Davos07: Beyond Web 2.0

So what’s beyond Web 2.0? It’s not Web 3.0 John Markoff of the NY Times, who wrote a kerfuffled piece about Web 3.0, said he just checked on Wikipedia and found the term banned in perpetuity. He also says that “one of the good things about about being a reporter not a visionary is that you don’t have to guess… the visionaries get it wrong.” So he says Web 3.0 is what he sees happening in companies he covers.

This comes at a Davos session on what’s next, with John Battelle of Federated Media questioning Markoff, John Gage of Sun and Jim Goodnight of SAS.

They are looking at this from the perspective of the machine, real and virtual: the building blocks people can put together; the view that the web is a vast data base that can have sense brought to it; the ability to bring a conversational interface to this; the fears and opportunities around the fact that everything is saved now.

I say we should look at this from the human perspective: what happens when you enable people to do what they want to do?

And we should look at this from a distributed perspective: The lesson of Yahoo and Google is that owning something is less desirable than enabling a network you don’t own.

Looking at specifics of what’s next, Markoff points to IBM’s web fountain with complex queries on that large data base. Battelle talks about TellMe’s advancing voice technology. Markoff says one of the few interesting things he saw at CES was a refrigerator magnet that will hear and print out your shopping list: “Why you would want this thing?” he shrugs, “but if it costs nothing — $150…” Gage talks about the coming together of voice recognition (when we don’t care about screen interface) and the ability of machines to talk to each other. Markoff talks about upod (and another company I can’t recall) that are better YouTubes.

Markoff, fresh from Burda’s DLD conference in Munich, says he’s also interesting in where the next innovations are coming from. Being in Munich showed him “that I don’t get out of the Silicon Valley often enough.” He also said that “Silicon Valley’s advantage is going away very, very rapidly… and that’s because of Web 2.0.” Amen.

Decentralization, that’s where it’s at.

Uh-oh: Second life comes up. SAS brags about putting videos on YouTube (“why not, it’s free”) and Sun about opening a store on Second Life. Ah, Second Life. The Davos Conversation page, on which this appears, links to Davos on Second Life. On the bus yesterday with Loic LeMeur, we talked about the French candidates on Second Life. Last night, I got into a good-natured head-shaking session with David Kirkpatrick of Fortune; he was pushing Second Life in a story he put up today and I was poo-poing. I think it’s overhyped, myself. At this morning’s session, John Markoff admits that he hasn’t gotten past the opening and I admit I have not either. It’s small. They have 334,000 “regular visitors,” Kirkpatrick says – though that’s only people who come back after a month while 2.6 million have come and most, like Markoff and me, give up. But Gage makes an eloquent case for the virtual-world interface making a big difference in the future architecture, medicine, education, entertainment. “The moment that the haptic interface works in Second Life, it is going to double and double again…” Mitch Kapor, chairman of the Second Life parent, says that a haptic interface — that is, the ability to feel something virtual in the real world — is months away.

The floor opens and Vint Cerf stands to talk about what he sees coming up, including geographic indexing, mobility, permanence of data; the virtualization of data. He also asks that next year, 13-year-old sit up front. He also talks about the fundamental architectural change that comes in a world where all create; the asymmetrical web doesn’t work as well. He lusts after Kyoto, where one gets a billion bits a second for $89 a month: “almost made me want to move there.” Battelle says there are rumors Google will supply that. Cerf says that Google is not trying to build physical structures but it encourages symmetrical business models.

Battelle brings together talk about identity and the cultural change there: young people spending hours on their MySpace pages, the need to have a presence in the world, the need to connect (and, I’ll argue, that changes our views of privacy, for you cannot connect with people until you give up something of yourself).

From the floor, there is talk about spam — broadly defined as ill-intentioned use of good things — and Markoff says that when he covered botnets he realized that bad guys have supercomputers too. He says he came to this as an internet optimist but he realizes that the world we’ve build mirrors the real world. But Battelle says that, indeed, there is spam but he feels as if he has read that cautionary tale every two years for the last 20.