MIAMI, 23 FEBRUARY 2009 - These days, an appropriate title for a novel about the future of Web applications could be "Love in the Time of Cholera," what with the slowdown in online advertising, the reticence of venture capitalists and the shrinking technology budgets.
However, with the hope and tenacity of the hero of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's book, optimistic developers and entrepreneurs are gathering in Miami for Carsonified's Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference, which runs Monday and Tuesday.
The economy may be in shambles, and pundits are predicting the imminent collapse of the Web 2.0 era, but Farhan Ahmad isn't giving up on ShopFiber, the startup he co-founded in Michigan four months ago.
At FOWA, Ahmad expects to not only network and catch up on business and technology trends, but also to give out invitations to the private beta of ShopFiber, a social shopping Web application that lets people research and share product information.
Asked whether he's worried about the economic climate and its effect on Internet startups, Ahmad puts a positive spin on the situation. "Right now, there aren't very many new [Internet] companies coming out so there's less noise and you can get more attention. That's definitely one advantage," he said by phone on Friday.
More established companies that are also betting big on the future of Web applications will be there, like Atlantic Dominion Solutions. Founded in 2000, the Orlando company builds custom Web applications for companies and is developing its own suite of hosted business software.
CEO Robert Dempsey is optimistic about Web applications for the workplace, in part because of their potentially lower cost over conventional, on-premise software. A former network administrator and IT consultant, he's very aware of the costs involved in software licenses, hardware provisioning, user training and IT staffing required by traditional in-house software deployments.
He's hoping the conference makes good on its title and gives him a vision of what's coming for Web apps. "For someone like me who owns a Web development shop, it's absolutely necessary to stay up on not only the latest technologies but also on where things are headed," Dempsey said by phone on Friday.
"Tech changes so much on a day-to-day basis, so it's important to be constantly learning from other people, seeing what they're doing and how we can improve what we do," he added.
Industry analyst Greg Sterling from Sterling Market Intelligence sees a bright future for Web applications clouded by a lot of current uncertainty. "It's hard to be positive about anything given the economy right now," Sterling said.
Still, there seems to be no turning back the trend of SaaS (software-as-a-service) for business software, he said, pointing out that even traditional providers like IBM and Microsoft are busy re-tooling their products to take advantage of the Web-hosted delivery method.
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