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Circuit board Attending conferences is a good way to renew acquaintances, meet new people, gain new perspectives, and collaborate on new ideas. Some conferences I attend to give a talk about "The Future Of The Internet" (40 talks in 2003) and some I attend just to listen. The January calendar has included four interesting conferences — two in Atlanta and two in New York City. I met a lot of very interesting people but most special was to see and hear Brewster Kahle from The Internet Archive. He made everyone in the audience think.
The Information Systems Executive Roundtable was started in 1991 by Professor Ephraim R. McLean at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. The Roundtable includes a group of executives who have senior-level responsibilities for information services at 30 organizations who are headquartered or have major operations in Atlanta. The list includes AT&T, BellSouth Corporation, Coca Cola Company, Equifax, Inc., Home Depot, IBM, Scientific Atlanta, Inc., Southern Company, SunTrust Service Corporation, and United Parcel Services — just to name a few. It was a pleasure to meet them, give a presentation, and exchange points of view. Meeting at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in the Buckhead section of Atlanta was a convenient ride on the Marta train system.
The following week it was back to Atlanta, this time to the Georgia Tech Information Security Center for the Accelerating Trustworthy Computing conference. The ATI conference was driven by a post-9/11 urgency to address Global Challenges for critical applications, the goal being to accelerate progress towards high-grade commercial security for internetworking applications. The workshop is focused on initiating cooperative activities to accelerate research and the deployment of testbeds for critical and pervasive applications across academia, industry, and government incorporating advanced information technologies. The attendees included seventy-five of the smartest people I know including, inventors of some of the most important aspects of today’s Internet. I was humbled to be in their midst. My small part was to offer a high-level view of how consumers and businesses view the Internet’s capabilities and potential.
Back to New York the following week to attend the Genesys Partners Annual Dinner at the Union League. Genesys Partners, Inc. is an investment banking, venture capital and venture development company that specializes in the Internet-based information industry. I offered a brief overview of how I see "The Future Of The Internet". There were a number of interesting speakers including Li Lu, Founding General Partner at Himalaya Capital. Li Lu was born in China in 1966. In 1989, while studying semiconductor physics and economics at Nanjing University, he became one of the principal student leaders of the Tiananmen Square demonstration. After the Beijing Massacre, Li Lu was put on the Chinese government’s “21 Most Wanted List.” Subsequently, he escaped from China to the United States through underground channels. Li Lu has a very impressive background. It is a pleasure to serve with him on the board of Knovel Corporation.
The Software & Information Industry held it’s Third Annual Information Industry Summit (IIS) this week at the Union League Club In New York City. More than three hundred industry leaders and senior executives involved in creating, publishing and distributing digital content gathered to share their insights and outlook for the year. (full coverage) I participated on the "X-Factors" panel moderated by Steven Sieck of EPS-USA. The other panelists were Tim Cadogan from Yahoo! Inc., David Marques from Elsevier, and Christine Varney from Hogan & Hartson LLP. The idea behind the panel was that the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. No matter how detailed our business plans are, unexpected external factors often derail our plans and divert our resources. We had a lively discussion about medium- and long-term trends. My focus was blogging, which I believe continues to be grossly underestimated in terms of the impact it will have on how information is published, searched, and syndicated.
The most interesting speaker over the span of the four conferences this month, from my perspective, was Brewster Kahle from The Internet Archive. I first met Brewster about ten years ago when he was at WAIS (Wide Area Information Server) system which he had founded in 1989. In 1996 he founded Alexa Internet, which grew out of his vision of Web navigation that is intelligent and constantly improving with the participation of its users. He recently sold the company to Amazon and went on to found the The Internet Archive, a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. The archive provides free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.
The Internet Archive made headlines back in November with the release of the Wayback Machine. Take a visit to the site and you will find you can browse through 30 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. In addition to the other millions of web pages you can find in the Wayback Machine, it has direct pointers to some of the pioneer sites from the early days of the Web, including the NCSA What’s New page, The Trojan Room Coffee Pot, and Feed magazine.
Brewster’s idea is to build a library of everything — universal access to all of human knowledge. It sounds like a lofty goal but Brewster reminded us that the entire library of Congress — 26 million books — will fit in less than 100 terabytes, which occupies a small refrigerator-sized box.
Brewster also shard a perspective on how Microsoft is becoming more and more dominant, in spite of more than one judge finding them to have operated their monopoly illegally. He showed diagrams of how the domination of the operating system allowed them to "suck all the applications" into their control. He predicted that at current course and speed Microsoft will absorb the Internet and then control all of the content that gets created. Not a happy thought.