Sunday, January 28, 2007

Web 2.0 panel on World Economic Forum

(last update, Dec. 17, 2007)

Today I have watched a remarkable panel at World Economic Forum (WEF). I had not attended WEF. But WEF offered an opportunity for many of us who like me to watch some of its sessions free. I am glad that one of them is what I am really interested---The Impact of Web 2.0 and Emerging Social Network Models.

The panelists include
* Caterina Fake, Founder, Flickr, USA
* William H. Gates III, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation, USA
* Chad Hurley, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, YouTube, USA
* Mark G. Parker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nike, USA
* Viviane Reding, Commissioner, Information Society and Media, European Commission, Brussels

Peter Schwartz, the Chairman of Global Business Network, is the moderator, and Dennis Kneale from Forbes Magazine is the challenger.

The discussion began with the question what the Web 2.0 is. Chad pointed out that the movement of Web 2.0 is "leveraging the power of people and leveraging the power of community." Web 2.0 gives chances for any normal web user to influence (beyond simply contribute to) the world. Chad pointed out that this is indeed THE GOAL of internet. I agree with this point. Due to this reason Web 2.0 succeeds.

Mark's introduction of personalizing shoes with NIKE iD shows another side of Web 2.0 phenomenon. The program of NIKE iD was started several years ago, which was before the coin of the buzzword "Web 2.0." But this simple web interface is indeed a Web-2.0 style practice because it aims to increase the mutual intervention between producers and consumers. Moreover, it encourages consumers contributing their personal design ideas to the producer so that NIKE may gather free surveys on the trend of popularity among its consumers. I have just tested this option in NIKE's web site. It is quite a nice experience. The only missed option I feel is that the site does not explicitly encouraging the forms of user communities. Basically, NIKE still treats its customers individually but not collectively. Perhaps NIKE is already too well-known to care of constructing an explicit user community on the Web. But Web 2.0 practices do tell us that such an achievement really help individual customers, and thus eventually the community moderators such as NIKE itself. For many other smaller companies, this community impact may be a key for them to survive.

In this panel, there is a speaker who is too famous to be ignored---Bill Gates. It is fun to hear Mr. Gates emphasizing the impact of 3D in this panel of Web 2.0. "It turns out that the world is 3D." This is true. But how can 3D be a factor of Web 2.0? In fact, I believe what Bill emphasized was the visualization of the web. The 3D visualization is an important factor to build stronger mutual communication between producers and consumers. This particular technology may bring great benefits for web publishers, especially for the salespeople. But more or less, I feel that Bill's talk is a little bit away from the core of Web 2.0. So it explains the slow adoption of Web 2.0 on Microsoft products.

Caterina made an interesting but certain claim that "What we see [about the current Web 2.0 phenomenon] is returning to the root of the web." What the internet really is about is to connect people together. At the early time of the WWW, web users were exciting about publishing their self-statement, interest, photos, and everything on web. But the requirement of understanding technical details (such as HTML) limits the number of web producers. Later on, the e-commerce hype distracted people away from this original root of web development. Now, both the bubble of dot-com movement and the new hype of Web 2.0 bring these web users back to the original track of web publishing. Even better, the convenience of current tools enables people to publish and organize their information easier than ever. This is a very positive sign for the web evolution.

Viviane was the only politician among the five panel speakers. She mentioned that she was happy to hear from Caterina and Chad that Internet was finally getting back to people. And she believed that this was where Internet should stay. As a politician, her principle is that "Government hands off the Internet." Let people, essentially normal web users, determine the rules on the web. Web is a public space. Web is an open forum. On certain degree, I agree with Viviane's principle. The growth of web should be out of the hand of authorities, at least in the current stage. On the other hand, however, I believe that there will be special societies and even government-like organizations formed on the future stages of web evolution. Allowing the web evolution totally out of the hand of authorities may bring us problems (big problems) in the future. This debate is somewhat similar to the comparison between the market economy to the planned economy. Over-emphasizing on either side may cause big problems. In fact, a proper mixture of them might be the best solution. At this very moment, we still do not have many clues on how to effectively balance the two sides. This is a field worthing of study by both of the web scientists and the economists.

In summary, this panel is worth of listening. I recommend it to all of you.


Anonymous said...

Funny to hear that about Bill Gates...Time's changing all.

But, Yihong, what about economics? What did they say?

Yihong Ding said...

Actually, they didn't say much about world economics in general. Everybody seemed appreciate the emergence of Web 2.0. And surely most of them are Web 2.0 pioneers. So that's it. It is suprising that none of them (and even one of the questions) have mentioned the so-called "bubble 2.0." Although I believe there is no threat of bubble 2.0 in the near future. But such a hot topic is excluded in this talk is another interesting thing.

Anonymous said...

Well, I saw a record from WEF today.
I must say, that despite the fact that Bill told many interesting things, he totally missed a point with Web itself...
But I liked that guys from YouTube and Flickr was saying. The politician woman also was good.
Heh. Who was that funny old man??))))

Anonymous said...

I have added this post to my favorites. Now and on I will read it more often.