Panelists say IT can't stop Web 2.0

Leaders at Web 2.0 Expo discuss enterprise IT's attempts to block instant messaging, Web 2.0 apps

At the Web 2.0 Expo at Moscone Center in San Francisco on Wednesday, three thought leaders in the Web 2.0 space, Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext, Satish Dharmaraj, CEO of Zimbra and Matthew Glotzbach, business product manager at Google, participated in a panel discussion titled, Web 2.0 for the Enterprise.

Moderated by Dan Farber, editor-in-chief at ZDnet, the discussion echoed the usual Web 2.0 refrain on the importance of collaboration.

Matthew Glotzbach, who heads up Google's enterprise business, started things off by saying that in the past IT tried "feverishly to block instant messaging" from getting behind the firewall but they were unsuccessful.

IT may continue to try to prevent other Web 2.0 applications from getting into corporate users' hands, but the effort will be equally as futile, according to Glotzbach, who said that workers are moving from individual productivity to team productivity.

"Users want tools to get their job done," Glotzbach said.

Team productivity and collaboration was the theme of the discussion. At Socialtext, a company that gives users tools to build enterprise Wikis, Ross Mayfield says Web 2.0 is focused on end-user benefits, but that having the tools and capabilities to get a job done through collaboration also saves IT from having to build and support collaboration and communications capabilities from scratch. While an IT build of a portal for the enterprise could take a month or more, a wiki site for information retrieval can be created in hours, with users having the added benefit of adding to and correcting content.Â

Collaboration is the key to productivity, Mayfield said.

"When you were in school and you shared homework it was called cheating. But when you do it at work it is called collaboration," Mayfield said.

Satish Dharmaraj noted that the shift taking place in the enterprise from desktop applications to Web-based applications is in part fueled by the growing capabilities of Web 2.0 applications.

"There is level of richness in Web 2.0 applications so productivity doesn't diminish," Dharmaraj said.

Web applications also free up a large chunk of IT time. "CIOs realize it is crazy to have to patch 25,000 desktops," Dharmaraj said.

Although moderator Dan Farber tried to raise some issues such as the need to have a desktop component for Web 2.0 applications when working offline, there was no real dissenting voice among the panelists, who supported each other's point of view without reservation.

Glotzbach had just about the final word that seemed to sum up all the panelists' feelings about the benefits of Web 2.0 and collaboration.

"People who horde information are the problem. People who share information are rewarded," Glotzbach said.