The NextWeb

I’m at the NextWeb conference in Amsterdam, Patrick promised it would be a great conference when I met him last year so let’s see if it lives up to expectations.

First impressions, the venue is quite stunning ! A very ornate and old fashioned theatre, I’m sat in a comfy plush red chair that is pretty damn comfortable so far, let’s see what it’s like at the end of the day since I usually think that when going to the cinema but inevitably end up with a numb behind after a long movie, oh and there’s no power and no sign of wifi so far sadly

I met Marc Canter again and he told me that Arrington has failed to show up, he is getting a reputation for that after he failed to show for LeWeb3 last year, I’m sure he has a good reason though…

Scott Rafer starts out with the important stuff, like how wifi works, they wanted to turn it off in sessions etc, it may be slow etc but then manages to not tell us anything about how we should be able to access it after all so no connectivity, maybe a good thing but the topic of in conference wifi has been widely debated, I’d prefer it was on and working..

He goes on to say that Google is dominant now due to math, whatever happens next needs to be different, if you look around the next thing is people, look at Facebook for example, makes sense due to the the way broadband is going, USA sucks but mostly it’s getting better, more bandwidth makes the experience workable, seamless, pictures are instant, the depth of representation online is getting bigger, difference between online and offline us is getting smaller.

With the stage set so to speak the opening keynote starts

Saul Klein – flush with cash from Last.fm deal, successful angel investor and the man behind OpenCoffee

Why Europe needs to seed the growth of its new stars

Saul shows us several picture slides to illustrate the point, a map showing silicon valley and seattle – should we envy them he asks?

Several more pictures to show the starting point of several well known companies now

Yahoo – Amazon – Ebay – Google all good market cap figures so why not envy $553 wealth creation ignoring other big companies like HP , Intel etc

Forgetting paypal – YouTube, Facebook

Ecosystem primed for success, 3 great universities, money and thousands of seasoned entreprenuers

Europe has prodigies, good brands, define fashion, create entertainment etc

10 European countries with more young R&D per 1000 population than USA

Europe now has experieinced and willing venture capital that are willing to start web business

Starting to see decent exits now, uswitch last.fm, skype, lastminte, Kelko

iliad in France, $4.2bn company, leads the world in triple play offers (?)

and some good ones to come, Bebo, Netlog, King.com, Habbo, Betfair, FON, Joost, netvibes, figleaves.com (#1 global player in lingerie)

UK is almost 2x ahead of US in terms of online advertising, we have 10 European countries in top broadband penetration, we have opencoffee !

great entreprenuers are like cartoon characters, think big, learn from mistakes but keep trying, Wylee Cayote shots on screen

we close with lets build Europes first $10bn web business…..

It’s a familiar topic for European based Entrepreneurs, Web geeks etc, I think the culture is changing but it has a lot of catching up to do to match the headstart Silicon Valley has built up, a question from the crowd emphasises this “Not enough college students leaving saying I want to be the next Larry & Sergy”, Imran’s recent post on Innovation in the North of England gives us some encouragement, in US they have been building this for years whereas in Europe we are just starting

We move on to the first showcase of the day, it’s a product pitch effectively with the spin being that ‘the grumpy old men’ will give us instant analysis, the ‘men’ were scheduled to be Marc Canter and Michael Arrington, I spoke to Marc just before the start and he told me he was looking for another grumpy old man to replace Michael so I offered my services for a laugh “Stranger things have happened my friend” he said as he carried on searching, it turned out to be Jeff Clavier in the end…it’s certainly an interesting concept but not sure how well it might work out, it shows that conferences have to keep inventing new ways to engage the audience and make their particular event stand out from the crowd

ZYB

Operators are too slow to do this sort of thing – this thing being to enable customers to store all their mobile data with no client to download and install, works on many phones and is operator agnostic.

Using Zyb it’s possible to store contacts, calendar and you can forward SMS (although this is pretty clunky right now), the contact sync works like Plaxo does in that if two people both use Zyb and one updates his contact details it is automatically updated in the other users address book (one of many things I like about Plaxo)

after 11 months in operation they have 137,897 users, 6.5 million stored contacts, 1.2m events, 41K messages plus have done deals with 9 major companies, although he doesn’t tell us who they are (aside: uses the word crazy a bit too much, it’s not a crazy idea at all, I had it a long time ago and there are various implementations of it around already)

contact is king (not content) imagine data mining everyones contact details, they want to get all the worlds mobile numbers in one database and test the 6 degrees of separation rule, nice thought but I can’t see a single global contact database ever becoming a reality, perhaps a federation of globally placed ones yes, something I’d very much like to see as the apparent benefits are pretty compelling let alone the non-apparent (!?)

It’s also a bit like Photo Contact Sharing, go to their website and enter your number and see who knows you and if you like you can tag pictures with contacts

Pretty smartly they have a major division on the site – Me & Us – so you can use the service in just your sync mode for contacts etc but if you want you can get in to the social network stuff and try out the 6 degree or contact search

Grumpy Old Men: If you had a silver bullet who would you use it one?

He would like to kill the walled garden operators that are holding him back and jokes that what he would really like is a nuclear bomb rather than a bullet, as usual all Operators are lumped together as one single ‘evil entity’ by the web crowd, it’s rare that anyone realises that there are more progressive operators around now

Jeff Clavier

Investing Globally The New connectedness is the listed talk but after a quick bit of background on himself he changes the title to Investing in Silicon valley building a part of the new connectedness

Investing 2004 v 2007

  • 2004
  • cheap and available talent
  • lots of open opportunies
  • building next generation services and new markets
  • leveraging global broadband
  • 2007
  • very tight and expensive hiring
  • numerous white spaces overcrowd (too many video startups)
  • mashing up services to deliver incremental (limited?) value
  • laughing at US broadband

What defines the new connectedness
– new experience
— richer quality/interaction
— gaming as an interaction paradigm
–shared

-multi personal instantiation modality
–blurring of online, offline, virtual me
–a bunch of me’s with me in the middle
—cross device

-my web, my world, my life
–personalisation will reac a point of total freakiness
—cntent, context loation, time behaviour
–across my me’s

-automation pushed to the edge
–robots sensors and fulfillment
–less utility, more entertainment

its the usual tale but candidly told “sandhill road doesn’t give a crap about Europe” but with bigger exits coming up now they are starting to get interested now and want in on the next round of funding on some of the European activity.

He is telling ‘us’ to think out of the box and go for the throat, out innovate the US, it’s very easy to tell people to do that of course, but it needs someone to actually do it and have that idea in the first place….

A culture shift is required, away from employee culture to risk taking etc

Key point he makes is that USA is years behind on mobile technology, I see a lot of this sort of talk, the fact that Europe is way ahead of the US in mobile technology isn’t as true as it used to be but the gap is still there, their SMS usage is still not as widespread which is another reason Europe has this big advantage I keep hearing too, I get the feeling that people forget the cultural differences, think about Push To Talk vs SMS for example.

After the break we get a Silverlight demo – read the web, do a Google search if you want to know more since the demo was exactly that, a simple demo, however it does look very cool in what it can do, in the same vein up next is an Apollo demo which involves subscribing to (RSS feed) TV shows or Podcasts and then be able to watch offline

Deborah Schultz is up for the next keynote, I’d never met her before but as I was going on to the conference in the morning Marc Canter introduced us and we had an engaging chat while navigating our way to the coffee.

Deborah runs us through various tools (twitter, flickr) and the need to be connected, exploring online relationships, and how real they are

“We live again in a relationship economy”

Think of it as relationship bricolage – use things for purposes they are not intended for, you wont know how deep a relationship might become when it starts online

touches on how hard it is to scale customer services, something that a lot of web startups fail to recognise

She goes on to say You need to weave, for which there are skills required
listener
connector
Critic
partial geek
detective
catalyst
diplomat
juggler
approachable
intuitive
inquisitive
driven by relationships

A plea to not build another silo, as in behavioural and not technology, which is a good notion but if everyone wants to do it then it will break I reckon..after all we can’t all hang out in one place, how chaotic would that be!

Once again I feel like it’s grandma sucking eggs to me at least, not sure on the level of the crowd though but I get it all, these people advise and consult companies on this stuff, maybe I should be too
there is some discussion on the difference between friends and contacts, a huge contact list does not mean you have lots of friends (and I’d say vice versa)

Due to a juggle of the program up next from Yahoo! is Director of Front Doors, Tapan Bhat – is the next web an internet at all?

I found this talk hard to accept at face value so short notes below:

from directories to on demand

I’m amazed that he is talking about the Amazon people that brought this paradigm to bear….and how the web has ‘exploded’ and we have too many communication tools

search is not the dominant paradigm anymore

the future of the web is about being connected and pervasive “we’re in an on-demand mixed media world”

TiVo has changed his expectations of how to interact with other media, wants radio rewind button in his car (I can relate to his at least but for me it’s Sky+)

outlining the web mobile tv radio seamless story, start playing a song in your house and being able to go outside and carry on, persistent seamless access

he said Pants on stage a lot – huhuh…

His play is that to date personalisation is actually customisation as you have to do all the work

Y! Front Door (early review) is about being your gateway to the web world, they did a ton of study, everybody loves the idea of a personal homepage, I get it now, he is telling us that they are going to hit the holy grail and create a personal page for you that is dynamically built around understanding what you do and what you like, great if you do everything through Y! of course but he is talking about openness for it to work, which is true

There is a new 5th P
product
price
placement
promotion
and now ….. personalisation

give people the web they want (implication even f they dont know it yet)

build a personalisation Utopia with the best of the webs history, present and future

The Next Web = Built Around People so the call is to make it happen

Someone in the crowd asks what about the Minority Report ‘problem’, the predictable answer is that you cut off from people/companies that do bad things with your data, simple !

It seems to me that IF they can pull this off they will make excellent competition for that heavily fought item, namely the start page of your browser

next up we get a Demo showcase of Ebuddy (Web and mobile messaging, for everyone everywhere), it’s a comprehensive product along the lines of Meebo, issues with connectivity here though

Mobiluck, new localisation technology, its free, its independent of operator and its magic we are told, I recall this as a bluetooth offer and the Google search still shows this, it looks very much like the People Radar project from Boston years back as far as I can tell from what we have seen, they have over 1 million users in 200 countries to date and growing, based on the premise of viral growth through free SMS style messaging

Tariq Krim from Netvibes provides a quick overview of the product and covers the recent announcement of widgetising 500 companies content known as Netvibes Universe. Widgets from their universe are also universal apparently, they have been around since September 2005, have huge community support in translating into 80+ languages, over 10 million users in 150 countries and over 1.5 million unique RSS feeds in the system. He wants RSS to be Really Sexy Syndication from now on by presenting content better, I assume he means in more meaningful widget ways. It will be interesting to track the performance of Bubletop with the growth of Netvibes over time. although Alexa trends could point to a flattening of Netvibes growth already

The next session is a ‘surprise’ iChat seesion with Kevin Rose, bad idea as network is poor, session crashes before the end, nothing new said particularly and falls flat of what it was supposed to provide I’m sure, damn InterWebs…..

Dick Hardt up now with an intro that tells us not to blink, a reference to his fast paced presentation style, impressive that it is the first time you see it the style does get get slightly stale, the Canadian vs USA bit is funny as hell though. He walks us through the current accepted forms of identity, leading to the problems folk face now, injected with some humour on the different amounts of info on identity on various Wikipedia sites (Holland almost none, Germany many many pages!)

You have to prove your identity so many times during your life currently (birth, driving licence, marriage, divorce, death). And now hundreds (geeks) a few (mass market) digital identity. Right now it’s Identity 1.0 he argues, identities are kept behind a walled gardens such as Google’s, some government department etc. Identity 1.0 is a directory entry.
What you actually want is an user-centric identity: identity 2.0

He states six benefits of the Identity 2.0:

  1. minimal passwords
  2. rich portable profiles
  3. portable credentials
  4. agenda/delegation
  5. reputation services
  6. identity services

His company has an answer to this of course and it’s called Sxipper, I’ve been using it since it came out and I love it, it’s one of the first extensions that goes in to Firefox for me, an invaluable assistant to someone that uses as many sites as I do.

After the break Nokia Widsets does a short spin, like they did at the chinwag event in London recently, nothing new specifically

Slurpr is a 6 channel wifi router, they want to make it a product but are doing the legal issues, getting help from EFF with it too. The idea came from one of the organisers Boris:

“At this moment I can see 8 different signals. Some are closed networks but most are open and available. I can only connect to one at a time so I tend to just pick the one with the best signal. But what if I could connect to all the networks at the same time and combine their bandwith?

Yeah, that is what I need!

A big, fat access point with a large antenna and a bunch of Wi-Fi cards that automatically connect to the strongest signals it can pick up. Then it would combine all these signals into one FreeLoading Broadband Canal for me to use.”

So the premise is that it will bundle together up to 6 different wifi channels and combine into one connection and it will be able to crack WEP networks (KissMac anyone)

The second last keynote of the day is supposed to be starting but there is a MAJOR botch up on video, lack of sound, poor co-ordination, even the slides don’t work, I feel sorry for the presenter on stage however finally all is sorted and we get the video, an emotional video at the and the reason becomes clear, the product is called Respectance , it’s about the loss of family/friends, social networking for people grieving, it’s a very well done vertical niche social network built from the fact that people are expressing grief on MySpace, Facebook etc but they are not well suited to this sort of activity as some people grieve for a long time, their site helps people remember in a respectful way, since read that they are getting series A funding which makes a lot of sense to me, they have figured on a good niche to fill after all.

One of the comments of the grumpy men is that people will prefer to use the Myspace and Facebook pages of the deceased, where their photos and videos already are, Respectance will be able to use/embed those is the [correct] response, let’s see what happens, I hope I don’t have to use it any time soon though.
The final session of the day is provided by Rod Beckstrom author of the best seling, change your life book, The Starfish and the Spider – after dinner kind of talk which you only have to look at his blog to see , centralised vs decentralised, music industry is a good example, was decentralised when you have to go to someone to see them perform, but then the record labels got in charge when vinyl started, more so for CD, but then P2P has lead to the de-centralisation of it again, it’s a reasonable rhetoric, the whole talk reminds me too much of Frank T.J. Mackey but fortunately a more sedate business oriented version..

Putting the problems with schedule, network and even equipment I’m still not sure I came away with a clear steer on the Next Web but rather a refresher on the trends within the current Web which is partly a shame and partly a good thing as that means there isn’t a clearly defined vision, my personal view is that it’s more about mobile, not that I’m wholly in the Mobile 2.0 camp mind you. One thing that does stand out clearly though is that it is going to be about People and Relationships and how technology can be made to work for people and not the other way round, i.e. simplicity in use and the ability for technology to take away the tedious stuff and leave us with more time to connect and relax.

3 comments so far

  1. nick on

    Re: operators being ‘too slow’ to do Zyb, do they mean like the Orange SyncML service which works exactly the same way and has been out for years?

  2. ikisai on

    @Nick, they were talking from a ‘worldwide’ perspective, I had a grin on my face when he said this, however the Orange version is for Orange customers only and they deal with anyone and everyone they can….

  3. deb schultz on

    wow- you are pretty darn good live blogger! I too expected more mobile – especially being in Europe and seriosuly cant wait till some of this stiff integrates more smoothly – web to mobile and app to app network to network [fun turn of phrase there]


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