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Web Innovation 2008 Conference coverage

by Asfaq Tapia

“According to a Forrester Research paper based on user interactions with the internet, 96% of those polled say Web 2.0 is going to make a difference to the way they surf in the future”, said Amuleek Bijral–Country Manager of RSA, The Security Division of EMC Corporation, at the Web Innovation 2008 conference on 8th May , in Mumbai. The conference discussed about what is currently new in the internet space and talked of what to expect in the future.

by Asfaq Tapia

“According to a Forrester Research paper based on user interactions with the internet, 96% of those polled say Web 2.0 is going to make a difference to the way they surf in the future”, said Amuleek Bijral–Country Manager of RSA, The Security Division of EMC Corporation, at the Web Innovation 2008 conference on 8th May , in Mumbai. The conference discussed about what is currently new in the internet space and talked of what to expect in the future.

The conference was divided into three tracks – Business, Technology, and Enterprise 2.0 – that ran simultaneously. Each of these tracks contained its own talk sessions. Before these talk sessions began , an introductory discussion was carried out by Divyesh Shah, Country Director – Systems Engineering – Sun India, Michael Karasick, Director, Lotus Software Development, Vineet Gupta, Head–Web Platform strategy, Microsoft India and Naresh Gupta, Senior Vice President, India Research and Development, Adobe Systems Inc.

Divyesh Shah spoke of distributed databases and told the audience that they are the future of Web 2.0. He then went on to quote Tim O’Reilly as saying, “Web 2.0 is a business revolution and the evolution of next generation business.” When talking of mashups, which combine different content from more than one source and display it relevantly to the user, he said their monetisation would be a $650 million industry in 2012. However, 80% of these mashups will not be made by users but by enterprises trying to correlate their data. According to Naresh Gupta, “the price of storage has gone down by 2000 times in the last 5 years alone. This is making the storage of User Generated Content (UGC) almost free.”

Once the sessions started, it was evident that buzzwords were the order of the day. Almost all the speakers spoke of the Web 3.0, mashups, RSS, UGC or semantics. The first session was on the topic of Demystifying Web 2.0 and the road forward, which was hosted by Amit Somani, Product Management Activities – Google India. According to him, most websites today are trying to get their users to participate in online activities. He talked of Folksonomy, – which is a means of classifying and categorising data on the web through collaborative efforts from the online community. This is more commonly known as ‘tagging’ – which according to him is the new buzzword in the online space today.

While talking of the best way to develop a website, Somani said that entrepreneurs should think big, start small and scale fast. Managing large amounts of data is also not a problem these days as you can make use of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud , a commercial web service that allows paying customers to rent computers to run computer applications. According to him, Amazon already had 10 trillion files stored in their cloud servers. As a parting note, he mentioned that, “Web 3.0 will eventually be semantic but right now that is only a buzzword.”

The next session was on the topic of Business of Email: Maximising your marketing ROI, where Dominic Powers, MD, Asia Pacific of Epsilon International talked about how to use email to market any product effectively. According to him, email is still not dead. If you notice, most of the social networking or ‘Web 2.0’ sites use email to notify you of any changes to your social circle on the website. This medium is the first interaction you have with any of these websites. He said that in the Asia-Pacific region, companies mostly ‘blast’ multiple messages to all email addresses on their database and this makes it very difficult to measure return on investment.

He then brought up some interesting statistics from a Forrester Research report based on internet usage in the Asia-Pacific region: Eighty percent of all spam in India is generated overseas while 59% of all email in China is spam. Thirty percent of those polled from India had used the spam/junk button even on legitimate emails. Sixty-five percent of those had unsubscribed to email newsletters while 15% had unsubscribed regardless of if they had signed up for the newsletter or not. He also mentioned that an Indian airline carrier had earned $6 million just by sending out relevant email to its customers, based on previous interactions with them.

At the session on Customer Confidence and Trust in a Web 2.0 world, Amuleek Bijral spoke of how some banks had increased their revenue from credit card transactions and online banking just by educating the customers on the security measures employed by them. According to him, the opportunities to win the customer are huge as less than 5% of companies have specific security features for their ‘Web 2.0’ website. Shiva K Swamy, Executive Vice President, ZSL, Inc. moderated the session on The Innovative and Integrated Enterprise for Generation-Y. He spoke of how collaboration between users on a website drives innovation and integration between these users. In his words, “the time to market of Indian companies could be greatly improved with the incorporation of these features.”

“Most websites that are successful allow participation on them”, said Dr. Jawahar Malhotra, CTO – Research & Development, Yahoo! India while speaking at the Web as a Platform session. Better infrastructure services and cloud computing were changing the idea of ‘open’ by allowing increased user participation. Examples include Google Open Social platform and Yahoo!’s Open Strategy. According to him, “web experiences that exist today will be extensible”, e.g. If you have a great idea related to email, you can incorporate it in the existing webmail platforms instead of worrying about building an email application right from scratch. The same is happening with extensible extensions like FaceBook applications, etc.

Dr. Malhotra also talked about Yahoo! Search Monkey, which uses mashups to improve the quality of search results. Users can now use this tool to improve the quality of search result listings by adding more contextual data to it. He also spoke of how FaceBook has given the ‘open’ strategy significance and this is reflected in the 23,466 third-party applications that are on it. “With so many applications out there, the only way to make your work stand out is by focusing on unique differentiation, architecture, portability, and monetisation”, he said.

It is better to design on an architecture that is widely supported while making sure that there is clear differentiation in your product from others. Later on in the day, Yahoo! also launched Glue Pages, a new search feature that collates and integrates ‘the most relevant information’ from across the web onto a single visual search results page.

The next session, User is king – the imperatives for delivering next generation experiences in Web 2.0, was moderated by Ramesh Srinivasaraghavan, Sr. Computer Scientist and Evangelist – Adobe India. According to him, “Web 2.0 brings users from different devices together. Rich internet applications are getting more immersive and this leads to optimised experiences”. Therefore, he argued that the new definition of Web 2.0 should be , “User is king and the experience is richer”. Businesses are getting transformed as value is now based on personalised experiences that are being sold on an individual customer level as against a particular class of customers.

He went on to mention that the next generation of experiences will deliver on platforms with a global reach, e.g. Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud technology ; they will be scalable, yet flexible. Also, in the future, the entire interaction will be customised based on data from past interactions.

Sriram Narayan, Advisor to the CTO – ThoughtWorks, hosted the last session of the day on the topic, The Magic of Microformats. According to him, the ability to understand content in various contexts is the key to realising basic Web2.0 openness, collaboration and sharing. Microformats is a community driven effort towards a Semantic Web. A demo was shown of how basic HTML tags could be applied to data on a webpage to make it semantic in nature. These tags can then be read by computers to identify the meaning of the information locked in the HTML pages. This information can then be parsed and used by other websites in different ways and presented differently to another user.

Close to approximately 500 delegates from the Indian online industry attended the Web Innovation 2008 conference. Ajay Deshmukh, software developer at RSA, The Security Division of EMC Corporation, mentioned that his takings from the conference have been that more and more companies are now interacting directly with the customers and user-generated content will play a key role in the future . Also, being ‘open’ will play an increasingly important role in the success of a website.

In Pictures
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The Evolution of a Web2.0 user

Amit Somani, demystifying Web 2.0

Dominic Powers, discussing about how to measure profitability of emails sent out

Shiva K Swamy, talking about the integrated enterprise for Generation-Y

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