Forum focuses on rise of ‘Web 2.0’
Barbara Grady, Inside Bay Area
The Web has become old — old enough to propagate a next-generation Web. And this “Web 2.0” is why 1,000 people congregated at a downtown San Francisco hotel this week to talk about its existence and share its breakthroughs.
Unlike the Web that burst into consumers’ lives 12 years ago with the invention of browser technology that lets users find information and buy things online, this Web 2.0 is about users taking the power of the Web to create, publish, share and reach others.
Think video-sharing site YouTube.com of San Bruno and social networking site MySpace.com.
“The 2.0 is about services that give power to users,” said Kurt Collins, manager of business development for Photobucket Inc., a year-old startup that is currently gaining 80,000new users a day. Palo Alto-based Photobucket provides the starting gate or tool for those users — who now total 28 million — to post and publish photographs on any number of blogs, social networks or authored Web sites to which they’re connected.
Jim Lanzone, chief executive of Oakland-based Ask.com, the only major search engine to be gaining market share aside from Google Inc. — albeit from a small base — said it’s about choice.
“People ask me how are we going to take on Google. We don’t need to,” he said, explaining people are using search for more and more things and they want some choice beyond the biggest search engine.
“They are the Beatles,” he said. “There’s room for more bands.”
Mike Tso, co-founder of San Mateo-based Gemini Mobile Technologies Inc., figures that Web 2.0 is about giving users the power to use their everyday technology, the cell phone in their hands, to create on the Web. “It’s social media on the phone. We offer the basic things of community — photo sharing, personalization, chatting and commerce on a single platform that users don’t need to be geeks to use.”
Geoffrey Arone, founder and chief strategy officer of Flock.com, defines Web 2.0 as a set of new tools users are employing for their activities.
“We look at discovery, creation and sharing” as the key activities, Arone said, and that is why people come to year-old Flock.com, based in Mountain View. The browser makes it easy to share media and to connect to social networking sites.
Having launched Flock.com at last year’s Web 2.0 conference, Arone came to this year’s Web 2.0 Summit because “every startup on the planet is here.”
Whether his count is accurate or not, there are certainly a lot of startups that call themselves Web 2.0 companies.
According to Dow Jones VentureOne, $455.5 million was invested in this year’s first three quarters into “79 Web 2.0 deals,” more than twice the amount that was invested by the same time last year.
Laurence Toney, vice president of Emeryville-based Art.com, said it’s the ease of creating a startup that brings that number.
“Web 2.0 is a shift in idea generation from business people to technology people and users,” he said. Art.com lets people find and print art online.
Businesses can be created by users in the Web 2.0 world because of several factors. One is a raft of Web development tools such as AJAX, Java, software-as-a-service, which collectively let mere mortals create on the Web. The open software movement, in which software is freely available to use, also has helped.
Lastly, many consumers now have broadband connections to the Web, which means they can receive and create images and video with little trouble.
Add to that the Google AdSense advertising engine that many startups lease to capture advertisements and make money on their sites. All in all, you have a complete package of business essentials, Toney noted.
“So what’s essential to start a business now is a lot less pricey and a lot easier to come by,” Toney said.
Soon to launch Oakland startup NovoMetro is a good example. Its revenue comes through ads by leasing Google AdSense. Its founders are former print journalists who used the Web to create a new information site.