I spent a big chunk of my week off doing my own “mini thinkweek lite”. (No I am not trying to emulate mighty Bill). I have to say: I LOVED it!
The #1 thing I learned? There are soooo many extremely interesting technology areas that I don’t spend enough time on…I have been concentrating lately so much on the server / enterprise side of things (Longhorn Server, service orientation, architectural frameworks…) that I have missed the entire first wave of emerging Web 2.0 companies. Of course, I knew about the obvious ones flickr, del.icio.us, google/yahoo/msn maps etc. but I didn’t realize how many startups have entered that space in the last 12 months or so. For a sampler I would recommend checking out this list on TechCrunch.
#2: Web2.0 is not the only trend that is exploding; virtual worlds are also exponentially gaining interest. I remember when I was working at Bell Labs, I was working one of the very first virtual worlds on the Internet: Peloton (anyone remembers VRML? J) Having tens of people on a shared worlds with few hundreds polygons avatars was an achievement; now we are talking millions of people with avatars who will soon have human like resolutions. Another aspect that fascinates me is the entire aspect of virtual economies where for example virtual plots are sold for real money in Second Life, or a epic level 60 World of Warcraft paladin on the server Argent Dawn (World of Warcraft) is auctioned on eBay for 300 Australian dollars. If virtual gold coins are getting a $ value, it won’t be long before an entire financial services ecosystem (exchanges, brokers, custodians) will have to be created there. Imagine Goldman Sachs being hired to assess the value of an entire Night Elves druidic spells portfolio.
#3 Reading many VCs and entrepreneurs blogs I really sensed that not only things are going crazy fast, but they are accelerating. This reminds me of a presentation from Ray Kurzweil about “the law of accelerating returns”. I have little doubt that we are back into another Wild West period where immense open territories are up for grabs to the first pioneer(s) who put their flag down. I also do believe that this is transient, bigger companies (e.g. Microsoft) are coming full steam to this new party and will claim a big share of the new West. But as it happened in mid 90’s with companies such as Yahoo, Amazon or Google, there will be (a very few) new multi billions dollar companies which with clever execution and a bit of luck will disproportionally rip the benefit of this new wave.
What does all this mean to me? From a job perspective, I might tone down a few server / enterprise architectural aspects I was working one and will dedicate more time learning about the architectural implications of ad-funded systems, MMORPG, virtual economies, self service (long tail) services, user participation aware platforms etc.
Therefore, if you are CTO / Architect / SDE in one of these Web 2.0 and/or Virtual World companies and wouldn’t mind having a chat with a Microsoft architect (me), bouncing some ideas, discussing some challenges, sketching some solutions etc. drop me a line (email is in the about me section on my home page) or leave a comment here.