Strolled through the exhibition floor of the Web 2.0 Expo in San Franciso this week. The general buzz was a lot different than what I am used to seeing through our mostly online experience. The business world is grappling with what to make of this trend, as was evidenced by some slick and impressive branding and marketing, and the often heard words ‘private beta’. The buzziest themes were Collaboration, Frameworks, Mashups, and Social Networking.
Companies are finding different ways to sell collaborative tools to niche markets. The emphasis is on tweaking online applications to match the subtle differences in company workflows. For example, Octopz provides online image markup tools for creative shops. ThinkFree is offering a complete online office suite coupled with collaboration features, such as Flickr, del.icio.us, and its own DocExchange community space. A third player in the collaboration race , clearspace offers a suite of features for businesses, ranging from forums and blogs to content syndication, and certainly understands the problems businesses are having with services that provide too much or too little. The word ‘collaboration’ is quickly becoming overplayed, which is why we’ve intentionally niched Intervals to small businesses in need of accountability through time and task tracking.
The most impressive aspect of the framework evolution is that businesses are providing applications that don’t require any knowledge of code. The applications build applications, kind of like robots that self produce. Bungee labs had the most impressive product, and may spawn a new practice of social engineered web services. The openfire platform looks like a great starting point for developing on an open-sourced java framework. The trend is removing barriers to application development, including source code. It’s all about churning out record numbers of applications in record time.
The number of web applications and blogs is overwhelming. The mashup companies promise to aggregate all of this content, regardless of its format, into one service. Then that aggregated data is again syndicated into RSS feeds and APIs. A potentially endless cycle of content aggregation and regurgitation. Kapow technologies offers a server solution aimed at businesses. Topix is another impressive mashup focused on aggregating news.
The prize for the coolest and most popular booth goes to Cambrian House, which is fitting for a social networking company. Like the collaborative tools, companies are trying to find niche angles on the social networking front. Wether it’s tracking your stuff or meeting your neighbors, someone is building a social network to accommodate it.
I left the expo feeling better than when i’d arrived. There are a lot of ideas out there. And the ideas that are popular among the web development community are different than those that will succeed in the business world. This is what businesses are grappling with; how to create a product that will be than just the latest-and-greatest and be useful?