The conference was a lot of fun and it was interesting to meet people from all over who have a hand in or want to get their hands into the Web 2.0 craze. The speakers were basically an overwhelming mix of CEOs and whos who from every major Internet player. It was exciting to hear them all and to sit next to all kinds of really “important” people.
A guy from Intel who was there looking for new hot companies and new trends asked me what I thought was missing. I have thought about that as it is probably the one meaningful question I was asked the entire conference. (Most people just ask conversational questions. Probably because they don’t really care what I think.) The question he asked was what I thought was missing. Frankly, the thing missing from the conference was the next big thing. There were lots of small venture funded and self funded companies, but I wonder if the next really big, important company can, at this point, pay $3400 to smooze with the big boys. I wonder if the next big thing wasn’t across the bay at the Ruby on Rails session a couple of guys were putting on, or tucked away with a couple of developers in a small office or someone’s basement.
The conference was defined by who was there, but I think that the people who weren’t there indicate what Web 2.0 is to those who coined the term. Zillow wasn’t there. I didn’t see anyone from 30 Boxes. The 37 signals guys were not there although Jeff Bezos did say he looked forward to “working with them.” I didn’t see Last.fm or Pandora. I don’t know that StumbleUpon was there either. I saw SuprGlu show up on a slide, but I would bet those guys wouldn’t have the resources to blow to come to the smooze fest. Meebo lacks many of the Web 2.0 features, but I think you would have a hard time arguing that it isn’t Web 2.0
There were Microsoft people and Intel and Amazon and Yahoo and Google and lots of others that my Mom would easily recognize. That is telling. The big boys are afraid of what the next generation of software will bring, but the irony is that they probably crowded out the people that they should fear the most – those guys figuring out how to do something cheap, fast and without the suits.
One other thought. Every time a group forms they expend a lot of time and energy trying to define themselves. Personally I think that Web 2.0 is defined by something John Battelle said on stage. He said that the he and Tim O’Reilly started the conference after the dot come bust to add life back into the Internet world. They correctly realized that the web was not dead and wanted people to know that. The “Web 2.0” companies are all over the place. I don’t think they are defined by the technology use nor by the principles they implement. Personally I think that Web 2.0 is defined by that first conference and by Monty Python. “We’re not dead yet.”