Web 2.0 Summit Looks Beyond The Web

Anticipating a future U.S. energy policy more focused on alternatives to oil, the Web 2.0 Summit also will feature discussions with green tech leaders, among others.
When the Web 2.0 Summit 2008 opens in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel this week, the Web won't be the major topic of discussion.

"The conversation this year is no longer just about the Web," said John Battelle, Web 2.0 Summit Program chairman, in a statement. "Instead, Web 2.0 Summit has gathered the Internet industry leaders to drive discussion about how to utilize the Web as a platform to address social and global challenges."

Anticipating a future U.S. energy policy more focused on alternatives to oil, the Web 2.0 Summit will feature discussions with the green tech leaders, among others.

The summit includes sessions with tech luminaries such as Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, a company aiming to build a sustainable personal transportation system that ends oil dependence; April Allderdice, co-founder and CEO of MicroEnergy Credits, an aggregator and reseller of carbon offsets in the microfinance market; and Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and Zip2, founder of SpaceX, and chairman of the board of electric sports car maker Tesla Motors.

Other keynote speakers include former Vice President Al Gore and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Jennifer Pahlka, general manager of the Web 2.0 Summit, said that this year's event was planned around "the opportunity of limits and the limits of opportunity," a theme that the world's ongoing financial turmoil has only made more relevant.

"This is really an opportunity to see the real limits of the Web," she said, "whether they're technical or business model-oriented."

She said that constraints can lead to successful companies, noting that Google's decision to forgo the advertising clutter that characterized early search engines and to emphasize user experience over invasive advertising contributed to its success. And more recently, Twitter has built the beginnings of a promising instant broadcast messaging business out of its self-imposed 140-character message limit, she said.

Limits on things like bandwidth, energy, attention, and capital, she said, will shape emerging and current technology businesses.

Pahlka observed that the Web 2.0 Summit has been including policy-oriented discussions for several years, and she expects the trend will continue. Some opportunities can't be addressed without dealing with policy issues, she said.

The Web 2.0 Summit is produced by O'Reilly Media and TechWeb, which also publishes InformationWeek.