SAN FRANCISCO -- This year's Web 2.0 Expo highlighted platforms like mobile, e-commerce, and social networks, but it was infrastructure challenges like, the Web's operating system and the value of APIs that dominated many of the sessions.
Many companies found themselves during the keynotes (Live Blog) pontificating about the nature of Web 2.0. Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) exec Paul Buchheit, for example, noted that everyone is moving toward leaner and lightweight startups, which in his words, "allows for more of the features to come up sooner."
In light of its recent F8 conference, Facebook is promoting new technologies designed to broaden the social network's external ties. These include: social plugins, which allow Websites to add Facebook-style social interaction using an HTML iFrame; the Open Graph Protocol.
That kind of push toward building a framework that doesn't rely on a particular OS is why experts estimate developers using Facebook's APIs are likely to generate over $500 million in revenues this year. One only has to look at a company like Zynga (purveyor of games like Farmville and Mafia Wars) to predict that trend. However, Facebook users are continually riddled with privacy issues and annoying features such as its new "Like" button.
On the other side of the Web 2.0 fence, Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) CTO Kevin Lynch discussed how his company's APIs provide the best opportunities for enterprises and customers to interface with the next generation of the Web. The discussion was framed against the backdrop of opposition to Flash as a native technology on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) products.
"Apple is playing this strategy where they apparently want to create a walled garden about what applications people can use," Lynch complained.
While Adobe is winning some hearts in the developer community, evidence is piling up that Flash is riddled with security issues, is not native for touchscreens, sucks up battery life in smaller devices, and is not as fast as alternatives like HTML5.
However, developers at separate breakout sessions were equally frustrated with HTML5, noting that tools were sparse and backend support next to nonexistent. So, perhaps Flash isn't out cold just yet as much as Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggests.
Still, a lot of debate centered on APIs and their value in the Web 2.0 economy.
Sam Ramji, VP of strategy at Sonoa Systems, noted that unlike the Web's original design, today's infrastructure is composed of more APIs connecting loosely joined networks. These APIs represent a new, indirect economy where business is conducted through interconnected services. That's a critical component to the Web 2.0 economy; Ramji suggests that 80 percent of traffic will be coming from beyond the browser.
"I believe that we're going through such a surge right now as the early versions of the Web -- designed for people using browsers -- give way to the next version: using APIs to design the Web for people using applications that communicate on their behalf in complex ways to the services that make up the world's businesses," he said.
Most companies pointed out that open and accessible APIs were the only way for their businesses to connect with established Internet players like Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ). June Cohen, executive producer of TED Media, announced that her company's series of inspiring videos would be opening up its API in order to distribute across all available video platforms.
But not all APIs are created equal. Danny Sullivan with SearchEngineLand provided compelling evidence that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is both a helpful partner and a vampire when it comes to integrating search results within its frameworks, like Google Squared.
"Here, you're lucky if you even find the source of information for someone else's content," he said.
— Michael Singer, Senior Editor at Internet Evolution, is focused on executive (Executive Clan) and midmarket (Midmarket Clan) issues.