For me the Web 2.0 conference has been really exciting and the air has been full of energy. But I'm new in the Silicon Valley, so I've been curious to listen to what other conference attendees have been saying. A lot of them share my enthusiasm, but there's also a fair amount of what could be termed 'cynical buzz'. People who perhaps lived through Dotcom Boom and Bust I and are now more cautious in the sequel: Dotcom 2.0.
John Battelle just asked (as I type this) eBay founder Pierre Omidyar if we're "getting to another bubble". Pierre says there are so many creative people inventing innovative things - and the barriers are much lower. Fundamentally that's a good thing, he says, but there'll be much more competition. So he sounds positive (but then that's his job, because he's investing in this stuff). So...grain of salt and all that.
Fred Wilson is taking a careful approach to investing in 2.0. He wrote today of "seeing second derivatives" in Web 2.0. For example Fred heard a business described as "Google Maps meets delicious, and another described as Skype meets MySpace." He concludes:
"When the first derivative hasn't fully figured its long term business model (other than getting bought), the second derivatives are pretty scary. I am a contrarian at heart. This situation bothers me."
Fair comment. In all the conversations I've had, the main business models I've heard are getting acquired or contextual advertising. There are other business models though - e.g. subscriptions, premium content. Some of the successes so far of Web 2.0 - e.g. topix.net and Bloglines (I met and chatted with the founders of both today) - have profited greatly from those business models. But how many others can/will? Are we too reliant on Google, Yahoo and the other bigco's for acquisitions or advertising revenue?
Henry Blodget, (in)famous former Wall Street Internet analyst, has just started blogging. He had this to say on the first dotcom era, what he learned and how it could be applied in the current era:
"One reason for my success in the boom years is that I was optimistic about the prospects for a handful of Internet companies at the right time [...] The first stage of my own personal dotcom bust came when, along with many others, I stayed optimistic too long."
So that's why we're seeing cautious optimism - and cynical buzz. We don't want to be optimistic for too long, but we certainly want to enjoy the sun while we can. I certainly do, being a fresh face in the Valley and wanting to take the opportunities before me while the time is right. And the time is right/ripe, no question. Actually I think there may be another bubble when mobile technologies take off in the western world, but I'm talking for now about Web 2.0 and social software stuff.
I'm wrapping up this post now, just as Tim and John are wrapping up the conference. It's been a fantastic 3 days, very very busy and bustling, and hugely enjoyable. I'm buzzing - but trying my best to be just a little cynical ;-)