Tim O'Reilly: We are in a 'soup of computing'

O'Reilly kicks off keynotes by saying that harvesting collective intelligence is core to Web 2.0 and a great way to make money, but bigger goals are needed.

SAN FRANCISCO--Tim O'Reilly kicked off the keynote sessions at the Web 2.0 Expo here, pacing the stage and evangelizing the power of the Internet.

"The Internet is becoming the global platform for everything," he said, and it will make everyone in the world smarter. "It's an amazing revolution in human augmentation akin to literacy or the formation of cities," he continued. "It's a huge change in the way the world works."

We are entering the world of ambient computing, he proclaimed, as everything is wired into the Internet. "We are in a soup of computing. Web 2.0 is all around us," O'Reilly said. He got nods from the crowd of the converted, who were busy Twittering, Facebooking, blogging, and SMSing, practicing continuous partial attention.

Web 2.0 evangelist Tim O'Reilly addresses the crowd at the Web 2.0 Expo. Dan Farber/CNET News.com

From the high-level view of the Internet revolution year, O'Reilly telescoped down to the exhibit floor, which is populated by more enterprise players, such as IBM and Oracle, than the previous year. It's a sign that Web 2.0, with technologies such as wikis, blogs, tags, social networks, and collective intelligence, is maturing.

There is real money to be made by developing Web 2.0 products for enterprises. Harnessing collective intelligence can lead to the promised land of profits. (O'Reilly's company recently started an enterprise consulting practice to take advantage of the trend, and he also shamelessly touted Wesabe, one of his investments, in his remarks.)

However, the maturing of Web 2.0 and cloud computing, the move to the Internet as a platform, has problems, O'Reilly noted. The market values centralization and consolidation. It values big winners who can dominate a market. O'Reilly cautioned that this situation could lead us back to the world of large, centralized players like Oracle and Microsoft, which could stifle innovation and openness.

The paradox is that applications built on open, decentralized networks are leading to new concentrations of power (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.), he said. He advocated building in an interoperability layer to reduce the harmful effects of having a few companies with enormous power and leverage.

So, the Internet is important and revolutionary, and harvesting collective intelligence is core to Web 2.0 and a way to make more money, according to the pied piper of Web 2.0.

But O'Reilly also recognized that just making money on Web 2.0 or acknowledging the transformative powers of the Internet is insufficient. He challenged the audience of several thousand attendees to have big goals, such as making governments responsive to citizens and building a global immune system through Internet-based efforts. It's not always about the money or augmenting human intelligence.

 

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