Tim O’Reilly created a bit of a stir last night in the tech world by writing a thoughtful essay entitled “The War for the Web.” He’ll be expanding on his thoughts in his keynote address today at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York. From the essay, here’s the core argument:
“[W]e’ve grown used to a world with one dominant search engine, one dominant online encyclopedia, one dominant online retailer, one dominant auction site, one dominant online classified site, and we’ve been readying ourselves for one dominant social network. But what happens when a company with one of these natural monopolies uses it to gain dominance in other, adjacent areas? I’ve been watching with a mixture of admiration and alarm as Google has taken their dominance in search and used it to take control of other, adjacent data-driven applications.
It could be that everyone will figure out how to play nicely with each other, and we’ll see a continuation of the interoperable web model we’ve enjoyed for the past two decades. But I’m betting that things are going to get ugly. We’re heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform. [emphasis added] Instead, we’re facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.
… P.S. One prediction: Microsoft will emerge as a champion of the open web platform, supporting interoperable web services from many independent players, much as IBM emerged as the leading enterprise backer of Linux.
The coda there, with the Microsoft prediction, is what fascinated me – so much so that I mentioned it on Twitter. Tim immmediately responded, “Thanks. I should write a followup explaining the logic that got me to the PS.” While we wait for that, though, here’s my prediction – with a bit of inside knowledge – today Microsoft begins to live up to Tim’s expectations with several announcements at our Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2009 in Los Angeles.
If you want to see the future of Microsoft, and the future of the web and computing as we see it, watch live as Ray Ozzie lays it out in his keynote address, streamed live today at 11:30 eastern time, 8:30 am Pacific, over at http://microsoftpdc.com/.
Oh – and if your Latin is rusty, my title above comes from the phrase “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – the classic doctrine of maintaining peace & deterring war by being better armed and prepared. It is generally attributed to Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, a fourth-century AD Roman military scholar whom I consider the Sun Tzu of the West. I’ve known many fans of his philosophy in the Pentagon.
Now it may turn out that, whether they know it or not, Microsoft techies are building new ways to avoid a war on the open web. As Sun Tzu wrote, “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue an enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” Watch our PDC this week to see examples of what I consider the modern technological acme of skill.
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