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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