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Openness, happiness, and a sunny future for Web apps?

Two freelance consultants kick off a day of speakers at the Future of Web Apps conference by outlining what they think will be, well, the future of web apps.

MIAMI--The Knight Concert Hall in Miami's Carnival Center complex was filled with a whole lot of Mac laptops on Friday morning for a day of panels and lectures at the Future of Web Apps conference.

Ryan Carson, co-founder of conference organizer Carsonified, had selected freelance Web consultants Brian Oberkirch and Tantek Celik to "emcee" the event and give the audience an idea of what the day's major themes would be.

So what is the future of Web apps? There are a few concrete trends, Oberkirch and Celik told the audience.

First, they said, there's simplicity--the sort of thing evidenced in wildly popular start-ups like WordPress, which has one-upped bigger rivals by being easy to use and adaptable, and geek favorite Twitter, which famously does only one thing (lets members broadcast messages of 140 characters or fewer).

It's often evidenced in the fact that many of the most talked-about Web products these days got their start as side projects. Twitter, Flickr, and even Facebook, with its origins in a Harvard dorm room, had remarkably casual beginnings.

There's also speed. Celik and Oberkirch pointed to Pownce, whose co-founder Leah Culver is speaking at the conference later, and how quickly it's been rolling out new features in an interactive manner rather than launching periodic major updates.

Another important pillar of the future of Web apps community collaboration, they said, is facilitated by the rise of social-media tools to make group work a whole lot easier and allow collaborators to get more done. Celik and Oberkirch called Google's OpenSocial project "a great example of little guys and big guys working together." It's also become much more possible to organize real-life events with the help of wikis and social networks; on Thursday, FOWA was preceded by a Miami iteration of the BarCamp "unconferences," which are famously organized by the attendees.

Then there's happiness--yes, happiness. Celik and Oberkirch mentioned one of the day's featured speakers, Google engineer Kevin Marks, and an idea he asserted on his blog that a "pleasure plan" is just as important to new start-ups as a business plan. OK, that sounds a bit dotcom-hippie for me; we'll see how that fares in a less bubbly economic climate.

And then there's the hottest trend of the future of Web apps: openness. These days it's hard to keep all the "open standards" projects straight: Open Authorization, OpenSocial, OpenID, DataPortability, and the like.

"Openness is the buzzword right now," Celik said. "It's kind of the new black."

"We're in Miami, so I guess it's the new pink?" Oberkirch suggested.