Attended this state of the web conference this week, in Kensington, London. It was Sold Out for the last few weeks and not surprising when you look at the list of speakers. Sponsored by both Adobe and Microsoft, they both had their teams showing the latest state of their competing products, Apollo and WPF ( and WPF/E)
Overall, the conference seemed to be showing us how other people had made it big, rather than give away any secret of what will be big next. It gave a good feel for what technologies are being used, PHP more often than IIS. Sites must have more social connections if only to build the userbase in an organic and exponential leap. It seems that sites must grow quickly to be of any value. Advertising is still the big payer and to get the ads you must have the visitor numbers. Tara Hunt from Citizen Agency gave a good talk on how to get people to come back and make communities. It sems that everyone is into this as people spread the word more quickly and more believably than most other marketing methods.
For a state of the art conference, it was strange that there was no presentation about video. Serving video is getting bigger and not just with youTube. More people are trying to grasp the differences between Flash video, Windows Media and IPTV. Perhaps they deserve a separate conference.
Mike Arrington, TechCrunch seemed to be the one wanting new startups to have a firm business plan, but everyone else gave the impression that the plans, if there, would change drastically for any successful company, so were they worth having to start with?
Amazon are starting to offer web space to people at very low rates. No databases or backend software, just space in data warehouses, backed up and secure. This looked interesting for someone who wants to grow a large store of data very quickly. They expand with the data and you pay for what you get. We’ve used the Amazon API’s for a year or two and they’ve been very robust. I expect we shall try this to see if it’s a service that we can offer to our customers. Large files with quick access for video streams perhaps?
Bradley Horovitz was there for Yahoo and looking for interesting things. I agree with the thoughts that everything should be easy to get into, but it also brings dozens of sources of information and data that it’s going to be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. Everyone links to everyone else and so on recursively. How do we control this constant tagging of tags, the tagging of blogs, the blogging of tags etc etc. Perhaps their Pipes system will bring some filtering to this chaos. Pipes is an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator with regex and other facilities to combine feeds, regurgitate them, cut them down to size and them spew out your own. It’s not something I’ve looked at, as I’m not often on the yahoo site. Sounds like another registration coming up.
With Google’s personalised desktop, Stephen Stokols talking about BTContact now going into beta, Windows Live, Apollo, Vista gadgets, Firefox plugins, etc etc it seems that we are going to have a flood of widgets. Will they all be the same standards? Definitely not. Will Microsoft care? You know the answer to that one. Microsoft might be forced to bring gadgets forward into XP/WPF if they are not to be left with just new users. I don’t think that I’ll be rushing out to upgrade to Vista anytime soon. I would have no software. However, we shall have to play around with some of these systems so as to keep up with the game. Exciting really. Really, it is. BT’s personalised page may have an angle or two. Their messaging will connect to most IM systems (what do they use? jabber?). Email and contacts can similarly come from a variety of providers, so Google’s ‘Gmail only’ option looks a bit restrictive. The only reason that I looked at GoogleMail was to use the neat GTD plugin. Never really got into it tho’. Didn’t have time….!
Mark Anders was there to plug the upcoming Apollo launch, (maybe February?) and push the wonders of Flex technology. Actionscript 3 is going to be big. Flash performance improvement is huge. It might even be enough to do more 3D with intefaces like Papervision. Mark sounded a bit flat when he spoke to me, but maybe I caught him towards the end of the day, and asking about intricate video streaming questions wasn’t his cup of tea. Mark was originally in the dotNet design team and had moved across to Adobe. On the Microsoft stand, in comparison, was Andrew Shorten who has just left the Flex marketing team to join Bill Gates. He seemed much more positive abut the WPF software even though not being able to answer all the video questions. I think that both sets of software are going to have a battle for the video marketplace, but Microsoft don’t need that expensive Flash Remoting server to fill their data services, so that and the DRM might just tip the balance. It was good to see the competing technologies in the same room and questions could be bounced between them. Chris Wilson of the IE7 team tried to defend their implementation of standards, but it must be assumed that a lot of the Microsoft team don’t really get out to see much else on the web. They may the excuse of ‘not wanting to break sites’ to leave in a lot of the older wrinkles but IE7 is causing some problems at the moment. (Wait until more people are using Office 7)
A couple of Swedish students (?) showed a cool app called twingly that can be used as a screensaver. It shows live blogging on a rotating globe. Very cute indeed. Is it useful? It’s inspirational, so yes, it must be. They show a youTube video of what it’s like.
Khoi Vinh showed a new reader from the New York Times. Works quite well for a first version and it will showcase the WPF software a treat. Not too flashy, it just does the job. Only for windows though and it needs the 15 minute download of dotNet 3.0 to get the full WPF working. Maybe they’ll produce a WPF/E version sometime.
I don’t think that you’ll see WPF on a mobile phone any time soon. Daniel Appelquist’s talk emphasized how many mobile users were out there compared to the amount of laptop users with wifi. It is a huge number, so you should think twice about those users. I spoke to two developers who live in the hectic world of Tokyo. There, everything is done on a mobile phone. They act as a newsreader, wallet, calendar, tv, as well as phone calls and messaging. I would suspect that we will go the same way eventually, but it needs someone to lead off in that direction. Certainly, most of the people that I spoke to after the talk were not taking phones into account. I just watch my daughter’s communications and know that phone messaging is bound to grow. Tara mentioned ‘twitter’ as a system of sharing SMS messages. I should look and see what that is. I also spoke to one of the zyb founders. They have a free backup service for your mobile phone contacts, but this uses some interesting technology that could spread their value into other areas. It’s an area for a few people with ideas to get some deals done. Mashups on a phone.
Simon Wilson sounds as though he is doing a really good job of promoting openID. It certainly got me to sit up and listen. If Bill Gates can talk about it and other large companies are signing up as well, things bode well for this system. Imagine no logging in between all your favourite sites. Wow. Only one password to remember. Wow. The technology looks flexible as well, so they have obviously put a lot of thought into how to serve identities in a variety of methods to suit different people and sites. I shall try to look at the detail of creating an identity server. Simon made it sound incredibly easy.
Tariq Krim gave a five minute announcement of how they are defining the Universal Widget Interface, which sounds good but didn’t say much about standards committees and open standards. I know that netVibes has a huge following and we have looked at creating information widgets for it, but there are some mighty players in the same league, such as Google, BT, MS, and they are not far behind in creating their own gadget standards. I hope that everyone can get together and produce something that’s compatible across operating systems.
All in all Ryan and his team produced a very interesting conference. I wouldn’t say that I saw the future, but I spoke to a lot of people who will recognise the future when it comes. I’ll try and put down some detailed links on a separate page when I get some time. I need those to jog my memory.