November 16, 2010

Web 2.0 Summit: Privacy, innovation, games & ebooks

Eric Schmidt
Google CEO Eric Schmidt

JD LasicaNow in its seventh year, Web 2.0 Summit — running Monday to Wednesday in San Francisco this week — remains an exceptional experience for members of the tech community.

Over the years, Web 2.0 Summit has consistently pulled in the biggest names in the tech industry, and this year is no different, with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and investment banker Frank Quattrone among those on tap.

“We have in our hands the power of the Internet,” co-founder Tim O’Reilly said in his opening remarks, extolling the growing ubiquity and capabilities of our mobile devices. Assaying the larger landscape, he added: “We’re entering a period of conflict, or intense competition on the Web.”

Here’s my Web 2.0 Summit photo set (so far).

Day 1 highlights

Loved Day 1. A few high points:

Will face recognition technology become commonplace? Said Schmidt: “Trust me, that is not a no-brainer.”

• Google’s Eric Schmidt, a regular at the summit, engaged in a fascinating discussion with hosts Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle about privacy in the digital age. When O’Reilly suggested that the use of face recognition technology is “inevitable,” Schmidt countered, “Trust me, that is not a no-brainer. … This debate will get worse, it’ll get harder, as technology progresses.” He said that one could no longer assume that “engineers’ political views” could pass muster in some cultures when rolling out a global service. For example, Google staffers assumed that blurring people’s faces and license plates in Google Street View would appease privacy advocates, but in some countries that still didn’t go far enough. Germans demanded that entire houses be blurred out if the residents requested, and political leaders in certain nations still think that’s not good enough.

• Eric Schmidt on Net Neutrality and Google’s joint statement with Verizon in support of different levels of Internet service, which has garnered Google widespread criticism: He said that the statement of principle was done in deference to the carriers’ history of 30 years under government regular for their land lines and their aversion to any regulation in the mobile space. ”

“We generally prefer that competition to produce the outcome” over government regulation, he said. A laudable premise — except when discussing predatory business tactics by the telecom industry.

• More Eric Schmidt: “Google Earth has changed my appreciation of the world.” Paired with Google Maps, it becomes “a transformative experience.”

• Schmidt also took a shot at Hollywood’s reluctance to embrace “smart television” — a fusion of traditional TV programming with Web content. Television studios and networks fear that their business model will be jeopardized if television is opened to the wealth of available (and mostly free) Web content. But Google thinks people will watch “even more TV” when given additional content choices.

• Schmidt on the fact that people now upload 35 hours of video to YouTube every minute: “It’s a truly amazing and disturbing statistic,” he said.

• Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, the company behind FarmVille, unveiled a new vision for his company: to “dog activate” the world. Mark’s a brilliant guy — we appeared on a panel together two years ago — and the newly minted billionaire (at least on paper) envisioned the day when we’ll instantly know when our friends are playing social games. (A dog appears in Zynga’s logo.)

• More Mark Pincus: “If I have Pandora, I have a music dialtone.” That is, instant 24/7 access to a celestial jukebox.

Author Steven Berlin Johnson on ebooks

Steven Berlin Johnson

Steven Berlin Johnson.

• “The link and the url are losing market share,” said Steven Berlin Johnson, who has written a serious number of serious books (many of which are on my bookshelf). “There is no standardized way to link to a page in an electronic book.” But books should at least have a “shadow page” on the Web that lets people link to them and talk about them. When we use apps that aren’t Web-enabled, thus cutting off the conversation flow, we should point out those flaws, he said.

• Ben Huh, founder of the I Can Has Cheezburger empire: “Hollywood hasn’t yet caught on yet to Internet culture.”

• More Ben Huh: “Cats are always at the center of Internet culture. … We do it for the LOLs.”

• Yusuf Mehdi of Microsoft: “At any given time there are 100 versions of Bing” on the Web to give the company feedback on how the search engine could be enhanced.

Web 2.0 Summit: Then and now

It’s interesting to take a look at where Web 2.0 has been over the past seven years — here’s some of our past coverage:


Al Gore at Web 2.0 Summit 2008.

Web 2.0 Summit photos (2004)

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

Cov­er­age of Web 2.0 Sum­mit 2006 (2006)

Web 2.0 photos (2006)

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

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

Web 2.0 Sum­mit 2008 Day 1: (2008)

Web 2.0 Summit photos (2008)

Web 2.0 Summit: Content & search get social (2009)

Web 2.0 Summit photos (2009)

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JD Lasica, founder of, 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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