[Mobile|Web] 2.0 Week: From Mobility to Semantics

I started the week with Mobile 2.0. Rudy De Waele and Mike Rowehl posted great summaries of that event with lots of links to coverage all over the Web which I won’t replicate here. Suffice to say: it was a great day. My one complaint was that I don’t think we served the developer community very well. Next time, we may need to expand the event into multiple tracks and get some real developer interest topics going.

As for the Web 2.0 conference which is just closing down today, it has been a mixed bag, but on balance I actually think it was better than last year. Lots of the conference has been focusing on APIs and the whole “Web as a platform” concept, which I think is a key area of innovation in the Web. We’re already seeing how efforts like Amazon Web Services and Facebook’s APIs are creating waves of innovation and that’s only accelerating.

I found Facebook’s announcement on allowing users to export their data particularly interesting. Openness like this will be the trend for social networks moving forward and Facebook has clearly decided to be a part of this disruption. Devil is in the details, of course.

Of course, the mobile content at the summit has been very superficial and disappointing. The panel on mobile social media could have been interesting but it was a little too much Nokia-focused (how could it not be as it was sponsored and organized by Nokia and featured Anssi as a panelist). It still could have been interesting but the panelists had to spend too much time explaining the mobile social space so we couldn’t really get into the meaty issues.

Another low-light was the “conversation” about the 700mhz auction between Verizon Wireless (Thomas J. Tauke) and Google (Ram Shriram). Martin Varsavsky from FON was incongruously placed into this conversation as well but really this was an argument between Google and Verizon. (As a sidebar, what FON is doing is really really cool, and I am especially excited about their partnership with BT, which Martin unfortunately was not able to get into in any detail.) The problem with the 700mhz discussion is that Google is trying to frame this as them championing the little guy (“no blocks, no locks” is their mantra) and Verizon is trying to frame the discussion as their crusade against government intervention and regulation. This might seem like a big story in the States but from an international perspective, I am scratching my head a bit. I don’t think the spectrum auction has anything to do with open access (which is an inevitable trend). The whole thing seems to be about control and money — it’s a crass power-play by Google into the carrier space. Which is cool, but call a spade a spade.

Anyway, I’m now sitting in probably the most interesting session of the event, stuck in at the tail end named “The Semantic Edge.” (Presumably Tim O’Reilly couldn’t stand to name it “Semantic Web” which is what it’s about). What’s exciting about this panel is that we are hearing about cool new technology available now that is leveraging the semantic Web. Twine is a semantic application just coming out of stealth that ties together information from other sites and social networks. Very cool. Freebase (interesting choice of names) provides a semantic search which can provide impressively deep information using a combination of natural language processing and semantics. This is easily the most interesting stuff that’s been presented at Web 2.0. Taptu (who came out of stealth at Mobile 2.0 on monday) should be up there as well as they are actually using some of the same technologies to enable a remarkably better mobile search experience.

Another side-bar: it’s very good to hear people talking about the importance of W3C semantic Web standards as an interoperable glue between these semantic platforms.

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