October 23, 2009

Web 2.0 Summit: Content & search get social

Aneesh Chopra

Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

Social networks becoming more relevant to offline lives

JD LasicaI have been to every Web 2.0 Summit since its launch except for one (when I had a speaking commitment in Toronto), so it was good to be back at the venerable technology conference in San Francisco this week. This year’s event was not a somber affair, but it was considerably smaller in attendance: probably 50-60 percent off its high of a couple of years ago (that’s my estimate, not official). Just look at the Flickr stream: probably one-tenth the size of a couple of years ago.

Here’s my Flickr photo gallery of the summit — that’s Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, above. I briefly got to meet him backstage. (Disclosure: I was admitted with a press pass.) His deputy, Andrew McLaughlin, dissected dumber-than-dumb U.S. regulations — in effect preventing Government 2.0 from taking place — at the Web 2.0 Expo last spring. I asked Chopra about this from the floor and he talked animatedly about the progress his office is making in cutting the red tape to ribbons.

If there was a theme this year, it was this: Content is getting increasingly social. We see that through the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter), through news organizations that are struggling to find a business model (the social journalism-friendly Huffington Post is expanding its staff), and through a panpoly of new “social search” and “real-time search” results rolled out by the major search engines.

The tech press has already covered the newsworthy items coming out of the Summit (a sister event, Web 2.0 Expo, is held each spring in SF and will be held Nov. 16-19 in New York). Chief among them: announcements that Microsoft’s Bing search engine will now offer results from the real-time Web via Twitter updates (at bing.com/twitter) and, soon, public updates on Facebook (no money was exchanged), and Google will now offer a deeper set of Twitter updates, including something called a social circle (social search), due to debut early next year.

So here are some snippets of the scene at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit:

Some highlights of the Summit

Google social circle

Bing got a publicity bump from its new agreement with Twitter. But Google’s Social Search (above) is exponentially more interesting. It indexes content from your social networks or social tools, such as Yelp, Gmail or one of your social networks, like Twitter. (You’ll need a Google profile and account, and it’s strictly opt in.) Look for it on Google Labs. So if you search for a good restaurant in Boston, at the bottom of your search results you’ll see recommendations from your friends.

• The Huffington Post’s social news feature — letting you follow news that your friends recommend — is proving extremely popular, said CEO Eric Hippeau.

• OK, I really do love Bing’s visual search, released a month ago. Do a search on digital cameras, narrow it down by megapixels using a slider, choose an optical zoom of over 10x, and bingo! See a handful of good choices. “It changes the way you do search by pulling that data to you,” a Microsoft rep said.

• Newest interesting site to cross my radar: Answers.com. It’s already one of the largest sites on the Web on the basis of its simplicity. Ask a question, or enter a phrase, and get an answer. I thought I’d trip it up by asking Who is the president of Mauritania, but it spit back this. Nice.

• Aardvark, at vark.com, is another search start-up, but with this twist: It will comb the most knowledgeable people in your social networks to come up with an answer (“Tap the knowledge of people in your network!”). Personally, I wouldn’t want to impose on my friends by submitting dozens of search queries a day (as I do on Google), but for an offbeat recommendation, this could work. Aardvark founder Max Ventilla says 90 percent of all queries are answered, and 50 percent of all queries are answered within 5 minutes.

Audioboo.fm, an iPhone audio blogging app, launched a week ago, consultant Amy Webb told me. Worth a look. Peter Guber talks about monetizing content.

• The climb back to respectability for MySpace is a long one. John Battelle polled the large audience: How many are on MySpace? About 10 percent shot up their hands? Facebook? Nearly 100 percent.

• Facebook stats: 45 million status updates per day from 30 million individuals. Users spend 8 billion minutes on the site every day. Over 2 billion pieces of content are shared every week. Over 2 billion photos are uploaded each month, with a total of over 20 billion photos stored on facebook.com.

• MySpace is launching a music aggregator and player. Think Hulu for music videos. Try it here.

• Stats on Guitar Hero: 40 million units sold in five years, making it the sixth most popular game sold in history.

• Handheld devices like the Kindle “will be the next great platform of innovation for us,” said Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president, digital operations for The New York Times Company. About one-quarter of the Web 2.0 Summit audience owns a Kindle, by a show of hands.

• Nisenholtz, smartly, on the business woes of news organizations: “You have to innovate your way out of it.” And: “By 1998, anyone with a brain could see that classifieds were history. It’s not Craig Newmark’s fault.” And: “Nobody has a right to exist in business. It’s that simple.”

• My sympathies go out to Carly Fiorina, recovering from breast cancer. If she runs for the U.S. Senate, though, I hope she gets squashed like a fruitfly.

Related

Google launches social search (Telegraph UK)

CNET coverage of the Summit

Web 2.0 Summit: Fed CTO Talks Healthcare IT (Information Week)

Media Brawl at Web 2.0 (Contentinople)

Web 2.0: Facebook’s challenges in scaling to 300 million users (Digital Beat)

2006 Web 2.0 Summit: Jason Calacanis on social news (Socialmedia.biz)

Coverage of Web 2.0 Summit 2006 (Socialmedia.biz)

Web 2.0 Summit 2008 Day 3: Political roundtable, Al Gore (Socialmedia.biz)

Day 2 of Web 2.0 Summit 2008: GoodGuide and Facebook (Socialmedia.biz)

Web 2.0 Summit 2008 Day 1: Google.org (Socialmedia.biz)

JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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  • Wow there were a lot of new sites features here that I hadn't seen before. I checked out the huffington post… You were kidding when you said it was popular. There are hundreds of comments for every brand new post.

    I wonder if Bing is going to end up changing the way we use searches? Microsoft obviously has plan, and they have the experience. This visual search sounds awesome!

    -Daryl