Web 2.0 Expo 2009: Downsized, but not out

Fewer people, fewer presenters heading to San Francisco Web 2.0 confab. But it could have been much worse.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

In the run-up to the Web 2.0 Expo, which opens this week in San Francisco, I've heard a lot of doom and gloom about the show, and by implication about every "Web 2.0" company there is. But while the Web 2.0 Expo will be quieter this year than last, it won't be a ghost town. There's life left still in Web startups.

Web 2.0 Expo in 2008 drew about 10,000 people to the Moscone West facility in 2008. This year, according to Expo Co-Chair Brady Forrest, the conference will see about 8,000 total attendees. There remain low-cost options to get into the show: There's a $100 Expo Hall pass, a $350 Expo Hall "Plus" pass, and other options on up to the full $1,395 pass that gets you into all parts of the show, including the technical conference sessions that the organizers attach the greatest value to. There's a fair amount of content available even to those with the least expensive passes.

The Expo is primarily a conference of panels, keynotes, and workshops, but there is also an exhibit hall. It is also down in grandeur from last year, with 125 booths, about 25 percent fewer than last year, Forrest says. It's not clear if all of the presenters will be actual commercial enterprises, as he adds, "we have made more room for nonprofits as a result of this."

Worldwide, the Web 2.0 Expo is also cutting back. Expos in "Europe and Japan... are still on hold while we ride out the economy," Forrest says.

But despite the downsizing of the Web 2.0 Expo, the conference lineup looks promising. As in years past, it is a fairly technical conference, on both the engineering and the financial sides. There are workshops on topics like Hadoop, a Java framework for distributed applications, as well as tracks devoted to online security and mobile apps. Entrepreneurs looking for tips on SEO or on venture funding will also find sessions for them.

Of course, Twitter will make an appearance at the show. There will be sessions on using Twitter in business and on analyzing your Twitter followers for profit.

The adverse economy might shrink conferences like Web 2.0 Expo, but people calling "game over" on the Web business model might want to remember that some of the most important technologies and platforms that we now take for granted when building new apps, such as open-source software and cloud-based services, were built, in part, by engineers who needed solutions that were less expensive or more efficient than then-current technologies. Adversity can make technology better, even if it does thin ranks at conventions.

CNET News.com and Webware will have full coverage of the Web 2.0 Expo.