Enterprises Barely Tapping Web 2.0 Potential

By David Needle

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The so-called consumerization of the enterprise trend has many companies establishing an online social networking presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social media as a way to reach customers and even to appeal to a younger, Web-savvy generation of employees. But there are many more tools and services companies could be using to derive value from social media.

That was the message given by IT publishing luminary Tim O'Reilly during a Webcast previewing his company's upcoming Web 2.0 Expo.

"[Enterprises] have to get out of thinking Web 2.0 is something you can cut and paste on with a blog or a Twitter feed; that's a shallow side that shows they don't understand what they've got," said O'Reilly, founder and CEO of the tech book publishing house O'Reilly Media. O'Reilly noted there are many other social media services and tools beyond Facebook and Twitter that are designed to help companies better understand and address the needs of their employees and customers.

"As powerful as it is, Facebook is not our only social tool," he said. "I'm frustrated others haven't taken advantage of" the assets they have.

For example, he said phone companies haven't really leveraged the massive amounts of data they have on mobile use to improve their services. Microsoft is also sitting on a potential goldmine of information in its Exchange servers. "They haven't figured out how best to deploy that information, but I think they will."

He also said he thinks Microsoft will continue its strategy of making alliances with other companies to make gains in the fast-growing social media space. Microsoft already has a minority investment in Facebook and, like Google and Yahoo, is licensing the so-called fire hose of tweets from Twitter, which can be found in results on Microsoft's Bing search engine.

The "Internet operating system"

In past conferences and in Thursday's Webcast, O'Reilly has pitched the idea that Web 2.0 is really about the Internet becoming a kind of next-generation operating system for Web services, just as a PC operating system is the essential hub for desktop applications. The concept plays off Sun Microsystems's early slogan that "The network is the computer."

"Sun was saying the network is the computer back in 2001 and it only took till 2010 that it really is the computer," O'Reilly said, noting storage, applications and other services are now readily available on the Internet. And while the Web is playing a more prominent role in our lives, the so-called "browser wars" are more of a sideshow. "The browser was the center of the computer wars in the 1990s, not this decade or the next one," he said.

The Web 2.0 Expo, which runs Monday to Thursday in San Francisco starting May 3, features sessions covering a wide range of Web-related topics. For example, Billions of Hits: Scaling Twitter will feature a talk by Twitter operations engineer John Adams, who will discuss how the popular site has grown from delivering hundreds, to thousands, to billions of requests per day in real time, including delivery to mobile devices.

Another session, billed as A Conversation with Kevin Lynch, the CTO of Adobe Systems (NASDAQ: ADBE), should be interesting if for no other reason than to hear his thoughts on Apple CEO Steve Jobs's criticism of Adobe's Flash and Apple's refusal to allow the multimedia software to run on the iPhone.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.