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Web 2.0 potential unmet, say experts

Technical challenges around security and privacy stand in the way of broader adoption of Web technologies.

SAN FRANCISCO--Despite the explosion of new Web services, a number of hurdles stand in the way of consumer- and business-oriented social-networking applications, experts at the Web 2.0 Summit said Tuesday.

Panelists on two panels at the conference pointed out some of the technical deficiencies in Web technologies that could put a damper on so-called Web 2.0 applications, such as social-networking sites and collaboration software.

Applications that rely on end-user contributions, such as sites that share reviews, are limited by the lack of a universal online authentication system, "Next Internet Infrastructure" panelists said.

Despite ongoing attempts to establish single sign-on standards, Web surfers typically are not able to log on to several sites at once, such as booking an airline ticket from United Airlines and then renting a car from Hertz.

To spread social-networking applications into different fields, such as health care or business transactions, technologists need to address multisite authentication and ways to rate an individual's reputation, said Jonathan Hare, co-founder and .

"The Web created an open, shared user interface where you can reach anybody if you have a browser," Hare said. "But now you have islands of authentication, reputation, licensing and privacy...We need to get these services interoperable."

Moderator Marc Canter, the CEO of Broadband Mechanics, said end users should have the ability to control their profiles at different online-networking locations. As it is now, people maintain their personal information in silos, be it, Facebook or other sites.

"End users are asking for the ability to have a master profile so that they can keep data in one place and can update it. They want to move their data and feel like they are in charge of their data," Canter said, whose company is building social-networking and blogging software.

In addition to shareable user profiles, Canter envisions people being able to aggregate user-contributed content, such as book and restaurant reviews, from several sites in a single place.

Hare said a system to share reputations could promote applications in business or for parental controls.

In addition to Hare's company, Resilient, another company, called Venyo, launched a reputation system at the Web 2.0 Summit here.

The idea is to create a "reputation management tool" with which people can rate others' expertise in certain matters online. This rating could be used for bloggers, for example, to indicate a blogger's level of expertise on given topics.

"The main problem with Web 2.0 is trust," said Jean-Noël Chamart, the co-founder and CEO of Venyo.

Enterprise barriers
Meanwhile, business customers are dabbling with Web technologies, such as blogs and wikis, as a form of lightweight collaboration software.

But these systems, which are designed to make it easy to create applications and generate content, can pose technical challenges to IT departments, according to speakers at an IBM-sponsored panel called "What does SOA (services-oriented architecture) have to do with Web 2.0?"

American Express is experimenting with internal use of wikis. On its customer-facing Web site, it uses RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, to deliver information, and the company's Web site invites its customers to provide feedback to influence product design, said Bob Morgan, vice president of technology strategy at American Express.

"We're interested (in Web technologies)--there's clearly some applicability. And we want to give customers the sense of community feedback," Morgan said.

"But we need to figure out how to make it industrial-grade," he said.

Specifically, he said security and privacy issues are not robust enough with Web-based technologies.

Also, the rapid application development methods of mashups are in opposition to the traditional methods of corporate programming and pose challenges in integrating and managing a large number of applications.

And as there are more mashup applications that rely on getting data from multiple sites, developers and end users are finding performance and reliability problems, the "Next Internet Infrastructure" panelists said.

Morgan said there is clear value in things like wikis, but American Express is still experimenting with these technologies because of some of these challenges.

"If the industry of technology providers can actually solve these challenges, it will speak volumes for the ability to deploy this stuff and make it very real for large companies," Morgan said.