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May 24, 2002

Defining a True Internet Operating System at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference

Sebastopol, CA--Nearly 500 programmers, technologists, and "alpha geeks" from all over the world gathered for the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, held at the Westin Santa Clara, May 13-16. Building on last fall's Peer-to-Peer & Web Services Conference held in Washington, DC, the 2002 edition featured ideas and projects that are literally taking computing into uncharted territory.

Explains conference host Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly & Associates founder and president, "The fundamental message of the conference is that we're facing a tectonic shift in the focus of the computer industry, from the PC era into the true internet era, in which the Internet is no longer an add-on to the PC, but itself the platform. Peer-to-peer networking, web services, and new user interface and software development paradigms for distributed computing are coming together as we begin the job of defining a true internet operating system. Hackers show the way; they stretch the boundaries of what's possible. Entrepreneurs follow, then tools and platform vendors, and eventually ordinary users take for granted what was once rich and strange."

Feeling "the buzz" in the atmosphere of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, O'Reilly quoted Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It was indeed a magical scene, unimaginable even a few years ago. Attendees clustered in the Westin Santa Clara's lobby, poolside, and in sessions, blogging away, blissfully untethered. Tutorials illustrated constructing wireless equipment from potato chip cans. FBI agents, Fortune 500 executives, accordion players, 15-year-olds, 60-somethings, and computing based on ants and the autonomic nervous system all found equal welcome at the conference, which reluctantly broke camp last week. Highlights of the conference include:

  • Dr. Lawrence Lessig and members of his Creative Commons team were on hand to officially launch their project, a web-based licensing system designed to ease the sharing of creative works on terms less restrictive than copyright.

  • Google engineer Nelson Minar described the real-world experience of building and executing a major web service in his "Deploying the Google Web APIs Service" session.

  • Eric Bonabeau's ideas of swarm intelligence, a model for computing based on insect behavior, where autonomy, emergence, and distributed functioning replace control, preprogramming, and centralization.

  • Rob Flickenger continued to spread the joy of building wireless community networks.

  • The release of Clay Shirky's "Planning for Web Services: Obstacles and Opportunities" research report.

  • IBM's Almaden Research Center Director Robert Morris called for more autonomic computing: designing and building computing systems capable of running themselves and adjusting to varying circumstances, much as our own autonomic nervous systems regulate and protect our bodies.

  • A first look at Brian McConnell's Worldwide Lexicon Project, an open source P2P effort whose goal is to build a comprehensive translations dictionary spanning most human languages.

  • Bruce Schneier's suggested solutions for corporate network security issues using detection, response, and deterrence.

  • The ever-provacative Dave Winer digging deep into his Radio Userland Weblogging tool and just-out Radio Community Server.

Concludes program chair Rael Dornfest, "We organized this conference --as we try to do with all of our conferences--to play a role in distributing the future. 'Emerging Technology' is a broad term, but the pieces we fitted together in these four days make up what we predict will be the foundation of the future: the internet operating system. The work being pioneered by thousands of individual hackers and entrepreneurs will, without question, be integrated into a standardized platform that enables the next generation of internet applications."

Exhibition and Sponsorship

If you are interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at a future conference, contact Andrew Calvo at 707-827-7176, or andrewc@oreilly.com.

Additional Resources

Words About the 2002 O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference

"The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference was the most worthwhile business travel I've done: the most intellectually stimulating, and the most educative."
--Michael Muchmore, Associate Editor, PC Magazine, May 20, 2002

"...the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference...saw hundreds of the world's top technologists, hackers and alpha geeks converge on Silicon Valley to discuss the future of internet based technologies."
--Ben Hammersley, The Guardian, May 20, 2002

"The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference was like four semester beginnings all rolled into three days. Lots of stuff to think about, digest, explore, etc. Most of all, I feel like this is my world, and not just for the next 14 weeks. I've been given a syllabus to follow; the future is uncertain but the path is clear. Best...conference ever."
--kottke.org, May 17, 2002

"I had a great time and I keep hearing from people about how they did too--or how much they wish they'd gone. It's incredible how many blogs are talking about loving the conference and having a great time. I can't think of a much better summer camp for geeks. Well done!"
--Marc Hedlund, May 2002

"Thanks very much for the outstanding Emerging Technology Conference last week. It was the best conference I can remember being to, and I've been to a few. The combination of researchers, geeks, and business types added a depth to the conference that I've not seen before. I am so impressed that I'm going to require that all of the researchers and analysts who work for me attend next year's. Again, thanks."
--James Meacham, Vice President, Manager, Emerging Technologies, Washington Mutual, May 20, 2002

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