Web 2.0 Conference celebrates Web app vision

Bezos, Schmidt hail Web-based apps, services

Like an old-time religious revival, last week’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco was packed to the rafters with the Internet faithful. And, true to form, they spent their time singing the praises of the latest buzz: user-generated content, video-sharing sites, and virtual communities.

But one theme stood out: Web-based apps and services have become serious business, and everyone’s scrambling to provide platforms to deliver them.

“This is a fundamental architectural shift,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt of the massive server farms necessitated by maturing Web development and delivery stacks. “The network is always going to be around; … the [local] disk will be optional.” He asserted that packaged applications can’t possibly compete against Web-based apps long-term because “the datacenter is running 7-by-24, it has to be better. It can’t break.”

Although there was little agreement on market strategy, net neutrality, or who the biggest Web 2.0 winners and losers will be, the potency of delivering apps and services via the Web was universally acclaimed.

“I believe in the platform concept,” said Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba. His company plans to launch a suite of Web-based multi-tenant apps aimed at small and midsize businesses in China, including CRM, HR, finance, and inventory management modules.

Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos described his company’s nascent suite of Web services offerings, which he said has already attracted more than 200,000 active registered developers. Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, Simple Queueing Service, and Elastic Compute Cloud are perfect for spiky, compute-intensive apps, Bezos said.

“If you want, you can have 700 servers for just an hour,” Bezos explained. “People are excited because they see a future where they’ll be able to go more quickly from their idea to a successful product.”

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