Today is a good day, because later this afternoon I’m sitting down with Tim O’Reilly, my partner on the Web 2 Summit, and spending a few hours with his team thinking out loud about themes and ideas for this year’s conference (It’ll be Oct. 17-19, in SF again). Last year (the third one) was amazing, but we all got the sense that Web 2 had gone mainstream. While we had a lot of innovators at that event, this year we want to focus on the edges – the place where the web has yet to become mainstream, or the places where the mainstream will once again be upended due to innovations on the margins. Our goal is to find and introduce those edges into the conversation this year. From something we wrote up to introduce the concept:
Where are the greatest opportunities, and the greatest risks? At the Web’s edge – the places where the Web is just beginning to take root: the industries, geographies, and applications that have yet to be conquered by the web’s wide reach.
For the past three years, the Web 2.0 Summit has explored ideas which have already begun to slip into the mainstream. This year, we’ll highlight news from unusual suspects- the enthusiasts and dreamers touching the edges of spaces not yet conquered by the Web, as well as established players who are looking to expand into new and previously unimaginable realms.
How is the Web infiltrating new beachheads in areas we never thought it could–or would? What are the majors doing at the edge, at the loony “ten percent time” at Google, in the labs at MSN, IBM, etc., that might inform entirely new applications, opportunities, even threats? What are the edge startups promising to redefine the center? What are the things we wish or know the Web can do, but so far, is failing us? What are the edges in terms of policy, politics, and morality?
This framing context came to me as I considered how long its taken the web to truly swallow and morph mobile, for example. Even traditional media of all kinds – books, movies, TV – has taken longer than most of us thought. But we’re also interested in new approaches to markets (S3 comes to mind), new areas of early lock in (Navteq comes to mind) or late market innovation (Flickr is a good early example of innovation in a space that seemed pretty crowded). And Tim has been thinking about this forever, as he said in this podcast:
We’re really in that stage with the Internet, where the Internet has become widely deployed and we’re now saying “Wow — what can we do if we really understand the power of the Internet?” And I think we’re not there yet, all the way there yet. And all this innovation is still exploring what gets better as it becomes networked.
One of the new models Tim notes is now possible, for example, is pay-as-you-drive auto insurance. That’s a pretty new idea…
I’ve always depended on your feedback to guide the process of programming Web 2. So will you help again? Where is the web’s edge for you? What might it be able to do that we have yet to accomplish? What early signs do you see? What aspects of our culture might the web never touch? Pls let me know in comments here, or in email!
PS – This is for the Summit, not this April’s Expo, which is shaping up really nicely! I’m interviewing a few folks on stage for that, including Eric Schmidt and Jeff Weiner.