Barreling Through The Web 2.0 World

Next in tech Internetnews.com editors provide an early roadmap for tech’s direction in 2007.


The Web 2.0 extravaganza in 2006, with all of the blogs, wikis,
mashups and social networks, redefined the way consumers exchanged
information. Perhaps more importantly, the same participatory technologies sowed seeds for new enterprise opportunities in 2007.


Over the next several months, analysts and technical experts predict, blogs,
wikis and mashups will have a profound influence over the way businesses
collaborate in the global enterprise.


But not without some trial-and-error.


Policing the corporate blogosphere


Look for changes to blogs and wikis, those personal Web sites created
and edited by authors. Typically, one person authors and edits a blog while
multiple people create content and edit wikis.


Gartner analyst Gene Phifer said corporate blogs and wikis will feature
service level agreements (SLA) that determine who may or may not alter, edit
or contribute to them.


Currently, blogs and wikis rarely feature such policies; pretty much anyone
with access to a password can go on a site and edit it, sometimes to the
point of libelous results. Just ask the folks at Wikipedia, a site where people often monkey around with information to portray subjects in a particular light.


The easy nature with which data is manipulated on Wikipedia will force
businesses who wish to put critical data on a blog or wiki to enforce more
policies over who has access to what.


“Corporate blogs are used many times to relay direct information from
company executives and spokespersons,” Phifer said. “The company mission
statement must be maintained in these blogs, and information that may be
proprietary, confidential, libelous or merely inflammatory must be avoided.
Policy and process are the only ways to assure this.”


Phifer said there will be some pain associated with this, as some
enterprises strain to define policies over things that can and cannot be
posted to a site.


But the positives will outweigh the negatives in the long run, and corporate
officers will thank themselves for creating rules. Creating policies is never fun. But breaking the normal rules and boundaries of the way applications are used together to achieve greater efficiencies could prove to be a blast.


Do the mashup


Of all the Web 2.0 technologies, the mashup may prove to be the most
interesting cross-over application. Mashups are pieces of software composed
of two or more types of applications.


Phifer said that while the most common mashups include some form of mapping
application and e-commerce-type store front, 2007 will be the year mashups
become a huge part of human resource departments to cross-reference employee
information.


He also said we could see mashups being used in supply chain management and
customer relationship management software to improve the way suppliers and
consumers work together.


Phifer said vendors like IBM , Oracle  and others will continue developing software tools that
enable businesses to create new ways of interacting with partners and
customers.


Dan Gisolfi, an executive IT architect for emerging Internet technologies at
IBM, said his goals include helping two groups: the IT professional
and the business professional.


Previously, the notion that a business manager could be relied upon to
generate Web content was laughable. With the Web 2.0 explosion, you almost
aren’t doing your job if you can’t develop, control and deploy Web content.

That’s why IBM created QEDWiki, which is essentially a mashup maker that lets users with minimal technical savvy splice applications.


Gisolfi cautions that QEDWiki is still a technology, not a product. But that
hasn’t stopped IBM from working with partners on testing it in the real
world.


Just last month, AccuWeather said it is evaluating QEDWiki for funneling weather forecasts to customers
as a subscription-based service.


Though it is early yet, Gisolfi said he envisions more companies monetizing
wikis as subscription services because every business is a content provider
and data is the “golden nugget.”


“The widget is the conduit for delivering revenue,” Gisolfi said. “How does
someone subscribe and are there subsequent payments? If we get there, that’s
a whole opportunity for new utility management middleware coming out.”


Take telcos, for example. The telco may not own data, he said, but it does
have a billing system that has to be tested and secure or the telco loses
credibility.


The telco could write some Web services  to expose
its billing system through a widget, allowing another company to piggyback
off of its own billing system to charge its own customers.


Telcos outsourcing their billing programs? Not exactly a traditional
business model. But non-traditional revenue opportunities are what the Web
2.0 and mashups can be about.

Next page: The vendor mashup play

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Best of 2006 Internetnews.com editors provide an early roadmap for tech’s direction in 2007.


Consulting the Oracle for Web 2.0’s future


Oracle is like IBM in that it sees revenue opportunities in the cards
for enterprise mashups. The company earlier this year unveiled
and just rolled out WebCenter Suite to customers.


A new feather in its Fusion Middleware cap, the suite uses Web 2.0 software
services, such as wikis and mashups, to help corporate employees better work
together.


Ted Farrell, vice president and chief architect for Oracle’s development
tools, said WebCenter Suite comes from elements that customers traditionally
found in portal engines and hooked them into other applications.


The result is a mashup that is altogether smarter than a traditional
application of singular purpose.


“If I have purchase orders, and I have a portlet that shows them, I can drop
them into a page, but all I can do is view the PO but can’t get at the
functionality,” Farrell said. “The goal [with WebCenter] is to get the end
user the information they need to act on the information they see.”


Farrell offered another scenario. Suppose a corporate employee in finance
has question about an expense report that was filed.


Today, we fire off an e-mail and hope for a quick response. But he may be
out or traveling, so it takes longer to get the information necessary to make a
decision about the expense report.


With WebCenter Suite, the finance employee has access to presence because
the disparate applications are all communicating with one another in a
mashup-type arrangement.


He could see whether someone is online through either
instant messaging or mobile phone, click a button to set up an IM chat or even talk to him via “click-to-dial” VoIP services to ask him a question that may lead to approving or declining the expense report.


“Throwing wikis and blogs on a page is easy,” Farrell said. “It’s about getting your enterprise info in that same modular form, and letting you decide and filter the types of information you want.”


Web 2.0: The New Wild, Wild West?


Gartner’s Phifer said a lot can happen in Web 2.0 in the next year. After
all, the industry has heard nary a peep from Microsoft regarding blogs, wikis and mashups.


But you can bet it’s planning something, and Phifer said the notion that
Microsoft  may sell mashups as traditional software
packages is not out of the realm of possibility.


True, Microsoft promises to deliver more software on demand through its
Windows Live offerings, but it is still the leader in packaged apps.


Who is to say the mashup has to remain a Web-based offering? More generally,
what will define the intersection of Web 2.0 and the enterprise market?


For now, there are more questions than answers.


“Everybody keeps telling me: ‘I get the techie part of it, but where’s the
business angle on mashups?'” IBM’s Gisolfi said. “I keep telling them we’re not going to answer questions about this until we build some validation, and we’re trying to build a community for that
purpose.”

According to Farrell, the answer could be very simple.
“The real power is figuring out how to take what you have rather than starting from scratch, and applying new tech to it.”

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