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The Best and the Worst of the Web 2.0 Summit

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If you were looking to learn something new, this week’s Web 2.0 Summit was not the place to be. However, if you were planning to catch up, make contacts and swap business cards, then the Palace Hotel’s grandiose hallways were where all the action was. It was rare to chat up anyone at Web 2.0 who had anything positive to say about the official content or news. The consensus seemed to be same old, same old; the reason to break out the checkbook and skip out on real work was to mingle.

The only concrete news out of the conference – that Intel was releasing an enterprise 2.0 suite to distribute products from Six Apart, Socialtext, NewsGator, SimpleFeed, and SpikeSource, and had set up options to invest in those it doesn’t already have stakes in, was all but ignored. The only people who brought this up with us were the CEOs of the five companies participating. The startup launch pad failed to dazzle; heavy on the Powerpoint and not on the impressive technology, and far too many of the companies part of the insular crowd, or often the investment portfolios, of the judges.

Speaking of working the halls—Fox Interactive and First Round Capital were especially visible. Every time we saw Heather Harde (SVP M&A at FIM) or Josh Kopelman (managing partner, First Round), they were corralling a startup on a couch (separately, of course) — not attending a session in the main room.

Much more so than last year, the event seemed like a get-together for a homogenous group of friends. The few outliers were treated as cultural exhibits. For instance, talk of the necessity of cooperation with the Chinese government by business-man-to-the-core Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba, was fiercely incongruous with the touchy-feely sentiments from familiar figures like Eric Schmidt, Ray Ozzie, and David Filo. GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons drew nervous chuckles for his brash comments on buxom babes in advertising.

A teen panel seemed all the more awkwardly anthropological with the addition of the teens’ parents. For their part, the specimens were happy to indulge. “MySpace is like on Christmas morning,” said one teen, “and you go downstairs and you see the presents under the tree… I sign on and it’s like, dah-dah!”

When we were in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago, there was tangible excitement about the new age of digital media. The Hollywood types were bursting to talk about this revolutionary age of amateur talent ushered in by YouTube. This week, web 2.0 crowd treated the YouTube acquisition simply as a huge transaction, with the only interesting aftermath being lawsuits. Here, we’re so far ahead of the curve, it’s a race to see who can be cynical first.

Twice at the Web 2.0 Summit, we had funny conversations with people on the topic “what will be the online pet food of bubble 2.0”? Nominees on the floor are social bookmarking sites and mommy-oriented social networks. (These are not GigaOM-generated suggestions, mind you; both nominees came from chats with execs at such companies talking about how much competition they have!) What’s your pick? Tell us in the comments.

22 Responses to “The Best and the Worst of the Web 2.0 Summit”

  1. Fortunate enough to participate in the “Du Lala Getting Promoted” reflect their first point, tell the truth, as no complete read “Du Lala Getting Promoted” original fiction for me, Xu Jinglei, “Ventura pulled up post in mind “completely beyond my expectations, it can be said, is a fashion, love, career Collection is one of a number of all, the plot has no special feeling of water, very smooth, a little love in Hollywood feel large.
    ( ) Previously, they keep the news and speculation, saying that to build China’s first large fashion, what combination of business strategy with the film, as well as Xu Jinglei and Stanley Huang to hang out has become to attract the audience, to attract box-office gimmick. Just love the film as a general audience for the speculation is offensive, get videos that do directly, do the whole of these virtual. Also think that Xu Jinglei not be as new as “Koshihikari Box”, as people’s interest and improve the appetite, and so it turns out that a plate of appetizers, very different from the people’s expectations.( )Fortunately, wearing a “talented woman,” the title of Xu Jinglei not let me down, as “a strange letter from a woman” like me with admiration.

  2. Sad to say (or maybe not) I was not there. I do wonder where the more vibrant conversations are happening. Sounds like web 2.0 night have had too many billionaires on one stage (and an audience with serious bucks to afford to go). This probably does not make for the most innovative conversations. Nothing against them, they just probably are not very hungry and see the world from very different eyes.

  3. Great article from Liz, but she left out the most entertaining moment of the conference.

    When Ross Levinsohn was asked about the shareholder lawsuit being brought by the former Intermix CEO regarding the MySpace deal, rather than replying with the standard “no comment on ongoing litigation” he made a detailed analogy to the 1986 Tyson-Berbick championship bout.

    If you have any knowledge of the backstory of the lawsuit (or boxing history), this was worth the price of admission by itself.

  4. Whoever made such a suggestion obviously does not have a clue. The business model and value proposition of an online social bookmarking site is rock solid where as shipping a 75 lb. pound back of dog food is not.

    LOL. You mean, because of all the people who have pets, and need food for them, in comparison with all the people who need distinct apps to remember web pages for them? Oh and wait you actually (own? work for?) are involved with a social bookmarking company. Good luck with that rock solid business model.

  5. would have to say there’s rough rides ahead for startups competing against big gorillas giving away free — both personal home page managers, and hosted storage look like there’s not much margin or monetization available. tough to beat free & well-branded from the big guys.

    that said, i think NetVibes and Omnidrive are best of the bunch and positioned to do well.

  6. I am very surprised that “social bookmarking” sites were nominated to be the “online pet food of bubble 2.0”

    Whoever made such a suggestion obviously does not have a clue. The business model and value proposition of an online social bookmarking site is rock solid where as shipping a 75 lb. pound back of dog food is not.

    Obviously, there is another imporant issue and that is whether the space if overfunded. I would argue yes. Lots of spaces in “bubble 2.0” have far too many players. This is caused by very low startup costs and too many VCs wanting to be part of the action which results in overfunding. The social bookmarking space is probably one of the segments that has gotten too much attention from hungry investors.

    However, I would argue that the online video space will see far more casulties since there are dozens of VC backed players.

    Back to social bookmarking. I can see lots of the US VC backed players struggling and their Alexa traction already shows as much. Why am I picking on the US backed players? Because they have a cost structure that is far in excess of the revenues that are likely to materialize form a social bookmarking site in the short term.

    However,, which is supported from our development team in Kuala Lumpur is already profitable and cash flow positive. How? Because the revenue per page view that we see is rock solid and more importantly, our overhead and costs of doing business are tiny.