The O’Reilly Enterprises Web 2.0 Expo event is seen as the creator back in 2006 of Web 2.0 and its annual Web 2.0 Expo events in USA, Europe and Asia are in many ways the ‘pulse’ of the movement in adoption and use of Web 2.0. You would be inclined to think that the Web, and Web 2.0 in particular, is a flatting force that irons out localised differences in favour of ‘the earth is flat’ forces of globalisation. Yet the most striking thing to me as an attendee at the Europe event is the differences.
In the USA the driving force is clearly and obviously now with mainstream Business, where as in Europe it seems to be more with small businesses trying to level the playing field by using Web 2.0. So whereas in the USA the streams for Strategy and Business Models, and Marketing and Community were packed with smarter executive types frantically taking notes and using blackberries, in Europe the popular streams were Design and User Experience and Development and the crowd were happier working through their PCs.

There is a similar split in the sponsorship. It’s no surprise to see IBM not only a Platinum sponsor, but also working hard in multiple sessions to demonstrate the business value from using MashUps and Collaboration tools. Though how many people will link the IBM strategy in this area with their backing of Open Source some years back as their business model? Web 2.0 is the very personification of the Open Source model so this is a continuation in the same direction. And that ties into the IBM support for Cloud computing as the delivery model for Web 2.0 so that makes the IBM strategy cohesive and explains their ubiquitous presence at all things Web 2.0. Their biggest set piece session was called ‘IBM’s Grounds-Up Social Software Transformation’ presenting themselves and the benefits to their own business through adoption of their own products, it was compelling, but hinged on the challenge of breaking local middle management protectionism of ‘their’ resources as much as the technology. Its from the USA Expo 2.0 but a good presentation on this called ‘what many eyes know’.
Time and time again in sessions the challenge of mid management being the obstruction came up, and the general view of the Europeans was ‘hide it from them and keep doing it’ , where as American session leaders felt that it was the senior management that would force the mid management to change. Again, a very clear example of the split in the driving forces for adoption between USA and Europe. At a Web 2.0 expo earlier this year this topic was explored as ‘creativity or control’, a good summary of the issues being raised.
May be it is less obvious to see Salesforce.com as a Gold sponsor, but its back to the delivery model for Web 2.0, with Saleforce.com explaining how to move through Software as a Service, SaaS, to Platform as a Service, PaaS. The answer, they claim, is both to use their Force.com platform to sell your own services through the AppExchange market place and allow them to be combined into other companies business systems, or to use the AppExchange market place to find the services you need to add to your own requirements. Either way it was interesting to see this new stress on ‘platforms’ as the key part business layer in Cloud Computing.
How obvious was it to see Nokia as a Platinum sponsor with sessions? Well may be not to the computing industry, but as the Nokia slogan is ‘connecting people’ maybe not so strange in the eyes of users who see the convergence of function between a wide range of devices as the ‘norm’ with the smart wireless connected device for personal use at the centre. Nokia sessions all had one thing in common – they effectively bypassed the role of the telecom provider – the focus was either creating and using Widgets to provide services on their new generation of series 60 phones for the end customer, or on the provision of their transmission networks to the enterprise to go direct over wireless broadband to the customer and device. Think Amazon WhisperNet and their Kindle book device. This was perhaps the biggest split of all; is Web 2.0, Cloud Computing and IPv6 a means for Nokia to become an ‘Internet Infrastructure’ provider? They seem to think so!
The best of the rest the smaller companies; Mashable, a French company showed how you can resist globalisation with its unique model of promoting localised French communities combined with linking them to the global commnities such as MySpace, Facebook etc, a model that provoked a lot of interest as it offered localised differentiation whilst building off the success of the big global communities. 2112Portals showed the same localised knowledge in offering from its German based ‘PowerWindows’ an optimised Java script based Open Source Web 2.0 Window Framework that ‘revolutionises’ SAP Business Server pages for use in a Web 2.0 environment. Is-Tools, also defining themselves as ‘platform providers’ but focussed on providing Web Browser front ends for existing mission critical enterprise applications but with the ability to design a separate business process flow across the back end enterprise applications.
Finally, Twitter, I have not been to, or followed virtually any event this year that has not had a constant background of Twitters from Attendees, but Web 2.0 Expo really showed how to use Twitter professionally with the broadcast use of @w2e_europe08 as channel by which the event organisers communicated to and with the attendees. Real time questions and feedback in a continuous flow! Twitter in particular, and the use of social software is rapidly acquiring the same status as PC based e mail in the early 90s as the preferred tool of the ‘aware’ workers. Back then mid managers were laughed at for being out of touch as they needed their secretaries to print their emails, and take down a reply by dictation. Same view is taken today of the mid manager who can only use email.
‘by pass them’ and outperform them to get ahead is the war cry of the new elite it would seem, that’s pretty dangerous without some care to the fabric of an enterprise as a compliant legal entity, just as ultimately the user driven PC adoption was to the enterprises of the nineties. Getting management understanding is a key issue over the next couple of years in my view.
Many of the presentations given at the event last year – still interesting though – can be found on slideshare.