This week: Web 2.0 Conference Special

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The past week has been an amazing one for me. My first trip to America and I’ve met so
many people that I’d previously only known via the Web (blogs, email, etc). The Web 2.0 Conference was held in San Francisco from
Wednesday 5th to Friday 7th October. It was a hive of energy and enthusiasm. I spent the
entire 3 days soaking up all the information and atmosphere – and putting names to faces.
I was exhausted but buzzing by the end of the week. 

In this special edition of the Web 2.0 Weekly Wrap-up, I’ve decided to do a top 10
list of things that I remember most about the conference. Here goes…

10. The jam-packed rooms. The conference was sold out and as a result most of
the workshop rooms – and every other place where people congregated – were full to the
brim. At times it was uncomfortable, but it did prove how much interest there is in Web
2.0 from techies, VCs, business people and lots of others. 

9. Best and worst conversations or workshops. All of the workshops I
attended were very worthwhile, but for me the highlight of the formal part of the
conference was John Battelle’s conversation with Yahoo! CEO Terry
Semel
. I really dug his vision for Yahoo! as a technology/media company that is
paving the way for 21st century media and entertainment. By contrast the worst
conversation in terms of content was Barry Diller, whose 20th
century media mogul views were hard to take. Diller was entertaining though, I’ll give
him that. 

8. Google stealing the show on Friday. They did this with two things – Google Reader was announced
and then Sergey Brin made a
surprise appearance
for a conversation with Battelle. Google Reader turned out to be
a bit disappointing, but it was cunning PR to announce it at the conference on Friday
after months of conjecture about when they’d release an RSS Reader. I enjoyed Brin’s
performance and I thought he effectively answered criticisms from competitors about
Google’s business model – he basically said Google is about being the #1 technology
company and innovation will flow from the bottom-up. Whether or not that pans out is
another matter, but the fact that Brin turned up to say it was noteworthy.

7. The acquisitions – Yahoo! bought upcoming.org, Newsgator bought Netnewswire,
AOL bought weblogsinc, Verisign acquired weblogs.com. Of those, the weblogsinc deal
generated the most buzz – perhaps because it gave a much-needed boost to the
time-honoured Content is
King
theory.

6. The business models – or lack thereof. The conversation in the halls was
about the over-reliance on acquisitions and advertising, in particular, from the many
start-ups that have Web 2.0 products or services on the market. This is understandably
making a lot of people nervous, although the general consensus seems to be to go with the
flow and enjoy the ride.

5. Big Internet companies taking digs at each other in the conversations.
Google was the natural target at this year’s conference. Terry Semel from Yahoo!
in particular took some well-aimed swipes at Google. Microsoft wasn’t mentioned that
much, except for MSN’s Dare Obasanjo asking at least 1 question in every session he was
present at (and good questions too). Amazon was hardly mentioned at all. Of the bigco’s,
I think Yahoo! came out the best from this conference. But Google and eBay did OK
too.

4. Lots of small start-ups announcing cool new social software appszimbra, zvents, Orb, Flock, etc. TechCrunch coverage here and
here.
The workshop where they announced 12 of them was probably one I should’ve attended, in
retrospect, but the mash-ups workshop was on at the same time and it was pretty good
too.

3. Conference keywords (i.e. terms heard repeatedly): user-generated content,
engagement, 2.0, 2.1, 1.0, platforms, mash-ups.

2. Bubble talk. There was a lot of chatter about whether we’re in a bubble.
Much of it is excitement at the present opportunities, mixed with a little caution and
cynicism based on lessons from the dotcom era. Some would say there’s too much Web 2.0
hype currently, but I think it’s an exciting time to be doing things. Let’s not get too
cynical – or preachy about what Web 2.0 is or isn’t. There are a lot of opportunities out
there (I’ll refrain from singing the Pet Shop Boys song).

1. The thrill of being among my peers and in the middle of all this Web 2.0
activity
. I’ve spent the past 3 years exploring the Two-Way Web and then Web 2.0 on
Read/WriteWeb – documenting the transition to the
Web as platform era. The interest in Web 2.0 over the past year has almost directly
matched the upsurge of interest in my blog, which is very gratifying. I’m currently busy
working out how I can make a difference in Web 2.0 over the next year, as are many other
people I’m sure.

That’s a wrap for another week! My next Weekly Wrap-up will be written back in New
Zealand, but I have a feeling I’ll be back in Silicon Valley before too long 😉 I love
this place.