Conference Notes

David Boloker, "Web Services and the Semantic Web", Mar 19

The second formal presentation of the day was by David Boloker, the Chief Technical Officer for Emerging Internet at IBM entitled Web Services and the Semantic Web – the Driving Forces Behind Enterprise Mashups. He used a Mac.

David works in the strategy department in IBM, and has about 50 researchers working with him. There’s a lot of evolution in the world of IT: Linux, XML, Java, SOA, and Web 2.0. The latter is a blending of a lot of technologies. His definition of Web 2.0:

Web 2.0 is a set of economic, social, and technology trends that collectively form the basis for the next generation of the Internet – a more mature, distinctive medium characterized by user participation, openness, and network effects.” From Tim O’Reilly

What’s the Business Model?
1. Shifting from a single large market to a lot of niche markets. Eg, the long tail.
2. The product or service is more valuable the more people who use it. Eg, the network effect … eBay, MySpace, Craigslist
3. Data is the new “Intel inside”.

Current Focus Areas
There’s a few key value propositions:

  • Broad collaboration
  • Simplicity and rich(er) Internet experiences
  • Remixability … “applications” that can be created by non-programmers, and APIs based on open / defacto standards

The Web 2.0 diagram can be divided into four quadrants. Bottom right is the standards. Top right is user interface. Top left is social engagement. Bottom left is the data center side, eg, feeds. The biggest two things are (a) simplicity, and (b) the joy of use.

What Technologies are we Talking About?
High customer interest in:

  • AJAX … high potential business value. Rich user interfaces. Leverages the Web as a platform. Typically uses XML to transfer data asynchronously. Provides a more desktop-like experience over the Web. The Open AJAX Alliance is an industry collaboration initiative to support the development of an open AJAX technologies and tooling. Has 70+ companies at February 2007.
  • RSS/ATOM … for simplifying specific content centric application architectures. An XML-based file format intended to enable lists of information. A shift in consumption model. Blogs become a central piece of information for getting information out from the organization.
  • Programmable Web … for building/extending business ecosystems
  • Instant applications, eg, mash-ups

Web Site Visits
David took us through a range of web sites that use AJAX:

  • Zimbra … An interesting mail/collaboration suite. The UI is very characteristic of a Web 2.0 application. Everything is downloaded immediately. You can start scanning through and viewing things. It also looks at the semantic content, eg, phone numbers are clickable and linked to Skype or another VoIP service.
  • Yahoo Mail … The most interesting Web 2.0 company, arising from the Oddpost company in 2000. After the Yahoo acquisition, it works in Firefox and IE. The interesting thing: personalization to “me”.
  • Bikely … from Australia. For choosing and planning bike routes in Australia, features a call across to Google Maps.
  • Zipcar … business model is rent a car for an hour. You have to become a member. Started off in Boston MA, and is now in the UK and some other places in the US. The map shows a real-time feed of cars that are available right now at various points around the city. They’ve taken all of their information and bound it together for portraying to the user in real-time. Ever user has an RFID car to open the car, start the car, etc. Every car has a GPS so you know where it is.
  • Zillow … Property analysis that blends information from commonly available databases. As the user chooses more and more levels of detail on the property they’re seeking, the advertising becomes more targeted and personalized.
  • FaceBook … The business model is interesting; originally focused on just universities. Then expanded it out to high schools. And most recently, to “old folks” in business. It provides a way of linking from your friends to their friends and their friends and beyond. Advertising can become very personalized.
  • QEDWiki … A standard wiki framework, with a hub built under the covers to register various properties for feeds. It provides a way for users to build applications for themselves. It offers a way to bring in data from outside. This is not a product for offer; it’s a proof of technology for mash-ups in the enterprise.

Concluding Comments
1. Speed is key. If the servers slow down, the user gets very annoyed.
2. Service access … having licensing agreements, which provides a service-level agreement.
3. Web 2.0 opportunities/impacts … target niche markets, improve the customer experience, build communities and collaboration, transform the Web site into an Internet platform, and CIO’s long tail (reduce the application backlog by empowering new classes of developers).

Questions & Answers
Q. What’s the opportunity with the semantic web vs. Web 2.0?
IPv6 will be a given, but it will take time for the politics to work through. It has to come through, because of the projection of 300 million new cellphones per year that are internet-enabled. Pieces of the semantic web are breaking into Web 2.0, but everything that Tim Berners-Lee wants won’t come out. The taxonomy problem in the semantic web is a big problem for accessibility.

Q. We saw some latency on the various services today. What’s the impact of this on building Web 2.0 applications?
The Gartner people on Friday asked that same question. Applications created using AJAX, in general, have to be (a) developed, and then (b) scaled out. The design has to be right, and the scalability has to be right too. If it’s not done, we’re going to have some problems. Eg, doesn’t permit any caching, but if it did, life would be easier for everyone.

More Information
David talks about Open Ajax in this IBM developerWorks podcast.

Our conference room backed onto the kitchen of the hotel, or at least that’s what it sounded like. There was lots of banging and crashing at various points of David’s session. Bad, bad, bad on the behalf of the Stamford Plaza.

Categories: Conference Notes