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The Brave New Web? It's all business

Thing Web 2.0 is only for consumers? A panel of experts and an audience of entrepreneurs in Boston wants Webware for the enterprise.

Boston -- I moderated a panel entitled "Where Do I get My Web 2.0?" at the MIT Enterprise Forum's "Brave New Web" event this morning. We had four execs from companies that make Web tools (Phil Hollows, FeedBlitz; Brian Shin, Visible Measures; Scott Smigler, Exclusive Concepts; and David McRaflane, Nexaweb) and services on the panel, talking to an audience of entrepreneurs about business models, customer interaction, and start-up funding.

What I found most interesting about this audience was how quickly it steered the conversation towards big business. Out here, it appears, entrepreneurs want to reach the enterprise. In Silicon Valley I rarely hear this--we're more interested in building YouTubes and Diggs.

I was initially skeptical that fundamentals of Web 2.0, especially the viral aspect that's been so important to the growth of user-generated content sites such as YouTube, MySpace, and Digg, could apply to business-focused start-ups. But the panel saw it differently--not wholly surprising, since some of them make enterprise services. IT managers these days no longer get to push technology out to users. Instead, they're getting dragged into supporting what their users are bringing to work with them via their Web connections. After witnessing the success of Web-based applications in teams, some of these apps and ideas are infecting larger corporate projects.

Of course, issues surrounding security, regulatory compliance, and plain old reliability--there was a very unhappy Salesforce.com customer in the audience--are holding back adoption of Web 2.0 business tools. But my panel was convinced that enterprises don't see the application of Web-delivered services from smaller businesses as anathema to their operation. This is a fundamental shift in enterprise thinking.

A text report and audio recording of the panel is on CenterNetworks' blog.