Each year at the Web 2 Summit, Tim and I try to focus our program on an overarching theme that we believe best sums up the year ahead. This is never easy to do – the event is still eight months away. But this year I feel better than I ever have about our focus, because it’s a return to our roots, as it were.
If you know my work, you know I’m fascinated by the interplay between the entrepreneurial culture of our industry and the giants who have emerged from within it – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, to name a few – as well as those who have joined it from other industries – Comcast, GE, and Newscorp come to mind.
For 2010, Web 2 will focus on the chess game in which all of these companies are now engaged, a battle to gain the upper hand in crucial “points of control” across the Internet Economy. The idea sprang from Tim’s “War for the Web” post last Fall, but we’re taking that riff and broadening it, identifying chokepoints on an increasingly crowded chessboard.
Fifteen years and two recessions into the commercial Internet, it’s clear that our industry has moved into a new competitive phase – a “middlegame” in the battle to dominate the Internet economy. To understand this shift, we’ll use the Summit’s program to map strategic inflection points across the Internet landscape, identifying key players who are battling to control the services and infrastructure of a websquared world.
The stakes are high. As the Web and the world intertwine through mobile and sensor platforms, the decisions we make – as leaders of this industry, as entrepreneurs, and as consumers – will determine the fundamental architecture of our society.
Will distribution, for example, be locked in, or left open? While the Web was once considered to be an open distribution platform, access to content is increasingly becoming a key point of control. The rise of iTunes and Hulu, the vertical integration of the iPhone and iPad, and the promise (or threat) of paid content have brought the model of free media into question.
Another battle is brewing for control of the social graph. While we’d argue that no one “owns” your social graph, Facebook may beg to differ, at least in practice, and Google has clearly laid down its own gauntlet in the form of Buzz and social search. Related, of course, is control of identity services – will Facebook become the one ring to rule them all? And is that a good thing?
Throughout the program, we’ll be talking to leaders, upstarts, and unexpected new players in these and many other key “points of control.” Payment systems, location services, voice recognition, hardware and mobile platforms, content management, data transport, commerce and advertising ecosystems: We’ll unpack them all.
We’ll look at the calculus behind entrenched platforms like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, of course, but we’ll also feature companies who are changing strategy and moving into new fields of battle. Apple as an advertising channel? Comcast as a content network? Cisco as a social network? Adobe as an online marketing company? And of course, as we do every year, we’ll feature the insurgent upstarts and disruptors who hope to replace them all.
I’m proud of the role that the Web 2 Summit plays, once each year, in gathering leaders of the Internet Economy to debate and determine business strategy. With this year’s program we’re redoubling our focus on this critical discussion. I hope you’ll all join Tim and me this November 15-17 in San Francisco – we look forward to the conversation. Early registration for those of you who have invitations can be done here. If you want to come, simply fill out a request here. See you there!