Web 2.0 Summit Roundup

Vic Gundotra and Google CEO Sergey Brin interviewed by John Battelle at Web 2.0 Summit. Credit: CNet.

I was lucky enough to attend The 2011 Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this year. This is not one of those pay-to-speak conferences in which we hear from sales reps all day. This is a who’s-who of social media. Sergey Brin, Michael Dell, Steve Ballmer, Mike McCue, Flipboard’s founder, Mary Meeker — They were all there expounding the state of the industry and predicting its direction.

The theme of the conference this year was “dataframing,” in other words everything is about data – what we mine, what we learn, what we ignore, separating the signal from the noise.

Beyond being awed by the quality and intelligence of John Battelle’s guests and their amazing technologies, I thought the most useful nuggets come during Mary Meeker’s presentation. When she got up to the stage she proceeded to machine-gun spray the audience with facts and figures so fast that the Tweeters commented they couldn’t keep up. Here are some of the key insights from her study:

  • The mega-trend of this century is that people are being empowered by mobile devices.
    • 85% percent of the world’s population has mobile coverage
    • Yet only 80 percent is on an electrical grid.
  • Social Media and the Internet are not at all just a US phenom. 81% of Internet users are outside the U.S.
  • Social media in the U.S. in terms of time spent per user is lower than others. Israel and Argentina top the chart.
  • 24% of trade is cross-geography, compared to 10 percent in 1960s.
  • We are seeing two technological breakouts, the growth of the Internet, and the mobile Internet. The growth comes despite a recession which is significant because it underscores how important the movement is.
  • The Android market is growing faster than the iPhone market
  • Mobile shopping and online commerce is changing the dynamics of consumer commerce. New applications such as Flipboard are making it possible for shoppers to get a high quality experience online.
  • Meeker was bullish on Web advertising.

My big take aways

  • Too much data, not enough intelligence: many of the new technologies being launched and in the future had to do with making sense of it all, automating, allowing scale
    • Google analytics launches new visualization graphics feature based on Sankey data flow
    • Bit.ly demonstrated how they can use patterns of activity and interest from people clicking on shortened URLs to derive intelligence about trends
    • 23andMe a genetic data analytics company is driving consumerization of genetic mapping by offering a subscription to analyze your genes
  • Big egos, big players trying to shape the industry:
    • Google+ vs Facebook
      • Google’s already past 40 million users. Some such as Napster founder Sean Parker feel that Facebook’s “Network Effect” of 800 million users is beyond reach. Other’s (like Sergey Brin), think Google+’s simple functionality and lighting fast growth rate will win.
    • Microsoft vs Google
      • Interesting that Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer still has the same desktop/app/client point of view. Everything will somehow flow through some sort of community. Vague answers about social media.
    • Visa vs. Amex
      • I had no idea what differentiated these guys, but they both agreed that data mining/analytics is a big deal.
  • Mobile devices and apps are rapidly changing the way we interact with the environment, social media and each other. Check out this Pew Research Study:
    • 28% of cell owners use phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location—that works out to 23% of all adults.
    • A much smaller number (5% of cell owners, equaling 4% of all adults) use their phones to check in to locations using geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. Smartphone owners are especially likely to use these services on their phones.
    • 9% of internet users set up social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so that their location is automatically included in their posts on those services. That works out to 7% of all adults.

How does all this relate to B2B? I believe that all of our B2B customers live in the same world and will come to expect the same functionality from their work environment, from sales people, from marketers.

Coolest technologies launched or announced.


Storify empowers users to combine social media, traditional media, and their own text on a powerful storytelling platform. It makes it easy to post a blog around big events where lots of Tweets and Social Media content is being produced. 

I had dinner with Xavier Damman, the Belgian founder. I wish him the best of luck and can’t wait to try his technology. 


If you’ve got an iPad, then you probably know this one. Flipboard, CEO Mike McCue talked about how we’ve “engineered the soul out of the car” comparing a beautifully sculpted 1950′s Jaguar with a new Honda electric car. Mike is determined to put the soul back in our content consumption with this well-designed iPad app. 


This service perfectly fit into the theme of the DataFrame. For only $399, you can subscribe to have your DNA analyzed and get alerts on discoveries made about your DNA over time. 23andMe also provides free testing without subscriptions fees to individuals that qualify for certain research initiatives such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Sarcoma, Myeloproliferative Neoplasms, 

A bit creepy IMHO, but nonetheless amazing. 

Oink (wonder how much he paid for the URL) 

Kevin Rose,formerly of Digg, started a company called Milk to work on a series of small projects. Their first release is an app called Oink. Think of Google “Places” or Yelp. Those only rate actual places. But what if you wanted to rate “things” like your favorite cup of coffee in SF, or your favorite Ferris wheel. There you go. (Kevin didn’t get the Milk URL) 

Foursquare announces location-based coupons 

Foursquare allows people to use their smartphones to interact with their environment and other users. If you’ve got a smartphone, you got to try this. 

At the conference, they announced a new feature called “Radar” which notifies you when you come in proximity with something that’s on your “to-do” list or perhaps a retail coupon offer. For example, if you enter Walmart, it could start ringing or vibrating as you approach certain items. (Again, slightly creepy IMHO.) 

According to Wikipedia, the company had 10 million registered users in June 2011, 750 million check-ins, with an average of about 3 million check-ins per day. 

Best Quote 

When Steve Ballmer responded to not buying Yahoo for $44 million… 

“Times change”, the CEO said. “You ask any CEO who didn’t buy something big before the market crashed [in 2008, they'll probably say], ‘Hallelujah!’”. But, in a twist of fate, the U.S. economy dipped into one of the biggest recessions in history in 2008, and had Yahoo accepted Microsoft’s terms, perhaps ironically, the deal would have been settled right around the time that Lehman collapsed, he said. 

“Sometimes you are lucky”, Ballmer admitted, grinning. 

Biggest Surprise - M.C. Hammer Gets Into Search 

Back from selling records and ca$h4gold, MC Hammer takes on Google and Yahoo! single-handedly. He’s working a new search engine they call WireDoo, which performs “deep search” or “relationship search,”  

“The engine crawls and the algorithm is designed in a way to get all of the related information to your query and then package it consistently in one environment,” Hammer said. “Kind of thinking, right? The way you would think. If it’s a car … it’s not just about the word ‘car,’ but it’s about insurance, it’s about the specs, it’s about mileage, it’s about style, it’s about all these things. So that’s the way it works.” 

I guess…

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