Web 2.0 Summit: Excitement in the Air

I knew I was in trouble as soon as turned onto New Montgomery Street and saw scores of people with badges draped around their necks outside the Palace Hotel. Then I saw the inevitable,”garage full” sign, meaning that I would have less than 15 minutes to find alternate parking, pick up my badge, and try to find a seat at what’s arguably the hottest conference in technology.

With some luck on the parking, and with the conference running about 15 minutes late, it all worked out in the end. Miraculously, I even found a seat for Eric Schmidt’s presentation, the opening keynote of the event.

Recall that I lived in Paris during Bubble 1.0. Yes, I returned to Silicon Valley at least once/month. I did all the things that good Bubble 1.0 citizens did: I traded stocks (even call options) online during staff meetings, I religiously read the Industry Standard and the Red Herring on the train, I read Information Rules and Blown to Bits, and I learned new words and concepts, such as disintermediation, re-intermediation, and network effects. But despite all that, I did live just outside Paris and (thankfully) missed much of the true day-to-day craziness of that era.

I got my taste of it yesterday. There were people everywhere. Plus, there was an air of excitement, celebrity (I saw the real Kim Polese within 5 minutes of arriving), and bigness, with TV cameras, photographers, journalists, and yes — bloggers — everywhere.

Where else can you be one of the lucky 1,000 whose request to be invited was approved (as opposed to the 5,000 whose requests were not), pay over $3K to attend, and not even have a chance at finding a seat at the conference. It was so crowded, there was a Google-sponsored “overflow lounge” upstairs where you could watch the conference you were theoretically attending on TV.

As Tim O’Reilly said, “we thought up the idea for Web 2.0 in order to regenerate some excitement about the Internet, because it’s not over yet.” Well, Tim, mission accomplished.

Tim and John also announced why the name had suddenly changed to Web 2.0 Summit from Web 2.0 Conference. The explanation related to size, content, and the launch of a new conference, Web 2.0 Expo, to be held at Moscone Center (which can hold tens of thousands) and to include a full technical conference. So, in the future, Web 2.0 Expo, will be the large, mainstream event. And the digerati will still hob-nob at Web 2.0 Summit.

Adding to the crowds, the celebrities, the cameramen, and the photographers, was the launch of 13 new companies “in the last hour and half” (i.e., in the 90 minutes preceeding the start of the general sessions). Here are some posts that discuss that. (Here and here as well.)

I’d hoped to provide an overview of Schmidt’s speech, but that’s going to have to be in a subsequent post unless I want to repeat my parking nightmare of yesterday.

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