doerr's talk at the Web 2.0 Conference, held October 2004 in San Francisco. Thanks to IT Conversations for recording it!
John Doerr is a well-known venture capitalist, who apparently had the foresight to back Google in 1999 when few others did. His Web 2.0 speech had a lot of insightful nuggets and tantalizing snippets of insight. I got the feeling he was holding a lot back, but that's to be expected from someone who is on the board of both Google and Amazon. Still, very worthwhile listening to. Or if you can't be bothered listening, here are my notes:
After about 10 minutes of banter and rambling, it got interesting at the 11.40 minute mark. That's when Doerr launched into his Web 2.0 theories. He started by saying "...take the idea of the string theory and apply it to the Web", which led to his suggestion that there are "at least 6 parallel webs." Although this caused a round of titters in the audience, I think everyone was on tenterhooks! So the 6 parallel webs are:
* Near Web -> the PC upfront; "innovations are around services"; examples: Friendster, Visible Path
* Far Web -> tv web; people don't interact with it as much; e.g. Akimbo.com, which delivers video to your tv set
* Here Web -> one that is "ubiquitously pervasive"; e.g. phones
* Weird Web -> "talk to and it talks back to you" e.g. 3D VRML where the perspective changes; An example company is TellMe, which offers voice recognition over your phone (e.g. directory assistance - AT&T uses it)
* B2B Web -> the plumbing behind the scenes (xml, rss, web services - eg amazon); example: "companies building and promoting wikis".
* D2D Web -> Device Web (e.g. RFID info, remote sensors, smart dust)
He puts the 6 Webs under rubric of "EverNet". The most interesting one sounded like the "Weird Web", which John said had "opportunity for innovation" further into the future.
Doerr talked a bit about platforms. The OS as a platform was followed by databases (eg p2p), and now we have web / web services / "search in particular" ("a very powerful platform").
He said browsers are not so much a platform, but "a great enabler". People in the Netscape era used the browser as a thin client. He said that "most of the old web-based services [Web 1.0] are in the process of being systemically reinvented - including the browser." He reckons "browsers are going to come back", but dismissed the likelihood of Google doing a browser.
When questioned what are the opportunities or markets open for entrepreneurs, Doerr said there is scope for "lots of web services-based companies". In particular "really targeted services for the explosive Hand Web" [aka the Here Web] - for example, social services and tracking services.
"We live in time and we're assaulted by events", Doerr went on to say. He wants filters to be developed so that we're only assaulted by "the most relevant information". That's a "Google-sized" technical challenge, but an example of something he'd invest in. There are also opportunities to tackle information that is not currently on the Web - he gave the example of a video company that could aggregate all the backlist info about videos.
But he cautioned that a lot of those types of opportunities will go to "the larger companies" and the smaller innovators should be wary of "getting in the way" of Google, Amazon, EBay or Yahoo!.