May 24, 2002

Defining a true Internet operating system at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference

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

Additional resources
Conference information can be viewed at

For complete conference coverage, including audio recordings of the
keynote presentations, visit

For session presentation information, see

For information on the "Planning for Web Services: Obstacles and
Opportunities" research report by Clay Shirky, see

For details on Rob Flickenger's "Building Wireless Community Networks,"

Read O'Reilly Network's DevCenters related web services, P2P, and
wireless articles at

For information on the upcoming O'Reilly Open Source Convention and the
O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference, see

Words about the 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.", 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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